Thursday, 10 May 2012

Lessons in socialising

We had our long-anticipated meet-up at the local soft-play centre today :)  About 10 families (I think) came, and it was really lovely for me, as I got to sit and chat to lots of other Home Ed parents while the children played :)  It has got me thinking about the whole socialising thing some more though... I was a bit sad for my boys, as I had hoped that they would be able to forge some new friendships, forgetting that as with all things, you have to allow them time and space to do it in their own way.  DS3 couldn't care less about friendships really - he has that blissful confidence to just charge around & do whatever he feels like doing  DS1 took a long time to make overtures of friendship, but I think I saw him playing with one or two of them at the end.  DS2 played with his brothers almost exlusively.  I suppose it was a bit intimidating for him really - there was a core group of children who obviously already knew each other & played together, and since school DS2 has no confidence at all when in that kind of scenario.  I think the way forward is to continue going to gatherings regularly so that once they start seeing the same faces every week or so, they will hopefully start to relax.  Also I'm hoping to set up some smaller playdates with only a few other children - it's much easier for them to make friends in that kind of setting (especially as all of my boys are naturally very friendly, they just lack confidence in a big group... a bit like their mother, I guess)
It just made me question the whole 'going to school to socialise' thing even more.  Yes, DS1 has said that he misses his friends at school, but that doesn't mean he learned to socialise there.  Friendships are often spawned at school simply because they spend so much time with the same group of children; they inevitably find out who shares the same interests.  But what if your child relates to children who are a bit older or younger?  What if nobody in their class shares their interests (or it's just not cool)?  DS1 used to be entirely confident at playing with anyone who happened to be in the same room... sadly not any more.  DS2 is the most loving & accepting little boy I have ever known, and yet he is so used to being rejected, he won't even try at the moment.  So did school help my children to socialise?  Frankly, no. 
And for me, when I think about the lessons I personally learned during my own school experience(primary and scondary) re: socialising, it went along the following lines
1 - put yourself down if you want to make people like you, or at least feel sorry for you (I vividly remember the exact time, place and people involved in that one)
2 - don't let anyone know what you really care about or you'll be ridiculed
3 - don't be too clever or stand out otherwise they'll resent you
Let me reassure you, I don't hold to those any more. I now have too much self-respect, and once I stopped trying to please people (sadly it took me until I was 17) I actually met people who shared my interests, & was able to make proper friendships. They were hard, hard lessons to unlearn though.

So what exactly IS the socialism issue that people are bothered about?   Is it just exposing your child to a large enough group of people that they will hopefully find some people who they get along with?  Or is it putting them into a group of other people diverse enough that they have to learn to 'get along' by learning to co-operate, tolerate differences etc... if so, I'd like to say that my boys get more than enough conflict opportunities at home!  OK, that is a bit flippant; I know it's good to learn to get along with different people who haven't necessarly been brought up with exactly the same values - that's an important life-skill.  But why is it assumed to belong exclusively in the school domain?

Anyway, here we are in a novel position: learning a lesson in socialising & what it means to us... Obviously putting oneself in a social situation (ie with other people present) is a good start.  As to the rest - that's one more area where I am privileged to be able to learn more about my own children, and to share in their ongoing education :)


  1. Was lovely to meet you today! I agree with you on all of the social things - I always say to people that every socially inept person I ever met went through the school system so it really isn't all that great at socialising children! Your boys will settle though as they meet more people and have time to get to know them!

  2. My DS2 is so social, easy going and friendly. He never went to school, toddler groups, nursery or any institution similar...He did spend time playing with lots of children from all different ages and back ground, though various activities... He is having a birthday trip out on Saturday and his friends that are coming are ages between 15 - 13. It's his 11th Birthday.

    I also took him last year to a Conservatives "question your MP" fish and chip evening. He was just as comfortable chatting to the rather stuffy, mostly 50+ year olds, while we ate, then chatted to our MP...I was trying to promote HE in our MP's eyes, which was a success.

    As you can see, toddler groups, nursery's and school, aren't essential for socialation.

  3. thanks Sam - it was lovely to meet you and yours too, hope we can do it again soon :) I agree about the boys - I'm sure they'll settle as we go on :) As with everything else we're doing, I just need to present them with the opportunities, and allow them to progress at their own speed :)
    And Sally, thanks - that's really encouraging. You've done such a fab job! :)

  4. I think it is interesting - have you read 'The Well Adjusted Child' by Rachel Gathercole? It's all about the social BENEFITS of homeschooling. The main objection that many people seem to have to homeschooling relates to this socialisation aspect, and yet it seems one of the huge advantages of homeschooling. (Unless of course you are a really reclusive family who does not live in the real world, which may be the stereotype many have of homeschoolers....)

  5. ooh, thanks 'educating dad' - no I haven't! *heads to Amazon* :)