This is a long one!
So bear with me… It’s the most frequent question that home-schoolers get asked, and the irony is often lost on the interrogator.
Socialisation is, often, the main reason people choose to homeschool!
So I had to do it justice…
The process by which somebody, especially a child, learns to behave in a way that is acceptable in their society.
I am a vegan living in a world where it is ‘socially acceptable’ to abuse animals for food.
I am an anti-consumerist living in a world where it is ‘socially acceptable’ to get into debt at Christmas.
I am a respectful parent living in a world where it is ‘socially acceptable’ to punish vulnerable children.
So when I get told that ‘Your children won’t be properly socialised!” I think (along with all other home ed parents) well that’s just one of the many HUGE PERKS of my children not being forced to go to school!
Now, you may think, “So, you’re taking them out of school to force them to be like you?”
I am removing them from school to allow them to be themselves!
First of all, I want to tackle something that may be uncomfortable.
I mean, it was super uncomfortable to me when I was thinking about what I could do facing a life without my children going to school!
The ‘socialisation’ children receive at school is awful.
No really! It is!
The absurd thing is I think these people, who are so worried about home-schooled children not getting properly socialised, know that schooled socialisation is awful. And that is precisely the type of experience they are worried about them not receiving.
Seems a bit warped right?
Rue Kream worded this strange view very well:
“When people say that school prepares children for the real world, what’s implied is that it is the difficult parts of school (doing things you don’t want to do, forced interaction with peers, following rules that you don’t believe in) that are important. What’s implied is that the real world is going to be an unhappy place and that being treated unfairly by people is a part of life.
It may be a part of life in school, but it is not a part of our lives. School is as far away from the real world as possible. In school we learn that we cannot control our own destinies and that it is acceptable to let others govern our lives. In the real world we can take responsibility for choosing our own paths and governing our own lives. The real world is what we make it.”
What Kream says is true.
Most people are worried about children not being treated unfairly enough as children to be able to ‘cope’ with being treated unfairly as an adult.
However, as adults we are able to remove ourselves from situations we don’t like.
If I am unhappy in a job, I can find another company to work for or even choose an entirely different career. That is socially acceptable.
If a child is unhappy in school, more often than not, it’s ‘tough luck kid!’
No one is ‘supposed to like school.’
You have to put up with it.
That is socially accepted.
As an adult, if I need to use the bathroom at work… i’ll go!
That is socially acceptable.
At school, you have to ask, generally by raising your hand in front of all your peers and publicly announcing that you need a wee or a poo or be scolded for walking out.
I remember wetting myself at 9 years old in front of the class whilst being told off for not going to the toilet on my break.
Which then meant I had to endure weeks of torment from classmates.
Is that socially acceptable?
Did I need to be prepared for that happening to me as an adult in the ‘real world’?
At school, children are ridiculed for being different.
That’s just what goes on right? They have to learn to deal with it?
If you aren’t cool, you are a geek or a freak or boring or weird or just ignored. The only way to fit in is to be like everyone else, or you are seen as ‘less’ in some way.
In the ‘real world’ we passionately fight these injustices because we know it is unacceptable to be prejudice towards people who are different from you.
Yet in schools – it is, at best, talked about now and then in assemblies… but in everyday life, it isn’t something teachers have the ability to have much time for so it falls to children to just put up with and becomes socially acceptable.
In school, I learned that being different to everyone else was wrong.
I plucked up the courage to dye my hair a beautiful shade of mahogany red, it was shiny and rich and I loved it!
I was late for school the next morning and everyone in my class was already sat down in registration. I opened the door and said sorry to my teacher for being late. A boy shouted ‘Oh my god! Amy’s been attacked by a microwave!’
Sure enough, the whole class erupted in fits of laughter.
I turned as red as my hair and made my way to my seat, feeling awful, exposed and ugly.
My teacher simply asked the class to be quiet so she could finish ticking everyone’s names off, as if it was only the noise level that was unacceptable, not the bullying.
And people wonder why children don’t speak out to teachers when they are being bullied!
People wonder why children opt to suffer in silence!
I remember being asked to complete a form to choose which GCSE classes I wanted to take the next year. I was sat next to one of my best friends and we chose classes together so that we would know someone once we were re-segregated into our GCSE classes. I didn’t really give two hoots about what subjects I would be doing, as long as I wasn’t plunged into random classes along with random people who knew everyone else and might be mean to me. As long as I had an ally, what subjects I took didn’t matter.
So, schooled socialisation completely got in the way of my apparent ‘education’.
The only socialising I did was with 2 close friends.
No one else really.
Everyone had their groups, some consisting of 5 friends and some just 2 etc, but they generally just stuck to those people.
I only learned how to interact with a couple of specific personalities and certainly only with those who were my age, plus or minus a few months!
You couldn’t talk to those in a different age group, should we ever have the rare opportunity to… How socially unacceptable!
I remember passing notes with a particular friend in a booooring maths class once.
The teacher spotted us and confiscated it.
She then read our private messages out in front of the whole class to deter us from talking with each other again. How awful is that!?
So, ‘education’ got in the way of my apparent ‘socialisation’.
I had a conversation with a fellow home-ed mum recently, we chatted about how the memory of doing the drop off and pick up reminded us of actually being at school. I’m not talking about the physical presence in a playground… I’m talking about the way it felt to walk into a place filled with little groups and cliques of friendships between mums.
When my first son started school, we lived in a different town. We moved midway between reception and year one, and so he started year one at a different school.
I was instantly taken in by a group of mums in his year and they were absolutely wonderful!
I was ‘one of them’ almost immediately, (there is one lady called Laura that I am particularly grateful for and I am sure she will be a very long term friend of mine) however, aside from one or two who had children in our year and another year, the parents were awkwardly segregated into seemingly unbreakable circles of friendships, based on what year their children were in.
As a new parent to the school, I somehow knew my place was with the ‘year one’s’.
I wouldn’t have dared to try and chat to any other circles!
Not socially acceptable at all!
This is what our children walk out of school to see!
Evidence that you should only stick with ‘your people’.
I view schooled socialisation as way behind the times when it comes to what is socially acceptable in life outside of school.
People think it’s a positive thing to subject children to a much harsher environment than they would have to deal with in real life, in the hopes of preparing them for what might happen when they are adults who need to ‘fight their own battles’.
The very same people who are of the opinion that school is the only way to ‘socialise’ our children are sitting around moaning about ‘kids these days’ … but the vast majority of them are in school, so kids these days should be living up to expectations right?
Instead what happens is, children grow to be adults who believe it is socially acceptable to behave in the ways school taught them to, along with their parents standing in their cliques waiting to pick them up.
“We don’t starve ourselves in preparation for famine. Hard times will come to all of us. We don’t have to practice having those hard times to be able to survive them and thrive.”
Let me touch on another point Kream made here – ‘In school we learn that we cannot control our own destinies and that it is acceptable to let others govern our lives.’
Once we leave school, we are expected to know exactly what to do. School is supposed to have prepared us for our lives without it, yet so many students go on to complete degrees that then have no value in what they end up doing as a job.
Some leave school at the earliest possibility and pursue a career in something that school did not prepare them for. Very few people go straight from school into a career that fills the rest of their lives with joy and contentment because it is the perfect fit for them as an individual.
So many adults go through a ‘mid-life crisis’, jack in their careers and pursue what they have always wanted to do, but always felt too risky.
Others go on to take a gap year – either to relax and recover from the insane pressures put on them throughout their childhood or to figure out what on earth it is that they want to do, because they still have no idea who they are!
Perhaps they have spent the entirety of their childhood trying to fit in with a class of children they have little to nothing in common with?
Perhaps they don’t even know who the hell they are, because they have been molded and shaped for the last 14 years to be ‘socially accepted’.
Not accepted by themselves.
Accepted by society.
All the other people blindly agreeing with what is considered ‘socially acceptable’ because they were molded and shaped in the same way.
“Every turn I take, every trail I track, every path I make, every road leads back to the place I know, where I cannot go, where I long to be.
