When I was researching home education, the concern that came up time and time again was socialisation. How do I intend to make sure my kids are properly socialised? People have this image of all these poor home educated children, sitting sadly at a desk, mother stood behind them denying them access to other kids or daylight! And I had all the answers – their education would be Maths, English and then interest led which would involve joining many regular weekly home ed groups. While there’s nothing wrong with my initial approach, I have come to some conclusions and will be making some necessary tweaks to my original plan.
Firstly, I dont have to teach my children anything, nor can anyone. I have to facilitate their life long thirst to learn which is a totally different thing. They very quickly saw the benefits and wonder of learning new things and it wasnt long before they were hooked. Their natural curiosity fuels all of their learning, if it doesnt interest them they wont learn it, no matter what, so the trick is to make everything as interesting and fun as possible. Should this involve other children? It can but doesnt necessarily have to.
Secondly, weekly groups are fine but I need a couple of days a week that are just us. Why? Because the biggest part of socialisation should and must start with the family. Mum, Dad, siblings and grandparents should always be there for you. I know this doesnt always happen but it should. I need to invest time, real quality time with my children while they still want their Mum around and that cant necessarily be achieved if all I do is ferry them to clubs and help them with the odd bit of written work. We need to spend time gardening together, playing together, watching the stars together, cooking together, laughing and crying together. Thats what family should be and learning should go hand in hand with that, not least learning who we each are, what makes us tick, what strengths we have and what weaknesses and not just on an academic level. I want my kids to be able to ask me anything without feeling embarassed or self conscious – they can only do that if they trust me not to judge them and to have their best interests at heart. I couldnt hope to forge these relationships with my children while they were at school – it took up too much time. Now that they are home educated, I think the biggest risk I face is missing this mark, it isnt to get them 10 GCSEs by the age of 16, its to ensure that i am present and with them and they know we all stick together and help each other and no matter what happens in their life, we have each others back.
Im paring down the weekly comittments and setting aside a couple of days a week where we have no plans and can be spontaneous, maybe on a nice day, pack the books in the car with a picnic and go learn at the seaside!
As for their friends, they see their good friends often and have a wide range of other kids they interact with, some they like some they dont but they learn the best way to handle both. They have far more contact with kids with problems than I ever did and they handle it beautifully. They are far better socialised than myself or my husband who both went right through the school system. How many friends do we have as adults who we met in school? I judge a real friend as someone who can rely on me and who I can rely on in return, I can count those people on one hand and consider myself lucky. I know thousands of other people who I am friendly with but I doubt very much in a crisis that they would lend a hand.
At the end of the day, if the apocalypse were to decend on us I would have a big enough band of merry folk to survive but small enough to be manageable.
We dont need a million friends, we just need a few true ones and to more or less get on with the rest.