Sunday, 15 March 2015

Home Education?! But what about his socialisation?!

This is it. The question I reckon is THE question every home edder gets asked the most. 
"Home educate?!! But how will he learn to socialise?"

It's the question EVERYONE asks. And I mean everyone; family, friends, people at the post office, the school receptionist, the dentist, the Tesco cashier. Everyone.

Lordy me, it gets a bit tedious in the end, if I'm honest...which seems a little unfair because it was the question I asked the most too. My biggest concern was making sure that upon him leaving school he still had plenty of kids to play with (I mean, getting to spend all day every day with me is amazingly brilliant, obvs, but then I've had 38 years to get used to it...)
So anyway, when people ask, I try to explain a little.

We've all be indoctrinated into thinking school is a great place for socialisation. We went to school, our friends and parents went to school. Your kids, probably, go to school. So it seems like removing a child from that situation is going to cause all manner of problems.
I get it. I really do.

However, let's start with this question:
How do YOU socialise?
Do you only speak to people the same age as you? At your workplace, do you have to deal with all kinds of people from all kind of backgrounds, all of whom are different ages? Yes. You do.
In every day life you don't go to the supermarket and ONLY go to the checkout assistant (or whatever the technical term is these days) because he started school the same year as you, therefore you know how to interact with him. Are the only friends you have now the same ones you made in primary school?

It seems to me that it's a little odd to think that the *only* way a child will socialise is by sitting in a classroom with 29 other kids his own age. Where they have to do what they are told by an adult the whole time.
I was lucky that Barnaby is, like me, a people collector. He loves having a large group of friends and he loved spending all day with them. 
In fact, if you asked him if he wanted to spend all day every day with his friends his answer would be 'Yes! (but only if it's at the park!)'.
In much the same way that if you were asked if you'd like to spend all day every day with your friends you'd say Yes! (but only if it's at the pub!) 
(ah, I do miss those weekends when I was in my twenties!!)

So back to my boy, and how I'm ruining his life by turning him into an inept, awkward, unsociable weirdo... (Yes, all those words have actually been used in conversation from other people over the last 6 weeks.)

We see lots of different people every day. Okay, most days. Some days we can't be arsed to see other people. So we don't. The rest of the time we are out and about in the community. We talk to lots of adults. He talks to lots of kids. He has one to one playdates often, he makes new friends at various places (remember the conga in the soft play at the Garden Centre?!), we go to Home Ed groups for at least 4 hours a week, with the option of more.  We still have old school friends over for tea, or he sees them at Beavers or birthday parties or swimming. He sees 'old people' who are happy to stop and have a natter with him. He plays with the neighbours kid frequently. He has 2 ( mostly unwilling) kittens who are forced to listen to his incessant chattering and one Mummy who pretends that she listens when he's picked up the 94th carrot of the day and says 'look, this one is like a spear. And this one reminds me of a crocodile....(and so on!) He has a little sister who uses him as both a trampoline and sparring partner every other weekend. He's not short of people in his life.

He's not a loner. He's not weird. He's not lost the ability to make friends. His confidence hasn't taken a battering. 

He's learning to negotiate. To accommodate different ages and abilities. He's being brave and taking charge, then learning when to step back. He's nailing leadership AND teamwork. He's getting the  best out of his new friends, and his old ones, who are free to just 'be' without the confines of a school schedule. They don't stop playing because after half an hour their time is up, signalled by  bell or a whistle.
It may look to the outside world that kids in a muddy field playing football and making dens and climbing trees and creating daisy chains and playing tag are not learning anything or are being 'socialised' -  but that's because WE have been taught that learning comes packaged in a classroom of 30 kids, doing a set thing for a set time.  It doesn't. It really doesn't. 
There is, I have discovered, no harder or faster learning happening than when a den is under construction. The skill it takes for 19 children of mixed gender and ages to work together to achieve a goal is huge. There are arguments. There is agreement. There is laughter. There is fury when someone tries to smash it down.
They are, without sitting at a desk, preparing for life in the outside world by being IN the outside world.

So, all in all, I really believe that the socialisation issue is not an issue! 

(As an aside, I notice that nobody every asks about *my* 'socialisation', I guess because it's assumed that as an adult I've now stopped learning this. When Barnaby was at school the joy of being a self employed, single parent meant I worked (alone) all day long because that was the time I had. Interaction with another adult was confined to 3 minutes on the school run, morning and afternoon, if I was lucky. Adult conversation for a maximum of 6 minutes a day. If we were late or Barnaby had a club, it'd be entirely feasible that my communication with any other adult would amount to 10 minutes per week. I was sad, and lonely, and fed up with only Whatsapp and Facebook to inform me there was an outside world outside of my little bubble.
Now, I work evenings and weekends mainly, some daytime when B is with me, but the bonus is that we are out and about. I am seeing actual real life human beings! For adult conversations! About grown up things! I am practising making friends, negotiating different backgrounds, beliefs, values and ideas. It's a whole new world I tell you, and one thing I know for sure is that we never stop learning, if your heart is open to it...!)
See, it really isn't a 'new' idea!


  1. A*Miss Harman. Loving your blog.

    1. Aww thank you Susanna - nice to know someone is even reading it let alone enjoying it :)


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