The fact is that the age-peer social grouping of our schools is unnatural and often destructive of home-taught values. Home educators can protect their children from the effects of this social aberration if they recognize it as such and are prepared to refute its surrounding myths.
Myth: Schools provide children with plenty of healthy social experience.
Schools isolate children from normal social situations and expose them to negative socializing factors.
My early years in school contained little social experience at all. I recall sitting in a desk in a roomful of children all the same age and not being permitted to socialize to any significant degree.
Except for a few minutes of hyperactivity at recess and a half hour at lunch, we were anything but social. Class discussions were initiated and guided by the teacher. We didn't select the timing or the topic. Nor did we feel free to say exactly what was on our mind.
Compared to the real world of home and neighborhood, school was social deprivation. We were actually removed from what really goes on in society by being placed in the artificial environment of a classroom.
The school setting not only lacks positive social experience, it contains some very negative socializing factors as well.
Peer pressure is the most commonly recognized of these, but it is not alone. A child is deeply influenced by his teacher, too, and the younger the child, the greater the teacher's degree of influence.
This is a sobering thought to a person of my age, because the generation who were students in the sixties are now the teaching and administration cadre of the public schools. The moral relativism of the Vietnam generation now guides many of our teachers.
The curriculum has now become social as well. Sex education encourages students to use others for selfish pleasure. The only obligation is to "protect" themselves and their partners from pregnancy and/or disease. (This, of course, can only be guaranteed by monogamy, an overlooked detail.) Death education (along with abortion) is mental preparation for euthanasia.
"Values clarification" is teaching children that some people are more valuable than others: if there is one too many in the bomb shelter, take a vote and eject one.
Home educators should involve their children in social activities with their own age groups to compensate for their "lack of social contact."
Fact: Age-segregated groups foster negative social attitudes while age-integrated family groups encourage mutually beneficial interaction.
Research, experience, and logic all confirm that an age-peer social environment is destructive of healthy attitudes toward self and others.
A situation in which children are constantly compared to each other teaches them that success comes not by doing one's best but by being like someone else.
Another argument against age segregation is the need of the different age groups for contact with each other. This certainly applies to consecutive generations but also to groups closer in age as well.
An experiment was conducted in which 6th graders with reading problems were assigned to teach 1st grade children how to read. The result was that the 6th graders greatly improved their own reading, and the 1st graders learned to read better than their peers taught by the teachers. That experiment illustrates our point: children benefit from interaction with others who are either older or younger than themselves.
Family bonding, so desperately needed in our day, is also frustrated by the segregation of age groups. It is common knowledge that to an adolescent among his peers it is not acceptable to treat a sibling with affection or to respect and appreciate a parent's advice. In most traditional societies, grandparents help their children rear the grandchildren, giving old age a purpose, children the benefit of wisdom, and young parents relief from shouldering the whole burden. Age-peer oriented mass education with its ever increasing demands on a child's time has made this concept a faded memory in America. We are a poorer and shallower society for it.
One of the important things children learn in school is how to get along with all types of people.
Children in school are more likely to develop habits of unkindness and disrespect for anyone who is "different."
School children spend much time in the presence of other people, but it is an unnatural, contrived environment where students are separated from the rest of society and have little meaningful communication even with each other.
And they certainly aren't learning to "get along." Even well-meaning attempts by teachers to encourage tolerance of others' differences cannot withstand the strong peer pressure to conform and the cruel rejection of those who don't, both of which come naturally to children in non-family groups.
Myth: Children learn to stand up for their beliefs by dealing with their peers antagonism in school.
Almost all children and adolescents are unready to stand against the overwhelming pressures they face in school.
Do they stand? Does the average 4th grader take issue with his teacher when told that man evolved from monkeys? Does the average high school athlete tell his buddies to spare him the locker room jokes because he's a Christian? Surely some do, but not most.
Younger children especially revere their teachers, or at least the teacher's authority. Students of high school age have lost much of their starry-eyed trust of adults, but for them peer pressure is almost irresistible. Certainly there are notable exceptions, but it is unusual for a high school student even in a Christian school to take a clear stand apart from his Godless or lukewarm fellows.
People tend to become average for the group they are in. As the Bible says, "Bad company corrupts good morals." (I Cor. 15:33, NAS)
Another factor to consider is readiness. When I say that children face too much pressure in school, someone often objects, "But they have to learn to deal with it sometime." True. They will have to learn to drive, too. But not at five or six years of age!
As adults we often forget just how much pressure is on children in school. Children and adolescents in peer groups often say and do things to each other that can only be described as vicious. And it is usually the shy ones, the small ones, the insecure and backward children, in short, the ones who are least able to "deal with it" who get the brunt of the bullying and ridicule.
This is a pressure adults do not have to face. When I was in school, I was one of the smallest boys. This and my insecure personality made me the target for bullying, ridicule, and social exclusion.
I have never been subjected to such treatment anywhere else. Even with years of experience in construction, I have never known adults to treat each other the way children treat their peers. School is a pressure cooker to which no child should be subjected.
The damage done by the philosophy expressed in these four myths is unfortunately not limited to children in schools.
Many home educators still equate social development with segregating children to their own age group. These parents contrive all sorts of "extracurricular activities" for their children to be involved in for the sake of "normal socialization."
What children really need is their natural habitat. They need to spend time with their families in the real world: home, church, neighborhood, market, and work. They need to see others of all ages going about the real business of living
Further, they need guidance from parents, grandparents, and siblings rather than being thrown into an indiscriminate mix of companions. Proverbs 13:20 is the answer to the myths of socialization: "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed."