What is the point to homeschooling, other than to be overprotective and ruin social skills? Is there an actual benefit?
There are many other answers here refuting these negative stereotypes, so instead of doing the same, I'd like to tell a story. A story of two groups of children.Note: I've been homeschooling my sons for two years.Last year, the homeschool group in my area organised a group excursion to an historical village a couple of hours away. It's the kind of places that operates solely for school groups ‡ you can't just show up on your own.Thirty homeschooling families showed up to the village. Between us, we had around seventy children, ranging in age from 2 to 17.As we arrived, the children greeted each other with squeals of delight and hugs for friends they may not have seen for anywhere between a day and a couple of weeks. No one was excluded. The preschool kids held their older brother or sister's hands, and were welcomed into the group, the teenagers hung to one side, but happily included any pre-teens who wanted to join them, the ASD boy who has trouble talking to others was invited to join a group of older children, who spoke more quietly and shielded him from the sun and the chaos with their bodies, the ADHD boy who wanted to run in circles attracted half a dozen other boys and girls who joined in with him until they all collapsed giggling. Meanwhile, the parents gathered on the other side of the “landing area" to talk and share ideas and commiserate over bad days.When everyone had arrived, the representative from the historical village, whom I shall call Jan, loudly instructed the children to all stand in two straight lines, without touching each other.The kids looked at her blankly for a minute, and then milled forward in an approximation of order. Younger siblings kept holding the hands of their older siblings, friends kept their arms around each other, if there was a line of any kind there, it certainly wasn't straight.Again, Jan told them to stand single file. This time, she said the preschoolers had to go back to their parents. An eleven-year-old girl said politely, “Excuse me, Jan. Why can't my sister stay with me? Are we going to do something inappropriate for her?”Jan looked somewhat flustered and said she just wanted to divide them into two groups.A teenage boy looked around, and then called, “Anyone on that side is group 1, and anyone on this side is group 2. Is that okay?”Jan didn't look pleased, but all the kids nodded. A couple of 6 and 7 year olds turned to kids near them and asked which group they were in, and the older children answered them.“That's not going to work,” Jan said. “Group 1 needs to follow Bob and Group 2 needs to follow Dave. You have to walk in a line.”The kids looked back at her ‡ some, it must be admitted, like she was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. One of the parents tried to reassure Jan that it would be fine, but it wasn't until the parent promised to make sure all the kids went the right way that Jan nodded, and told the men to lead the groups through the village. And off the kids went. They knew where they were going. I certainly had no concerns that my 10 and 6 year old children would do anything other than follow Bob. The other parents clearly felt the same, and we followed after the groups.We were led to a field and the children were told to sit in straight lines facing towards the village square. Our homeschool kids completely failed at this task. Some of them sat down in a vague approximation of a line. Others sat in groups, with the younger kids in the centre. A lot of the teenagers remained standing at the back.Not one child left the area. They may not have been sitting in two straight lines, but they were eagerly waiting and watching what was going to happen next.A few minutes later, two classes of mainstream children arrived.They were all dressed in identical uniforms. They marched in time, in single file, not one of them speaking or touching another. They sat down on cue, each sitting perfectly still and looking in the right direction.They were nine years old.The homeschool kids were talking quietly amongst themselves. They'd noticed the old schoolhouse and a few buildings near it, and I overheard a number of debates about what would be in the buildings. One thirteen year old was telling his friends (both boys and girls, ranging from 9 to 15 years) about a book he'd read about this time period. Another group were debating whether we'd learn anything about Aboriginal history. A couple of preschoolers who'd returned to their mothers were coaxed back over to sit with the kids.Meanwhile, one of the mainstream kids turned to speak to his friend beside him, and his teacher poked him in the back and made a shhhh gesture when he looked at her.The show began. The homeschool kids immediately stopped talking and listened. A few edged closer when they couldn't hear properly. The mainstream kids took the opportunity to talk to each other while their teacher was distracted.We were instructed to go to separate activities, and Group 1 of the homeschooling group were told to go to the