Tuesday, August 19, 2008

But What About Socialization? Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: But What About Socialization? Answering the Perpetual Home Schooling Question a Review of the Literature
Author: Dr. Susan A. McDowell (Susan A. McDowell PhD)
Publication: Philodeus Press, 2004
Format: softcover book
ISBN: 0974407801
Full retail: $10.95

How I came to read this book: I have been hearing about this book in homeschooling circles here and there but had never seen it. My local public libraries did not have a copy of it available to borrow so I bought it from Amazon and I finished reading it this week.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Summary Statements:
a. A Helpful Summary of Studies on Socialization of Homeschooled Children
b. It is What It Say It Is: A Review of Literature (and Studies)

The author, Dr. Susan McDowell is a researcher who has conducted studies on homeschooling. She wrote that since socialization of homeschooled children seems to always be a concern that people have, she decided to review of all the studies on the topic and to sum it all up in a book with just socialization as the topic.

In the Introduction and from the author’s biography I learned she is married and childless. Since most authors of homeschooling books are homeschooling parents themselves I wondered why she was interested in this topic at all. I learned that her interest in this topic stems from her work doing research about homeschooling and what she has learned about various people and groups of people always doubting or worrying about the socialization of homeschoolers. By the end of the book it is clear that Dr. McDowell trusts the research and she feels strongly that the socialization issue has a good body of research and that despite differences in the studies, all the studies come to one of these two conclusions: that homeschooled students are either better socialized than schooled kids or at worst, homeschooled kids have the same level of socialization of schooled kids.

Although the author stated that she wants to let the research speak for itself (in the Introduction) she does dedicate one chapter to share what various homeschooling parents have to say about their experience and opinion with homeschoolers and socialization. These people range from parents with homeschooling websites to published authors to homeschooling parents who also work for HSLDA.

One chapter also addresses “what is socialization” but I felt this mere two page chapter (three if you count the end notes page) was anemic. An entire other book could be written on the various ideas and interpretations of what ‘being socialized’ means. That weak chapter is one reason why I’m not rating this book as 5 stars out of 5.

The majority of this slim volume consists of summaries of all the studies about socialization and some studies about homeschooling in general which also addressed socialization as just one component. The studies are organized chronologically from oldest (1985-1999). The book was published in 2004. The studies are interpreted in layman’s terms for the most part. I thought that the author should have explained up front what “self-concept” was (although Wikipedia will help those who don’t know, like me).

It was convenient to read summaries of the research and to have the study names and dates rather than only hearing ‘through the grapevine’ what the research says. For that reason I am glad I bought and read this book.

The last topic covered in this book addresses the National Education Association and their anti-homeschooling stance. The chapter covers the what their stance is, why the author thinks they seek to hold homeschoolers in a negative light and how they are already negatively affecting homeschoolers.

There are numerous references in this book to provide study information and source information.

This book will be helpful for new homeschoolers worried about the topic of socialization. It also will appeal most likely to men who love statistics and who like to rely on ‘what studies show’. A mother convinced of the value of homeschooling whose spouse is doubtful should buy this book and make her husband read it.

This book could be placed into the hands of prying and worried relatives of homeschooled children (although my experience has shown me that most who are vocal about opposition to homeschooling know little about it AND are closed-minded to hearing real information and often seem unwilling to even consider that their fears may be unfounded).

Perhaps also this should be placed into the hands of the Pediatricians who express concern about homeschooling yet who love and place a lot of stock in what research studies show.

At full retail price this book is still cheap so one can’t complain of the pretty low page count.

If you want more information and opinion on this topic, in 2007, another book with just socialization of homeschoolers as the topic has been published by a homeschooling mother which has more pages, more opinion and experience shared titled “The Well Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling” by Rachel Gathercole.

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HomeGrown Life said...

Thank you for taking the time to post your review/opinion of this book. Of course, this is the first concern (socialization) that most have when I tell that that we are homeschoolers. Once again you've taken a lot of care in carefully and objectively reviewing a book and have surely upheld your title, "The Thinking Mother"!

Jaired B. Hall said...

Thanks for the review. I had an attorney from HSLDA recommend it to me, and I found your review in a search to find out more about the book. I found it helpful.

Jaired, http://jairedhall.blogspot.com