The California appeals court shocked the nation with its ruling in February," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. "We decided, as part of a broad survey of more than 1,200 adult Americans, to get their reaction and found that 61 percent strongly agreed that the Constitution guarantees the right of parents to homeschool, and another 25 percent agreed somewhat." Eight percent somewhat disagreed, five percent disagreed strongly, and two percent did not know, according to Stetzer. "Americans appear to believe that parents, not the government, should decide whether or not they should homeschool."
This is surprising, and demonstrates a profound change in perspective about homeschooling among society as a whole over the last 25 years or so. Back in the 80's, homeschooling was little-known, and many people thought it was a strange thing to do. Oh, a few people did it - the University of Nebraska, for example, even allowed kids to earn a high school diploma through independent study (I know, I got mine that way!). But mostly it was reserved to the fringes and to the exceptional situation: farm kids, missionary kids, kids with sicknesses that kept them out of school for long periods, and so on.
It speaks very well of the homeschooling community that since the 1980's homeschooling has become, not only accepted among the general population, but a constitutional right. This can only be the result of many dedicated homeschooling parents working exceptionally hard to show that homeschooling can in fact be as good a way of educating kids as any other schooling.
However, we still have our work cut out for us in demonstrating that homeschooling not only provides a good education, but also excellent social skills.
Many have expressed concern that homeschooling fails to provide adequate socialization and connection to broader society, often leading to weaker social interaction and skills. In the LifeWay Research survey, 54 percent of respondents agreed, somewhat or strongly, that "children who are homeschooled often lack social skills."
Remember, this is a perception, not reality. The general public thinks homeschoolers often lack social skills. It's up to us, as homeschooling parents, to help change this belief on the part of ordinary people, and the best way I can think of is to train our kids, very carefully and deliberately, in social skills. Manners, etiquette, kindness, consideration - these things must be taught on purpose and consistently. We spend large portions of our time with our kids; we have the chance to observe them regularly. It's critical that we observe our kids' behavior and their interactions with others, and that we correct them for inappropriate social interaction. The more we do this, the more likely it is that our kids will grow up to respond correctly in social situations.
It's encouraging to see that our culture is beginning to recognize the value of homeschooling, and the right of parents to educate children as they believe is best for them. And as we consistently raise children who contradict the general opinion about socialization, that misperception will also fall by the wayside, and people will see the truth about how good homeschooling can be for kids.