laundry display. So was one of the mainstream classes.The mainstream kids stood up and walked in perfect single file. They sat down in straight lines without talking, and each of them drew a worksheet and a pen out of their bag.The homeschoolers followed in an unruly mess, by comparison, kids first (they were eager to get there) and parents following a short distance behind. The kids arrayed themselves behind the other group, sitting or standing as they felt comfortable.A lovely older lady delivered a talk and demonstration on old fashioned washing techniques and equipment.The mainstream kids hastily filled out their worksheets, occasionally being tapped on the head by their teacher if she deemed them not to be paying close enough attention.The homeschool kids watched and listened intently, occasionally whispering amongst themselves to clarify something that had been said.When the presentation was done, the lady asked if there were any questions. And she was hit by a deluge from the homeschoolers.“What would they do in a drought?”“How expensive were those machines? What if someone couldn't afford one?”“My grandmother has something like that, but it's electric. Is that the same thing?”“Can you still buy washing blue so we can try to do this at home?”“How much wood did they use in a day?”And so on.The mainstream kids, who had finished filling out their worksheets, were mostly staring into space by this point. Their teacher prompted them to ask questions a few times. When no one did, she specifically called on a girl in pigtails to ask a question. The girl looked blank for a minute. Then she raised her worksheet and read one of the questions from it.She'd already written down the answer.Satisfied, the teacher nodded to her. A couple more homeschoolers asked questions, and then we were sent to our next activity ‡ this time, each group separately.The next time I saw the mainstream kids was at lunch. They were sitting on the grass in two straight lines, one child in front of the other, each of them silently eating their packed lunch. Any time someone spoke, the teacher called their name until they stopped.Meanwhile, the homeschoolers were sprawled on the grass in groups, comparing what they'd each seen that morning, sharing food with each other, and having a great time. Someone had pulled out a pack of cards and was teaching the younger kids to play a game.“I'm finished eating,” a ten year old said. “Can I go look around?”“Sure,” his mum said. “Just take someone with you, and be back in fifteen minutes or you'll miss out on the next activity. ”And so a group of ten or fifteen kids went to look around the historical village on their own. They were back in fourteen minutes.When the mainstream kids finished eating, they were instructed to stand up in their lines. They were led, single file, to the bathrooms. They were never out of their teacher's line of vision. (Except, one must assume, when the kids were actually in the bathrooms...)And so let me tell you what I know, not just about the point, but about the effect of homeschooling.Homeschoolers are confident socialising with children of all ages.Homeschoolers are also confident talking with adults.Homeschoolers are accepting of others, and keen to both learn from, and teach, their peers.Homeschoolers may be protected from unnecessary stress, standardised tests, bullying, social ostracism, and emotional trauma, but they are free to explore their interests, express their personalities, and engage in the real world.Homeschoolers are curious and engaged in their own education.Homeschoolers are absolutely dreadful at standing in straight lines and following arbitrary rules.As for mainstream educated children...Well, I can tell you with great certainty that they’re absolutely fantastic at being quiet, standing and walking in lines, and filling out worksheets.As to their social skills... I have to assume they're fine. I don’t know. They didn't have the opportunity to use their social skills that day. Perhaps regular school days are different.I also can't comment on how protective their parents are. Their parents weren't there. But their teachers certainly didn't seem to trust them to walk twenty metres to the bathroom on their own.Personally, I homeschool because I would like my children to grow up valuing curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, and kindness. And I really don't care that they can't arrange themselves into straight lines arbitrarily - as long as they don't push in.*** This is the obligatory note to say:I'm sure not all mainstream schools so rigidly enforce rules like this. I'm also sure that the students have more freedom on the school grounds. This was one group of people on one day, and is not meant to be an accurate representation of other days, schools, teachers, etc.I'm sure there are homeschooling parents out there who are rigidly protective and discourage social interaction. (For obvious reasons, they don't come to homeschooling group events.) But those parents would be the same regardless of how their children were educated. That is a parenting choice, not an effect of homeschooling.