If you've come to this blog before, you've encountered the s-word.
Get thee gone, Mr Spooky, seeking sexy pigeon. Here is the s-word in the world of home education.
The first question I asked, the last doubt I harboured, was socialisation. How will my kids socialise? Will they be able to socialise? Don't kids go to school to be socialised properly?
On that last point, I worried. I know that socialisation takes a particular form in schools. Kids are told to shut up, sit down, listen. If the kids work their way round that, then yes, they talk with each other. They may establish pecking orders, or create a hierarchy of the classroom. People are assigned labels. The clown. The shy one. The geek. The swot. Is that socialisation?
Groups of types will form. People hardwire into those groups, and it's difficult to break out. Kids carry them through the playground - perhaps to describe a personal identity; to create a community; to protect themselves in a large crowd. Some groups want to dominate and extract signals of submission. Is that socialisation?
Then there are large crowds - assemblies, fire drills, all the routine large pack systems - what is socialisation here? Is it knowing when you can whisper to get away with it? Try and subvert the authority. Try and redefine the event on your own terms. Try and not be a number, when you are a number. Is this socialisation?
There are people who move, between individuals, large groups, small groups; they transcend the labels. They ultimately deal with a large-scale organisation; an organisation with a command line from head down through deputy heads, form teachers, class teachers, supply teachers. They handle it. They are the succeeding people. We're glad. They survived socialisation.
But in the home ed world, what is socialisation?
My flippant answer, is that whatever socialisation is, we do too much of it. There are too many play dates, parties, all group meetings; mixing with adults, little kids, babies; all in workshops, lessons, parks, all day events. Then shops, high streets, libraries, galleries, museums. Everyday, somewhere. Can't we take a month off and stay at home?
My scared answer - on the days when all goes bellyup - is that whatever socialisation is, we don't do enough of it. We have issues. Too much shyness. Timidity. Fear of dogs. Strange people. New people. Too few people. Too many people. Wrong moment. Wrong place.
My more considered answer is, socialisation means what you want it to mean. It is the life you choose.
So today, socialisation is this tree. It contained eight kids for thirty minutes. One, reaching the top, yelled down to the others to come up.
Socialisation is this straggly walk through the conifers perched, wind blasted, against the Greensand Ridge.
Socialisation is this moment, wondering how many times a dog can jump into a lake to fetch a stick before it feels the cold.
Socialisation is walking on forest paths, talking about soil, the weather, lost scarves, and wondering about the lives of people who on Mondays must take themselves into schools.