Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Socialising Myth

I haven't done an exhaustive study, but from reading blogs and talking to other HE parents, it seems that when any Home Edder tells another (non HE) adult that they home educate their children, the most frequent question asked is, "but how will they socialise?"
I have to admit that I bought into this for a long time - we were aware of the option to home educate from the beginning, but we had a lovely small school available to us, and for me I felt it was important that my children be given the chance to socialise with friends their own age.  Also I worked at the school myself, so I felt privileged to be able to still see my children while they were in school.
I do now find it hard to believe that I ever thought like that - but I know I did.  For me now as a home educator (albeit a very new one) I am baffled by the argument.  I do not see why it is so universely accepted that herding children into a group of people who happened to be born in the same year should be the only consideration.

There are several effects of school socialisation (from my own observations) that I would have liked to know before deciding to put my children into school...
  • children can learn that they should only expect to relate to people within a narrow margin - eg my three boys rarely played together at school (in fact as DS3 was in Preschool, he had a separate playground to the rest of the school, which was important for safety reasons but just didn't help with integration) - whereas at home they play together (and with Mummy & Daddy too) and are becoming more tolerant of each other's different abilities.
  • children in a large group can develop a pack mentality.   In any classroom there will be 'the clever one', 'the noisy one', 'the naughty one'.  Good teachers will do their best to avoid such labelling, but even in those cases, you can go into any classroom and ask any child "who is the naughty one?", and they will know.  When you have a child who has struggled to find their feet, if they are faced with such a collective agreement writing them off, it is all too easy for them to give up on themselves too.  Once a child accepts their position in the pack, it is incredibly hard to change it.
  • the leader of the pack sets the tone.  If they have learned a new swear word, it won't be long before the rest of the class have heard it.  If they happen to like a certain sport - that will be the 'cool' one, regardless of whether every child actually enjoys it.  If they like dressing provocatively, guess what...?  others will follow.
  • individuality is rarely embraced.  Those with enough self-belief to go against the flow usually end up with few friends.  Not that that's a bad thing, but if you're sending your child to school so they can be socialised, you may just be setting yourself up for years of angst, wondering if your child is popular enough.
  • finally (for now) children do NOT learn how to deal with bullies by being bullied.  They learn to be victims. (I know, it sounds ridiculous to imply otherwise, but I've actually heard it said!)
Those are just a few of my observations, but I think it's significant that although socialisation was my main reason for wanting my children in school, it ultimately became the main reason why my thoughts first turned back to considering home education: the so-called socialisation wasn't working!  My boys changed.  They lost confidence in themselves socially (one of them in particular), needing approval from others - sometimes they got it, sometimes they didn't.  So I don't buy into that argument any more.  My children are learning to socialise - at home, and out with friends (of all ages) in more naturally formed interest groups, such as church where we all have our faith in common, or the RSPB's junior group where everyone has a love of wildlife... and that's not to mention hanging out with friends who we just get on with!  We have a sociable family, and that is by far the best place for my boys to learn to socialise.

1 comment:

  1. Yep! ...see you put things so well. This is exactly right.

    I have found also that Home Ed, also requires my children to regularly meet with new and different groups of people at different events, and quickly adapt to new people and chat with basically strangers. It has made them very confident at being able to walk in to a new group of people with a smile and know how to handle it.

    I remember watching Peter from the door as he went to cubs for the first time with no one he knew, this was at 8 years old...he put his hands in his pockets a grin on his face and waltzed in, with in 2 mimutes had found a lad who was friendly and was chatting.