Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lack of socialisation and independence issues....

Sometimes it seems that not a day goes by without home-educators being challenged with the age-old myth regarding socialisation.  I usually try to avoid getting into debates on the issue on parenting forums and the like, but when someone on such a forum asked if there were any home-educators recently, one response made me a little frustrated.  It was said that home-educators "didn't develop social skills or independence away from their parents."

This was my reply...

Hi ******

No need to apologise for your opinion, we are all grown ups here and everyone is entitled to have their say - regardless of whether we agree with it or not :)

I just wanted to say that really you 'hit the nail on the head' regarding the 'my son is happy in school and therefore happy to learn.' The key issue is happiness, and what suits your son and some other children, would not suit all. Just as home-education wouldn't suit everyone.

I did feel the need to pick up on the old socialisation myth that you mentioned. If I had a pound for everyone who had said to me that home-educated children do not socialise 'properly', well, I'd be sailing on my luxury yacht around the world by now ;) I do wish that people would genuinely find out about how many home-educating families socialise, as there seems to be a great deal of misconception out there.

Home-educated children can and do meet and associate with others. They can and do socialise without their parents present. They can and often do develop independence. They are not hidden away from society. BUT, this differs from family to family of course. Some children like being with others, some children don't - this has nothing to do with home-education, they would feel the same way in school (and some school children do!). Some adults are party animals and love going clubbing, others prefer to stay home and watch TV. Some adults prefer to be with friends, others prefer their own company - isn't that what makes for an interested and varied society?

Suggesting that home-educated children are not able to develop independence is so far from the mark it's unbelievable. It's like saying that all children that go to school are bullies or that all children that attend school are happy, or all school children will pass exams. It's a huge sweeping statement that doesn't take into account the individuals involved. Some children at school have a large group of friends, others are isolated (sometimes by choice) on a daily basis. Each child has his or her own character and personality, whether they go to school or are taught at home.

For example I will tell you about my children and their socialisation. I co-run our local home-education group. We have around 16 regular families involved - with around 35 children between them. They vary in age between 4 months and 15 years with a steady mix of girls and boys. New members are joining us all of the time as people either move to the area (lovely Devon), or become exasperated with the school system. In the last few weeks we have had 3 new families joining us for outings to various local attractions. The children will go off and do their own thing, playing together, talking together, laughing and chatting together. They aren't attached to their parents! If there happens to be other children at the same place - at a park or playground during the school holidays for example - then very often the home-educated lot will mix and socialise with these too - we aren't an exclusive club :) This happened alot during the summer holidays. Home-educated children are able to attend the same groups and clubs that their school-going peers do - Scouts, Brownies, Guides, Music clubs, Youth groups, Sports teams etc. They attend these without their parents going along to hold their hand. Not to mention the birthday parties, the sleepovers, and the shopping trips with their pals. My 8 year old daughter goes to Brownies each week and loves it, she gets along with all the girls there (although she is the only home-educated child), and is looking forward to going to the holiday the Brownies are hosting in a months time - without me! My eldest daughter at 14, goes along to a regular book club meeting for teenagers held at our local library - again, without me!

My 14 year old recently wrote a blog posting regarding home-education and socialisation, people are more than welcome to view it here:

she has also written her own views on home-education which can be read on my blog here:

The main difference between home-educated children and the way they socialise compared to that of their school-going peers, is that there is no segregation. There is nobody forcing them to be in the same room, day in day out, with the same set of people purely because they share the same school year. The "I'm not playing with you as you are a girl/boy/baby etc" situation that I have been witness to on many occasions in school and park playgrounds, doesn't seem to be quite so prevalent within home-education circles. Home-educated children are often (but admittedly not always) confident around adults, as they interact much more with them on a daily basis - librarians, shop keepers, dog walkers, receptionists, group leaders, park rangers, music teachers etc etc - as well as plumbers, electricians, boiler engineers, and all the other people we meet in our day to day lives . Home-educated children are involved in real life situations all day every day, not in a false environment that is school. Where else are we, as people, forced to be with a group purely based on our ages? In a work environment we are mixing with all ages, male and female, younger and older than ourselves.

