Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Social Skills Study

A few weeks ago, I received my most recent copy of Home School Researcher, a periodical published by the National Home Education Research Institute. The first article, entitled “Social Skills and Satisfaction with Social Relationships in Home-Schooled, Private-Schooled, and Public-Schooled Children,” was a write up of a study done by several individuals in the Department of Psychology at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The abstract from the study read as follows:
Despite the fact that 1.5 to 2.1 million children are home-schooled, there is limited research on the impact of homeschooling on children’s social skills. This study compares 53 home-schooled, 49 private-schooled, and 48 public-schooled children between the ages of 8 and 12 on social skills, as measured by the Parent and Student Forms of the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS). In addition, the groups’ satisfaction with social relationships were compared using the Peer Network and Dyadic Loneliness Scale (PNDLS), the Loneliness and Social Dissatisfaction Questionnaire (LSDQ), and the Friendship Qualities Scale (FQS). There were significant differences between the home-schooled children and private-schooled children on the SSRS-Student Form and between home-schooled children and the public-schooled children on the FQS.
Given that one of the most prominent criticisms leveled against homeschooling as an alternative to public school is the lack of socialization, and given that socialization is a preeminent reason for homeschooling, I thought it would be worthwhile to examine this study a bit more closely.

As was mentioned earlier, 150 students participated in the study: 53 home-schooled, 49 private-schooled, 48 public-schooled. A breakdown of the participants by age and gender is given below.* Eighty-seven percent of the children were Caucasian. Three home-schooled students, three private-schooled students, and thirteen public-schooled students were non-Caucasian. Also, only three home-schoolers, one private-schooler, and two public-schoolers identified themselves as non-Christian. The remaining children identified themselves as Christian. A majority of the participants were from the same geographical area (within a 100-mile radius of Mount St. Mary’s University), with seventeen coming from outside these boundaries. This should noted as well:
When analyses revealed significant differences between home-schooled and traditionally schooled children, analyses were rerun without these seventeen participants.
The methodology used to recruit participants was as follows:
Home-schooled children and their parents were recruited through local home-schooling groups and home-schooling listserves. The majority of private-schooled children were recruited by word-of-mouth, at local summer camps, and at the local YWCA. To encourage participation, all participants except for those recruited through the parochial school were paid $10.00 for their participation. Rather than directly compensating participants from the parochial school, a $10.00 donation per participant was made to the school.
The children who participated in the study completed the following measures:

- an adaptation of the Peer Network and Dyadic Loneliness scale (PNDLS)
- an adaptation of the Loneliness and Social Dissatisfaction Questionnaire (LSDQ)
- the student form of the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS)**
- the Friendship Qualities Scale (FQS)

**the student form of the SSRS includes a total score and four subscores: cooperation, assertiveness, empathy, and self-control.

The parents completed these measures:

- demographic questionnaires (specially designed for the study)
- the parent form of the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS)***

***the parent form of the SSRS includes a total score and four subscores: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, and self-control.

The aforementioned surveys were given to each participant, who returned the completed forms to the author or to a designated teacher (in the case of the parochial school students).

Quoting directly from the “Discussion” portion of the study:
Results indicated that private–schooled children scored significantly higher than home-schooled children on measures of cooperation, assertion, self-control and overall social skills, as measured by the SSRS-Student Form. In addition, home-schooled children rated themselves as significantly lonelier than the private-schooled children on the Loneliness and Social Dissatisfaction Questionnaire, although no significant differences were found on the Peer Network and Dyadic Loneliness Scale. However, both private- and public-schooled children report experiencing significantly more conflict than home-schooled children in their closest friendships, as measured by the Friendship Qualities Scale (FQS). In addition, home-schooled children report more affective bonds with their closest friends than public-schooled [children] do, again as measured by the FQS.
Oddly enough, the parental measures of social skills (as indicated on the SSRS-Parent Form) did not yield any significant differences amongst these three groups of children. The demographic data also indicated no significant differences between groups per household income or parental education.

The study also found:
…home-schooled children differed in several ways from the private-schooled children but not from the public-schooled children. This suggests that school experiences in and of themselves do not affect children’s social skills. However, the fact that private-schooled children scored significantly better on several measures of social skills suggests that some particular school experiences may influence some areas of children’s social skills.
The authors of the study agreed that further research is needed to determine why the home-schooled group they observed differed from one traditionally educated group but not the other.

If anyone is interested in reading the entire article summarized here, please let me know. I would be happy to loan out my copy of Home School Researcher.
*Home-Schooled Number & Mean Age (SD)
Male 29; 10.34 (1.37)
Female 24; 10.45 (1.40)
TOTAL 53; 10.39 (1.37)

Public-Schooled Number & Mean Age (SD)
Male 24; 10.60 (1.33)
Female 25; 10.54 (1.69)
TOTAL 49; 10.57 (1.51)

Private-Schooled Number & Mean Age (SD)
Male 22; 9.41 (.93)
Female 26; 10.33 (1.23)
TOTAL 48; 9.91 (1.19)

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