I know everybody on this island, seems so happy on this island, everything is by design. I know everybody on this island has a role on this island, so maybe I can roll with mine? I can lead with pride, I can make us strong, i’ll be satisfied if I play along, but the voice inside sings a different song, what is wrong with me?
Travis is happy to be lead by Ethan when it comes to being sociable, he will join in with conversations but isn’t quite ready to initiate yet.
I say ‘yet’ but that may just be part of his personality and that’s totally ok!
We have recently given up our car.
As a result, we walk to the supermarket on an almost-daily basis.
My children are SO sociable!
They would never have dreamed of what I am about to tell you before we left school!
They felt embarrassed and worried about talking to adults, I realise that when I look back.
I look forward to our supermarket runs now because they make it so enjoyable!
(Most of the time!)
They say ‘hello’ to everyone we meet along the path and, when we get to the checkout, my eldest always initiates conversation with the cashier.
So much so that they remember him.
The other day, Ethan had forgotten what he had said to this particular cashier on a previous supermarket outing (as he chats to so many people) and the conversation went like this:
Ethan: ‘Hi, my name is Ethan, I really like Pokemon! Do you like Pokemon?’
Cashier: ‘Hi Ethan! I don’t really know much about Pokemon.’
Ethan: ‘Ah ok, well it’s really cool, I have 72 cards and 8 of them are EX cards!’
Cashier: ‘Oh that sounds great!’
Ethan: ‘Yeah, what do you like to do when you aren’t at work?’
Cashier: ‘Oh I just hang out with my friends or go out to eat.’
Ethan: ‘That sounds nice!’
Cashier: (To me) ‘That’s £24.55. (To Ethan, referring to a previous conversation) Well I hope you get a dirt track hotwheels car for Christmas!’
Ethan: (Remembering his previous conversation with him) Oh yeah! Thank you! Happy Christmas! Bye!’
We had our fence fixed yesterday.
The boys were transfixed on the workmen outside and chatting about what they were doing.
When we left to go and see some friends, Ethan stopped and said ‘Excuse me, can I make a suggestion?’
One of the men replied with a big smile ‘Yeah, go on then!’
‘I can see you are struggling to get that post out with the spade, so why don’t you use that bigger tool you have there?’
‘Ah see, that one doesn’t work in the same way, using a spade is hard work, but we need to use it because it gives us leverage, like this… *shows him the technique* The Egyptians used to do this when they were building, we got it from them! That was a great idea though, thanks for your suggestion!’
‘That’s ok, bye!’
Ethan initiated a conversation with me about standing up for others a few days ago.
He had remembered a time at a kids party when a boy left the crusts off his sandwich.
Another boy pointed at him and loudly proclaimed ‘Crust leaver, crust leaver, you’re a crust leaver!’
The majority of the other kids laughed and chanted along, while others just sat and silently witnessed the boy looking uncomfortable and embarrassed.
Ethan said that he wished he had stood up for the boy and said something and, if the same happened now, he would.
Since we left the school system in September 2017, we have been building friendships with other local home-edders.
We are forming a group of wonderful people of all different age groups, backgrounds, values and life stories!
The parents are of varying ages and nationalities and the kids range from 2 years old to 14 years old.
When we meet, they all interact with each other seamlessly, switching from one conversation to the next, one game to the next, one person to the next.
On our last meet, Ethan (7) was particularly enjoying chatting with a 13 year old boy who shared his passion for Pokemon! They have agreed to have a game next week!
Travis had loads of fun with a girl his age, she was getting overwhelmed at one point with the crowds of kids around her. Travis noticed this and helped to remove her from the situation to ‘protect’ her.
Both boys chatted to the adults whenever they came to grab a drink or take a 5 minute break from running around, without feeling embarrassed like they would have been a few months ago.
But sure, tell me more about how my home-schooled kids need ‘socialising’.
People often remark on how lovely my children are, as if it’s a surprise.
My children are polite, kind and accepting of others.
My children do not tolerate bullying, being unreasonably told what to do or their autonomy being disrespected.
My children will be able to explore who they are, what they want and what matters to them.
My children are 100% acceptable.
My children are unschooled.