Today I’m delving into probably one of the most controversial topics that surrounds Home Education.
So let’s talk about the big, pink elephant in the room………Socialisation…..there I said it!
How will home educated children learn to interact with others in the world if they are not exposed to a school environment?
In my previous blogs and vlogs about the truths of home education, I emphasised my commitment to be honest about the challenges that home educators face.
I feel that It’s crucial to provide others with the real picture so they can make an informed decision about whether home education is right for their family. Additionally, for those just starting out or early in their own journey, it can be reassuring to see that others face difficulties too, and I can assure you right now that whatever those difficulties may be, you’re not alone because lots of others have already worn out the T-shirt!
Back to the pink elephant. Here’s how I view the socialisation aspect when it comes to home education and to simplify, here’s an analogy for you…..
Imagine two families, each with a unique shape that they want to paint.
Family A prefers to go with a well known method which is a much more one size fits all approach, dropping their shape into the paint, resulting in a quick and complete coverage.
Family B, however, take a different approach. They search for tools that are just the right fit to make sure that all of the spikey and quirky edges are eventually covered and spend time finding a brush and carefully hand paint their shape.
Both end results are just as perfect as each other as far as the families involved are concerned but for family B, it just took a little bit longer to achieve.
Similarly, in education, it might be easier for children in school who are surrounded by peers every day to meet others. However, it doesn’t guarantee deep connections, close friendships or indeed in some cases, any true friendship at all, there are no quick fixes.
Some, including myself, would also ask whether or not simply putting 30 plus individuals of similar age and ability together and hoping for the best could even be classed as socialisation at all, but that’s a debate for another day!
Home educated families approach many things, including socialisation, differently to families who make the choice to send their children to school.
There’s simply no getting away from the fact that it requires more effort by taking time to explore interests, seeking out opportunities, and building connections in the local community but as I have said before, home education is much more than an educational choice.
For us and many others its a lifestyle choice.
As with any family lifestyle choice, it requires a little trial and error and a lot of commitment to find the right fit that works for everyone.
For my family, it took quite a while to find our stride. We sought out different meetups, some of which were successful and some of which we just put down to experience.
Group situations are not something that many feel comfortable with but if you are willing to give them a try, it has to be said that in my experience it’s not easy, particularly in the beginning.
Putting yourselves out there and joining groups or attending meet ups with people that you have never met before but by persevering and sometimes pushing your own comfort zone, the rewards come when you see that you are helping to nurture positive connections for your children in whatever way they feel most comfortable.
We connected with a few like-minded families as a result of meet ups but others have happened quite naturally. One was a result of a weekly supermarket shopping delivery!
The driver noticed that our children were home after the new school term had started and asked if they were home educated as he and his partner had just started out on their own journey with children of similar age to ours and a friendship was born!
I can’t reiterate enough that you must remember, when you see polished social media pages of other families with robust social networks, they didn’t just stumble upon it, it takes time. Ultimately, whether a child attends school or not, they’ll develop social skills and friendships in their own unique way.
Addressing the social aspect can be challenging, particularly if other family members or close friends are a little hesitant to come around to your lifestyle choice.
Yes, it requires effort but home educated children can still participate in after-school activities, mingling with peers from various educational backgrounds.
Its also worth remembering that we are programmed by proxy, to assume that all children want to make lots of friends and have a big social circle but unsurprisingly for many, that’s not the case.
There seems to be so much pressure on home educating parents to “socialise” their children that we can easily loose sight of why we are doing it in the first place which is exactly what happened to me!
I became so focused on trying to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible for our children to meet others that I missed something which was pretty vital to the proceedings!
It was during one of the many conversations about more social opportunities with our then, nearly 7 year old daughter, that she said something which has remained with me to this day and which I refer back to when I feel my own insecurities on the subject starting to rear its head……
In all honesty, I was trying my best to talk her into joining gymnastics, she had started to take a real interest in all things cartwheel like so I jumped straight on it as yet another avenue to explore in order for her to socialise.
I had broached the subject previously to no avail so I thought I would try again. She listened politely to what I had to say on the subject and simply replied “why do you keep trying to get me to go to places that I don’t want to go? I’m happy as I am and I like things the way they are”
I was really taken aback and at that moment I realised that in an attempt to make her happy by doing what everyone else assumes is best for other children, I was actually doing the exact opposite for the children that mattered to me!
She followed on quite quickly by saying that if she ever wanted to go to gymnastics or anything else then she would tell me and we could try it, it’s now 2 years on and to this day she has never mentioned gymnastics again and neither have I.
Very much like myself and my partner, our children prefer a much closer social circle and are just not comfortable with group settings, once I accepted that fact the whole socialisation ‘thing’ slotted into place much easier and I no longer felt the need to continually push them into things that they were clearly unhappy with.
In my honest opinion, in the grand scheme of things, socialisation isn’t any more challenging than many other aspects. It’s just the one topic in society that seems to proceed all others surrounding home education that makes it seem more of an issue than it really is.
Each element requires time to find the right rhythm for your family regardless of whether that is learning style, learning resources or simply taking time to settle into your chosen path and find out what works for your children.
There really is no wrong answer because if it works for you then it’s right, don’t look into anything further than that. This is another learning curve all by itself but one that you will master without even realising but I’m going to say it again…….it takes time!
Every educational journey is different, and finding what works best for your family is the most important thing.
If you would like to check out my earlier blogs about home education, please follow the link
If you would like to find out a little more about whether home education could be a good fit for your family and also take a look at the help and support out there, please head over to the Home Education-Educational Freedom website.
They are a non-profit organisation providing Home Education information and support. Their primary purpose is ensuring that all Home Educators have access to FREE information and support.