Home School Nebraska: A different kind of socialization

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April 13th, 2012

Home schooling has long been criticized for a perceived lack of social opportunities. But modern home-schoolers argue there are many activities outside the home that supplement educational and social development.

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Autumn and Gideon Badeer and their mother Deb, in the 'school room' in their Lancaster County home. Autumn and Gideon are the last of eight children to be homeschooled by their parents Deb and Dan. (Photo by NET News)

Sixteen-year-old Gideon Badeer knows how others stereotype home-schoolers like himself.

“Everybody thinks that home-schoolers, they get really smart, but they can’t talk to people,” he said.

“Sometimes you can get a little lonely at home, you know, but it’s not like we never see our friends. I mean, we probably see our friends two times a week and if you think about it, that’s still a lot of time.”

Gideon’s mother, Deb, has been hearing the same thing about home schooling for nearly 30 years.

“The most common one that I still hear is the socialization,” she said. “They’re afraid our kids can’t talk to anyone.”

One test of the socialization development of home-schoolers comes when they leave home. Sean Badeer is junior at Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska, studying speech communications. Sean is fifth in line of the eight Badeer children. Like most college students, he’s out on his own for the first time.

“I think my first day of school I went to rugby practice, which I’d never played rugby before, but it seemed like a really fun thing,” he said. “So it was just new experiences for me.”

Sean is a resident assistant in his dorm at Wayne State, which presents many opportunities for interaction with others.

“We have a diverse staff, let alone like a diverse community in the dorms,” he said. “And I’ve met great people through it. I mean, it’s really neat to be able to find commonality with the people that you’re working with.”

Deb said the home school approach to socialization is more realistic than traditional school settings.

“Socialization, for me, in the real world, is all of us interacting with people of all different ages,” she said. “We have to do that every day, whether we’re homemakers, whether we are in a paid job. And that’s the kind of socialization you get in home education. So we find that the kids are socialized for the real world. They talk to all different ages, not just kids in their own peer group. ”

“If you look at our family calendar, socialization is the least of our problems,” she added.

Tim Bates and his wife Angi also home-school their two children, Mariah and Michael, in Hastings.

“Nowhere else in the workplace are you going to be around everybody that’s the same age as you,” he said. “You’re going to have to be able to deal with different personalities, and for my kids, what I see in the home-school group is there’s not the cliques.”

But the interaction with classroom peers is something traditional education supporters say is important to the learning process.

“Being in a classroom of the same age level, you see what other people of your same age can do, and but then you also see what, you know, maybe what they can’t do as well,” said Nancy Fulton, president of the Nebraska State Education Association. “It could be modeling positively, and maybe some learning some of the negative things. But then you have that as a teaching moment and you go forth.”

With only two percent of the state’s school-age children being home-schooled, the scene inside Adams Elementary School in Lincoln is far more common, and it’s a setting that works for parent Kristin Palmer. She said the interactions her children have at Adams with other public school students from other families is a benefit.

“Kids, they love to be around their peers, and typically peers are their same age,” she said, “and it’s kids that they not only are in school with but do extra-curricular activities with, and it just kind of helps to make them a well-rounded individual, in my opinion.”

Home-schoolers do extra-curricular activities together, too. Mariah Bates plays on a basketball team with other home-school girls from the Hastings area. In North Platte, the Sand Hills Home Educator’s Co-op gathers for a variety of group activities. Whether it’s drama and speech, P.E. or art class, the co-op provides educational and social opportunities. Home-school parent Tara Kautz teaches an art class at the co-op, and she said home-schooling her children Christopher and Josiah provides a benefit she didn’t expect: the time they are together.

“Everybody said it goes so fast,” she said. “And I just want to be able to spend that time with them. And now that I’ve been doing it for four years, I just can’t imagine my kids being gone for eight hours a day. I just really like having that time to really pour into them and get to know them as people, and I love seeing them learn.”

That’s something Angi Bates in Hastings experienced, too.

“It’s just really neat to have that opportunity and to know your kids that well, inside and out. Not just their learning – their character, and the way they react to pressure and deadlines, and I’ve always liked that. And you get to see the first tooth. You get to see them walk for the first time. But a lot of people don’t get to see them read for the first time, and don’t get to see them write for the first time. And I got to be there for all that.”

By teaching their kids at home, a small but growing number of Nebraska families say they can provide a solid education to their children, one that incorporates their values. They say their approaches don’t deny their children anything that traditional schools with certified teachers can provide. And home-schooled student Gideon Badeer said it seems completely natural.

“You don’t realize it, but your parents teach you a lot of things as you grow up,” he said. “And to have them teach you stuff out of a textbook, too, doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me at all.”

His mother Deb said the personal attention each child receives being schooled at home leads to success.

“I don’t think that home-schoolers are smarter kids than anybody else,” she said. “I think anyone put in that setting is going to excel a little bit more than they would have, maybe a lot more than they would have, in a different, traditional school setting.”

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