Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Observations on Peer Pressure and Home Schooling

In the October issue of Teacher to Teacher, a small publication for educators put out by BJU Press, there is an insightful little article on peer pressure by Dr. Dan Olinger. It is entitled "The Joys of Peer Pressure." Peer pressure is not inherently bad, writes Olinger. In fact, we can see from scripture that it can be used quite constructively.

I would just like to post a portion of one point that Olinger makes as a means of encouraging those of you who are currently home schooling. He observes that it is a myth that teens are unusually susceptible to peer pressure. He writes, "...I think we've done things to make it appear that teens are more sensitive than others to the influences of their friends." This is intriguing. Could it be that the way we rear our children actually pushes them toward being negatively influenced by peer pressure?

Before he gets to answering that questions, Dr. Olinger says, "Human nature craves acceptance and respect. That's true of everyone. Do you really care less about what your colleagues think of you than your students do? In my experience, most people who proclaim most loudly that they 'don't care what anybody thinks' are whistling past the graveyard; they're looking for respect by telling anyone who will listen that they're rugged individualists. If they really don't care, then why are they telling everybody? We all face peer pressure, and we all find ourselves being influenced by it."

But now to the main point. Olinger writes, "...We've done things in the way we raise our children that virtually guarantee that by the time they are teens, they will be driven by the pressures that other teens put on them. The most obvious contributor to that is that we put virtually all of the children in the country into a room full of people exactly their age, and we leave them there until they graduate from college. We used to do that starting at age 6, then at age 5, and now pretty much as soon as they're born, thanks to the thriving day-care industry in this country. So after 10 to 15 years surrounded by their peers pretty much exclusively, they care a lot about what their peers think. What did we expect to happen?"

He goes on to relate two scenarios he observed which significantly altered this pattern. The first was a multigrade classroom approach he worked with in the mid 1980s. The second scenario was homeschooling. Olinger says, "We saw it again in the mid 90s when homeschooling began growing rapidly in popularity. Homeschooled students tend not to be as susceptible to peer pressure as their traditionally schooled counterparts. Why not? Because we don't educate them in peer-pressure factories."

Though there is much more that could be said, I think Dr. Olinger's observations are accurate. At HCBC, we are attempting to incorporate the multi-generational vision encapsulated by the fifth commandment, "Honor your father and your mother." Home schooling and age integrated church services are means of doing this. When that honor is in the hearts of children, they will care a whole lot more about what their parents and grandparents think than they will about what some juvenile thinks. That is as it should be.

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