Just yesterday my children came along with me to an 'adults' event - one of the Open Heritage Days at an historical Longhouse on Dartmoor. My lot were the only young people there - youngest is 5, eldest as mentioned is 14. They talked to the other adults there, they asked questions, they showed enthusiasm, and listened intently to the talk that was over 2 hours long. At the end of the day the tour leader specifically came over to us and shook each of our hands saying how impressed he was by the children and their interest. They were happy to be there - so they took notice of the experience and couldn't help but learn from it. As you were saying - school is right for your son as he is happy there - my son was bullied from the age of 5 and was dreadfully unhappy at school - hence my reason for removing him. Initially it was a temporary measure, but 7 and a half years later it was the best decision I could have made for our entire family unit - but as said previously, home -education wouldn't suit everyone. Home-Education is a lifestyle choice, not purely an educational one.

I can't speak on behalf of all home-educators, but only on my own experience and the experience of those I am in contact with - both in real life and online. We have had children attend the group as new home-educators, where the school system has failed. Maybe bullying has dented a child's confidence for example. Their first few meetings often reveal shyness, lack of self-confidence, difficulty in socialising with others - children and adults alike. After a few weeks, they begin to shine. They come out of their shell and their personalities begin to show through - because they are allowed to be themselves. They are allowed to mix with whichever children they choose to - not forced to sit aside their same age peers. They can be as involved as much or as little as they want to, always having the chance to sit out of the group and just watch or read or eat!

I'm not here to get into a school versus home-ed debate - there are pros and cons to both and I am not anti school in any way. However, I do find myself defending home-education rather strongly as I have seen the change in my children since embarking on our home-ed adventures. There are some good schools and some not so good (and let's face it, some darn right awful one!). There are good and bad teachers. There are home-educators who embrace life and ensure their children have every opportunity they can, there are others who perhaps aren't quite so involved. There are children that thrive at school and do incredibly well, there are children who wilt and struggle within that environment and pressure.

Please don't make such sweeping statements about home-educators not socialising or being able to ensure their children are independent. That's just not true!

Again, no offence or upset is meant, just stating an opinion :)

Julia x

Now I feel better ;o)


  1. Hear hear!

    And I belly laughed at the idea of home ed children not being confident... my 3.5 yr old runs off at a big country park and plays on the adventure park while I sit and chat with the other mums and dads - and I'm a good distance from him too.

    Heck I even had a fellow HE'er commenting on him being 3.5yrs old and how he's happily run off to play- far, far away from me. Ok, she was a little surpised at just how free range he is... still.. lacking independence is not something Rye suffers from, that's fr sure!

  2. Thank you for setting another person straight in such a balanced and civilised manner!

    Nowadays, I get so cross at people spouting off without the slightest attempt at fact checking, that I am getting almost too irritable to deal with this issue politely, so think that if it's OK, I will just save this link somewhere and refer people to it!

  3. >segregation

    Good word! True and correctly hints at the age-related Apartheid that goes on in schools.

    >Home-Education is a lifestyle choice, not purely a educational one.

    Oh yes.

  4. Brilliant!! It WAS a silly, uninformed, sweeping statement and badly needed correcting! ;)

  5. It's such a shame that the old myth about HE and socialisation still remains. It's as if some people can't imagine a child making friends outside of a school building.

    Sometimes I wish my children would stop socialising for just a little while and let us spend a quiet day at home on our own lol!

  6. Julie G.5:10 pm

    My usual reply about the socialisation comments is to laugh and tell the peeople that for the first time in my life I had to buy a diary to keep track of everything my son was doing. Or I ask them do they mean socialization or socialising? That usually floors them as most people don't know the difference.

    We just have to keep on chipping away at these preconceptions, eventually we will make a hole in the wall.