I can’t remember if I have ever posted on the great Home Education question that must be answered by all parents and many children at some point in their home educating life; How will they be socialised?
Of course home educating parents are probably as good, bad or indifferent to teaching our children good social skills as parents who send their children to school. What the questioner usually means in fact, isn’t about proper socialisation, but will they have lots of friends and acquaintances (and enemies) who are exactly the same age as they are?
The short answer is “No, they wont.” They will have friends and acquaintances (and possibly enemies) of all sorts of ages and that is a more natural way to live, learn and grow that a classroom.
But does it always work? That’s the difficult question that I think many of us who home educate try to duck because we are in knee-jerk-defensive mode over the whole hostile questioning thing. But I am coming across quite a few HE parents who are admitting that they are finding it difficult to help their children find friends and that one or two are beginning to feel isolated. A parent who stays home with the children will often talk of isolation whether they HE or not, simply because most families around us have two parents working full time- so they aren’t around.
Part of the problem appears to be that so many HE families end up sending their children to school for secondary education. As someone who pulled two children out of secondary education I am wondering why so many parents choose to send their children to school then.
I think fear plays a huge role in this. The UK culture is quite different from American culture in that there is a very deep-seated and long-standing view that parents, just by the fact of being parents – and mother’s in particular haven’t a clue what to do with our children. (We are so useless that we need adverts on buses telling us to talk with our babies). So it’s a huge step for a parent, to stand in the face of all the opposition and so much of it from ”experts” and say, actually my child can grow to adulthood in a home educating family.
So, many families find that as their children get older, their HE friends have moved on to school and it’s harder to stay in touch. Then there is the scattered nature of Home Education in this country. Most of us don’t have fellow HEers in the same road, or up the road we are lucky if there are families within a hard drive of us. We have to plan and think through how to meet up and when and what we will do. A friend of mine has said she has accepted that to HE she must travel and another HE mum said it to me today.
Today we went to a HE group we’ve never attended before and had a lovely time. It’s a support group so no lessons are going on, though as it happens in a library the children had a free rein with the books. But the important thing was that parents had time to meet, talk and get to know each other a bit, and so did the children.
I am not sure how things will go for us on the socialisation-out-and-about front. I can’t drive any more and it doesn’t seem that I will be driving for a long time (if ever). So, we have to rethink. I feed the HE jar as much as I can so that we can cover taxi fares within a reasonable distance. I receive mobility allowance with my DLA which helps. [until the Govt take it away as they are planning to do apparently].
Meanwhile we are making the effort needed to ensure the children can mix and make friends, whether HE ones or schooled ones.
Interestingly (and sadly) we have met a few school children who are struggling to make friends at all. They are lovely children, quietly spoken and just a little shy and that means they have no friends at school and have left scouts because of the quite nasty behaviour of the other children.
Alex informs me he has more friends now, since being HEd and going to college, than he had at school (where he was miserable), so however difficult socilaisation might be for home educated children, we are probably in a better place to deal with it than children who can’t be socialised at school.
Essentially, helping our children find good friends and giving them the right opporunities for this is something all parents need to deal with, whether our children are in school or not. It is only through teaching our children good social skills and manners that they are in a position to make good friends, which happens over time and not all at once.
While I have found parents who say their HE child lost touch with friends who went to school, we haven’t had the problem the other way round. Both Alex and Iona still have friends they made at school and in a couple of cases friends they made in nursery when they were 3.
I do wonder what other families have experienced in this and what they have done about it.