“Socialisation” its a bit of a long running joke, its such a common question of concern among those in favour of mainstream education, those not in the know. Its become laughable in my every day life. My four year old even sports a tshirt saying “socialisation looks like this”. But where does it come from? what spreads that myth that children need to be in school in order to learn how to socialise and make friends, the myth that home educated children are lonely and unsocialised?
How often have a read a parent complaining about various school policies, bullying issues, attendance and the general well-being of their child? Or complaining about the end of the holidays and how they “hate” their children going back to school? Or parents with young children who don’t agree with the young age that schooling becomes formal. Yet once questioned they return with the line “I would love to home educate them, but I think they will really benefit / its really important for them to mix with others and learn to socialise” What is it?!
Over the past 4+ years I have watched my children navigate social circles, form and build friendships, rebound and recuperate from friendships and relationships coming to an end and learning about how to treat people and how to not allow people to treat you. I have watched children of different ages, different genders and siblings mix socially, without the boundaries that I have seen get placed on teens in mainstream education by societal expectations. Often it has been commented on how unusual it is for different aged siblings to mix in the same social groups yet within home education it is the norm. And its not just within home education that it is seen, in wider adult circles I have observed it. My brother and I, despite living some way away from each other, are both able to socialise with each other and friends. As an adult I am friends with several siblings, and the ages of my friends vary greatly. I have benefited greatly from the various areas of knowledge, experience and expertise that my friendships have provided over the years. Backgrounds so different from my own, experience that comes with years lived, knowledge that people my own age alone would not have been able to assist with.
My own children have learnt very valuable lessons about observing, learning from someones actions as opposed to their words and seeing the bigger picture in situations. Through discussions with them they have been able to identify when they have been wrong about a person or a situation and alter their behaviour accordingly. It can be a tough lesson to learn, some adults still struggle with it, but it is part of life. Or at least, it is part of life once you are able to control and choose your own social circles.
Because having your friendships pre picked and determined by who you sit with in which subject, who was born in the same 12 month period as you, who you get to spend 6 hrs a day, 5 days a week with, is not real. It is not “preparation for the real world”. It is not “socialisation”. It is, at best, forced association.
So do home educated youngsters infact have a social lead? From many young people I know in mainstream school bullying is a very real problem, peer pressure, segregation and having to ask permission at every step of the day seems to hold back free thought and many of the more “mixed” friendships don’t seem to materialise until later years. Does having the freedom to explore and form friendships naturally mean that some important and difficult “life lessons” are learnt a lot faster? At least without the ending of a friendship resulting in continuous, unrelenting bullying. As adults, we learn that sometimes things comes to an end. Friends drift apart, sometimes people you think of as friends treat you in a way that you don’t want to tolerate and so you step away. As adults we know that it is ok, that there doesn’t need to be hostility or name calling and that actually its ok not to like someone very much but you can still be civil in a group setting. Our home educated youngsters are learning that as well.
So how do they meet each other if not at school? How did you meet your best friend? I met mine at a toddler group some 13 years ago. Another I met at the age off 16 when we shared a house together. Others I met over the years in pubs, through mutual friends, social media etc…. We arent all the same age and we didn’t meet by being forced to work in the same room. Children meet friends the same way. They attend the same groups (There are so so many groups, sessions and events for home ed, it shouldnt really be called home ed at all!). Sports clubs, “extracurricular” clubs and groups. They chat online and organise their own meet ups. Again it is important to point out that as adults, in the “real” world, we rarely get to see all our friends every day.
It seems that a very strange concept of socialisation has been normalised to enforce mainstream education. A form of socialisation that doesn’t seem to do much to realistically help young people in adult life. Yet it is still one of the most common queries and concerns regarding home ed.
Our home educated children aren’t unsocial, they aren’t isolated, they aren’t lonely, they aren’t excluded, they aren’t invisible. They are highly socialised, highly social and very much in sight!