New study: Homeschooling improves children’s ‘social competencies’

New research suggests socialization may be a bigger issue for children in public schools than those who are homeschooled, contrary to popular stereotypes. 

A recent study examined the “social competencies” of homeschool children in Israel after the pandemic sparked a huge increase in the number of children being educated at home. 

It found that homeschool children “exhibited higher achievements on social competency indices than their counterparts attending traditional schools.” 

Although the study was done in Israel, it complements existing research in the U.S. and elsewhere that shows homeschooling is a “high-quality alternative to public education.” 

Researchers’ methods

The two researchers, Michal Unger Madara and Iris BenDavid-Hadar, conducted the study with 549 schoolchildren ages 8-12.  

The students were required to fill out two questionnaires: one evaluating their creative thinking skills, and another evaluating their social competencies. 

As defined by the researchers, social competencies involve two components. The first is adaptive behavior, which includes such things as social intelligence or use of community resources such as transportation. The second is emotional intelligence, or “how people interact with others in different situations and in socially accepted ways.” 

Even after statistically controlling for student background variables, the researchers concluded that homeschoolers demonstrated higher levels of creative thinking and social competencies than their more traditional-schooled peers.  

“This is a well-planned, -executed, and -reported study,” wrote Brian Ray, president of National Home Education Research Institute. “The area of the social competencies and creative thinking of the homeschooled has been explored in a very limited number of studies and this piece is a stellar addition to the research base.” 

Bullying, drug use, mental health issues

The study’s results may surprise some advocates who believe that public school settings play an important role in children’s socialization. 

However, supporters of traditional education are failing to consider the negative side of socialization which can wreak upon impressionable children, Madara and BenDavid-Hadar wrote. 

“Schools also have major social disadvantages, including bullying and peer victimization,” they write. “Research shows that young people who were frequently victimized and bullied as children are liable to use drugs and other substances during adolescence and even to develop mental health issues.” 

Other researchers have also noted emotional and social well-being among those educated at home. For examples, Harvard University researchers recently found that homeschoolers ranked higher than public school students on measures of psychological, emotional, and social development. 

“Given that home-schooling parents consistently rate concerns with school environments – including ‘safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure’ – as the most important factor in their decision to teach their kids at home,” researchers wrote, “we might expect that these students will have suffered less from the prevailing dysfunctions of their generation than their public-school peers.”