This is something that is often asked by those who don’t home educate their children. I haven’t come across any negativity when people find out that we home ed our 3 youngest lovelies but I am asked this question so here’s a blog with an answer I can point people too. It may help others that home ed their children too.
It’s an interesting question but one I like to start by flipping back to the questioner and asking the same of them,
‘How do you make sure your school educated child is not missing out socially?’
I would want to point out that school children spend 6 hours a day in 1 building, generally in 1 room, with 29 children of the same (give or take 12 months minus 1 day) age. Of these 29 children the gender balance would be split roughly 50/50. I know that the further up the school ladder that children go the less likely they are to have meaningful playtime with those of the opposite gender. So, out of the 29 other children your child may have 15 (ish) other children to play with. Another unconscious bias that occurs is that of year groups don’t tend to mix. It’s very unusual to find older children playing with younger children; children tend to stick in their year groups. You might find the oldest in the school ‘looking out for’ the youngest but not in a social way where a friendship might occur.
Home ed children mix with children of all ages. They attend workshops based on interest and not always curriculum. They don’t make friendship decisions based on age and gender; very much how adults do in the ‘real’ world; they just find a person who they think is quite cool and then muddle along making connections with them.
I would ask the questioner,
‘How do you plan to develop your child’s skills in making friends?’
Just spending 6hrs in a classroom with someone doesn’t guarantee friendship and also doesn’t teach the social skills needed to speak to people of all ages. Many adults I’ve spoke to through my page admit to finding making friends very difficult; more so, the older they get.
Home ed children can have great skills in making friends as they often go to events or gatherings where they don’t know other children. They have the developed skills to talk to people they don’t know and quickly find common ground. They are able to talk to people of all ages because they spend their time in the real world talking to people of all ages and they aren’t limited to 14 other children who are exactly the same age as them.
Here’s another corker of a question I’ve been asked,
‘Doesn’t your child need to experience school life to learn about how to deal with bullying?’
I didn’t initially send my children to school specifically to learn about how to deal with bullying. I wasn’t bullied myself at school; does this make my education incomplete? Wherever there are adults and children there will be differences of opinion. In fact, it could be said that there are more opportunities for conflict and resolution within the home ed community due to the vast styles of home education, parenting styles and different philosophies of life. There are no rules of home education and no ‘head of home education’ like there is in a school. We have to make our own way through living within our community and there are friendship issues to deal with as in any group.
Home ed children have just as much opportunity, if not more, for how to learn how to deal with people who aren’t always kind to you and that you may find their behaviour a bit more tough to deal with. I would argue that there is more chance to talk through these thoughts and feelings as and when they occur than in a school. The home ed community has a high proportion of SEND children so my lovelies especially, whilst having SEND themselves, have learned about diversity, tolerance and patience on a much larger scale through being educated at home.
I’d like to ask the questioner what their idea of home education is and also where they got their information from? As they are asking a question about socialising I’m assuming they don’t actually know anyone who home eds which leads me to believe they got their information from newspapers and online articles.
Home education is a growing choice of education for children. School is not an education itself more a collective way in which education can happen. You do not need ‘school’ to be educated. We, as home educators, also understand that education doesn’t need to happen at a kitchen table, or be given solely from a qualified teacher (though they have their place and by qualified I don’t mean only an education degree will do), or only happen between the hours of 9am-4pm, or only during weekdays. We understand that life is education and living life is the richest education you will ever receive.
I could list all of the groups, workshops, playdates and social experiences we do each week but I think I would just sounds a bit defensive. Someone I hugely admire once said that we should ‘be the light house’ and so I ask you to come and follow my Facebook page where I detail all that we do -the good and the bad, the successful and unsuccessful.
To find out what home education activities are on offer in your area type in (your local area) and ‘Home Education’ into the Facebook search box. Up will come a group that you can join that will let you know. And the wonderful thing with home ed is that if you don’t see anything your child wants to do, unlike a school, you can set something up and invite others to join you.
Many home edders are highly motivated. They are masters of their own destiny in their learning and can follow their interest. My lovelies have asked for specific groups to learn alongside with their friends and so that’s what we did. They’ve learned how to make things happen and not just accept what’s on offer.
There’s also a point to make that I didn’t really know existed until we started to home ed. My 3rd son T is a very ‘young for his age’ 9 year old. He likes to play with his teddies, wear dressing up clothes (both in and out of the house) and is still very much into imaginative games and play. I know that this wouldn’t be viewed as ‘being cool’ and he’d have to either not do this -adjust his play to suit his peers- and hide toys and not initiate imaginative games when school friends were over to play. I also know this from my lovely friend whose 11 year old daughter still likes to play with her Barbies but has said to her mum that she needs to hide this from her friends.
In short: some school children aren’t allowed to be themselves at school and at home because of the need to fit in with the herd.
This isn’t developing their self esteem, ability to be who they should be not matter who they are with and it teaches them that who they are isn’t quite good enough unless they wear the right clothes, have the right toys or take part in whatever socially accepted fad their school is into at that moment. My second son totally got this when he joined a new school and all the boys (girls wouldn’t entertain talking to the boys in Year 3) played with Match Attack cards and he’d never had any before. He bought some but they were ‘the wrong year’ apparently so the boys still didn’t include some. H was frustrated because he could see that all they wanted from him was conversation about Match Attack cards, that they didn’t do anything else at ‘play time’ but talk and swap. H had no one to play with.
To sum up, home edding isn’t perfect, no form of education is (I’d very much like the funding that our family pay as tax that’s set aside for our children’s schooling to be given back to us to fund our home ed for example) but the good points always seem to outweigh the bad points.
Schools are a great choice for many parents and children; I have 1 teenager at school so I am in no way anti-school. I would, however, ask those who question home edders (we are home educators and not home schoolers because we don’t try to replicate school at home, just education) how they have thought about their own child’s social development because as I’ve discussed above just putting them in school does not guarantee of social success. We, as humans, make friends by being lovely, confident and friendly people and we don’t need a school to be that, we just need other people to meet and practise being friends (and not being friends) with. The wide range of people that that my home edded children meet on a daily and weekly basis is giving them fabulous skills in being able to talk to people; these are skills needed for the future, gone are the days of adults in rows working in factories doing repetitive jobs which our education system is set up to feed.
Here’s the definition of ‘social’ from Google,
Noun: An informal social gathering, especially one organized by the members of a particular club or group.
When you look at the definition of social most home edders rock socialisation.