Hey y’all. Today I’m going to address another question that I and most other home educating (aka home schooling) families get asked a lot. This is probably the #1 most frequently asked question about home educating. It’s understandable as most people have little idea of what home educating looks like, or of the vast spectrum of possibilities open to home schoolers (I use these terms interchangably). So here it is:
What about socialisation? How will the kids socialise?
(There are generally two ways in which the term is used; the first is ‘mixing socially with others’ and the second is, in essence ‘learning to adapt to integrate into society’.)
Let’s look at socialisation and what good socialisation is and is not, according to neuroscience. The idea that children need to be around lots of other children of the same age for most of their lives is a concept that is pervasive in contemporary Western culture. This idea does not stem from scientific basis, nor does it account for individual needs of children when applied in a one-size-fits-all system. Good socialisation for children is providing opportunities for them to form beneficial relationships and to explore and learn about social norms and etiquette according to their abilities, desire and capacity. This may be with lots of children of the same age, like in a school environment, or it may be in an alternative sphere such as home education.
Interestingly, when I typed ‘socialisation’ into Instagram, here’s what came up:
Dogs! I would gently suggest that we as parents could help our kids and ourselves by rethinking the idea that we need to ‘do things to’ our kids (i.e., ‘socialise’ them as people do to their pets) and instead look at meeting their individual needs.
Here are some of the ways in which home education can provide a social environment in which to meet individual children’s needs and therefore create an good learning environment:
1. Children who are introverts or simply do not like spending lots of time with lots of other people of the same age have more time and space to be by themselves or with fewer people, in an environment where they can learn and process optimally.
2. Children who are extroverts can spend more time with a wide range of different people, at a smorgasbord of meet-ups, playdates and organised groups or classes. Their social time can be relatively uninterrupted, so there is good basis for authentic social interaction and skill development.
3. Children have good access to people of different ages to themselves; this provides an natural hierarchy and an environment in which the younger can learn from the older, and the older children take on leadership and caring roles.
4. The high adult to child ratio means that there can be a high response to bullying. This behaviour can be identified, discussed and resolved without other agendas interrupting the process. Conflict is healthy and it can be a platform to experience healthy stress and learn social skills; experiencing bullying without escape causes toxic stress which is damaging to the brain and can hinder and prevent learning.
Practically speaking, there are many ways in which home educated children socialise. Group meet-ups, academic co-ops, playdates, sports teams, theatre and arts classes, Scout groups, mixing with extended family, attending church or other religious venues and meeting friends who go to school are all ways in which home schooled children socialise.
Personally, as an extrovert, I would find it difficult to home educate if there were not abundant social opportunities for both myself and the kids. Our weekly social schedule currently looks like this:
Monday: Meet-up with a few families at a local farm. The kids inevitably make friends with other kids visiting the farm as well as playing with their regular friends.
Tuesday: Meet-up at a local National Trust (venue changes each week); Beavers for the eldest in the evening. Around 6 families attend the National Trust meet-up and the kids spend the day playing in the woods and looking around historic grounds and buildings; the adults spend the time freezing their nuts off, keeping a death-grip on their Thermos and doing headcounts of their offspring.
Wednesday: Often a park-based playdate or visit to a friend’s house.
Thursday: Meet-up at a local softplay (around 8-10 families)
Friday: Ballet class (3 kids in Eldest Miss’ class, 20 in Middle Miss’) followed by a park meet-up (oh, sheesh, millions of kids, they blur into one feral pack) followed by a playdate.
Saturday: Daddy-daughter date day (aka he buys them Kinder Eggs, takes them swimming and thinks he’s won at life, which he has, really.)
Sunday: Church in the morning (Middle and Eldest Miss go to kids’ groups of about 10 children) followed by visiting extended family and possibly a walk in the woods with friends.
So that’s how we roll! In that schedule I haven’t included here the extra social activities for us parents but because we are very blessed to have a large local home educating community of awesome people, within that schedule there are several sites of mutual fulfilment (aka kids are happy, parents are happy, wins all round).
I’d love to help you by answering any questions or queries you may have so please feel free to ask away!
Travel journalists, home educating our lovely brood of 3 girls. Planning a year-long RTW trip late Summer 2017.