Debunking Nontraditional Education Stereotypes

Despite pervasive stereotypes casting nontraditional/homeschooled kids as odd, awkward, and antisocial, today’s home learners have far fewer difficulties in building…

Despite pervasive stereotypes casting nontraditional/homeschooled kids as odd, awkward, and antisocial, today’s home learners have far fewer difficulties in building healthy friendships than they did in the past. Why? Well, apart from being a supremely antiquated stereotype, it’s also true that the halls of every traditional brick-and-mortar school is full of socially awkward kids. Maybe you were one of them.

Virtual Bonds and Tighter Friendships

Those antiquated stereotypes are built around a world far different from the one we’re a part of today. Importantly, we’ve had a little something called the Internet for a minute now. In the past, a homeschool kid may once have curled up next to the stove to page through the daily devotional, but today they have access to the full spectrum of learning, interaction, and communication. Much of our early socialization now starts on or certainly moves to the Internet—no matter the learning environment. 

A 2018 Pew research survey found that sizable majorities of teens spend at least one day per week with their friends online (88%). But when it comes to daily interactions with their friends, teens are much more likely to report that those interactions take place online. The point? Even if homeschoolers were locked in a basement, they’d be spending nearly the same time with their friends (in the same medium) as their traditional-school counterparts.

Despite the relative infrequency of their in-person interactions with friends, a majority of teens (57%) say they spend about the right amount of time with their friends face to face.

Business Insider’s innovation writer, Chris Weller, notes that a growing body of research suggests homeschoolers, compared to kids in traditional schools, grow up with stronger friendships, better relationships with their parents and adults, greater empathy, and (at least as adolescents) a greater sense of social responsibility.

Closer to Community

In a March 2020 article by The Best Schools, Harvard Psychologist Robert Epstein explains that socialization is “a process by which we learn to be part of a community.” He continues:

The question is, what community do we want our young people to learn to be part of? . . . We want them to learn to join the community that they’ll be part of their whole lives. We want them to learn to become adults. If you look through most of human history or you look at many cultures today, you find that teens spend most of their time learning to become adults. Here, they spend most of their time trying to break away from adults.

A Cultured, Social Education

Home learners benefit from an education that more-than-likely is fit to their unique interests, abilities, and talents. It’s also, though, flexible and unique in experience. Home learners often gain real-world experiences that simply aren’t possible in the traditional classroom setting. This means that homeschoolers often learn how to communicate clearly, with purpose, and with broader audiences than traditional schoolers.

When parents leverage homeschool networks and share personal resources and activities between neighbors and homeschool families, they essentially create a best-of-both-worlds design. Their kid gets the individualized attention and mastery-based learning experience, but still gets group activities and trips. Pile on top of that community resources like the local theater, music lessons and orchestra, recreation leagues, historic landmarks, art clubs, athletic centers, playgrounds, hiking trails, parks, museums, churches, and libraries . . . and you’ve created an immersive learning experience that gives the student a well-rounded understanding of culture and community.

Not Really Just Home

Homeschool families often work in a hybrid model (this ain’t your parents’ homeschool), coordinating with local public schools, private schools, or community colleges in order to access things like science labs, advanced placement courses, and athletics. And of course, active homeschoolers have countless opportunities to engage in regular meaningful social interactions with peers across different cultures and affinity groups.

Homeschool students could be (and most are) active in community meetups, in church youth groups, in local charities, at the local library reading children’s stories to toddlers, in robotics clubs, in chess clubs, in photography clubs, in hiking clubs, in adventure groups, through volunteering at the nursing home, through helping out at a soup kitchen, etc.

You get the point. It’s time to move past the stereotype and start thinking about what’s best for YOUR kid. Homeschooling allows your kid to have an individualized education without sacrificing socialization, athletics, or community-based learning.

The fact is that there are as many permutations of nontraditional education methods and structures as there are assumptions about those methods. It’s not one-size-fits-all, it’s more what-size-fits-you.

Stay tuned for another myth . . . HINT: We’re redefining what the homeschool mom or dad really looks like in 2020.