Friday, 14 January 2011

Socialisation and home education (again)

One of the comments we all hear, is that if you pull a child out of school, they won't be able to socialise.

I have many responses to that issue, some of which are two words on an off-day, but I think that people who say this are generally expressing the fear 'you won't be able to socialise in the way that we do, round school gates and school events'.

Personally, if I hear this comment about socialisation, especially from an English person, I tend to think home education has touched an insecurity, not about education, but about how they feel uncomfortable in deviating far from the conformity of their social class.

I think people who lack confidence in moving very far from their social comfort zone perhaps see a school-based approach as the safest, least-risky way to bring up kids. Stay put, and socially you don't have to worry about getting it wrong. Move 'outside' that social zone and you potentially face the embarrassment, the judgement, the social awkwardness. Easier to stay safe, do what everyone else does, laugh at minor differences, and call that 'socialisation'.

I'm not surprised then that these people think that socialisation is in part confined and defined by school. Once they see us pull our kids away from that safe world of their 'normal', I wonder if they tend to assume that we must be in some sort of social limbo, outside everything. Then, our children of course 'cannot socialise'.

One moment of thought should tell them we are not outside anything, and their narrow angle of vision is their problem to explore, not ours. There is a big wide world outside the school gates populated by all social classes from top to bottom, left to right, purple to green.

In fact, one of the distinct advantages I see here is that it is possible for a home educated child to mix with other children from many different backgrounds. We meet parents from working class to upper class. One thing we have in common is that we are educating in ways which inspire and motivate children. We just argue here about what those ways are, and which methods work best. I'm pretty sure that some of that debate is socially motivated too. (The autonomous crowd are very difficult to pin down into a class system. They could be lower or upper, you just can't tell, and I wonder if that's why people like Balls and Badman were so unsettled by that approach.)

Well, you have to have a certain confidence about being in this home ed world, that's for sure. Me and Dig, we are suited to it in our various ways. I am a working class gutter gal who couldn't give a toss. He is an upper-middle class posh boy who doesn't take kindly to being told what to do by someone with a clipboard. Home education is maybe a natural place to go for people who don't quite fit their social classes anyway. Maybe that's why we are also temporarily expat and living on an island without roads.

But it is not surprising that parents in the home ed world similarly raise kids who are pretty hard to define on first meeting. Kids who do not follow the minutiae of etiquette which tie them to a particular social class, but who borrow freely from the spectrum. It's maybe easy for the people who find securities in their regular social groups to dismiss these dangerous free-roaming kids as 'unsocialised'.

Anyway, I'm thinking all this aloud today. We are surrounded by Americans, Canadians, Chinese and Singaporeans, none of whom I can fit into any English class system, and all of whom are warm, welcoming, and expanding our social horizons enormously. And because one of the kids in this wonderful mixed-age, mixed-sex group has a birthday party.

You see? We are not out of society. We do not lack 'socialisation'. We are very much in society, and socialising across it. We find some celebrations are similar, wherever you go, whatever you do, however you live. Like a birthday party, where all the kids can run around and play, then cluster around the table with the cake.


sharon said...

But it's only a day or so since you took the girls out shopping. Shouldn't they be back on their chains attached to the radiator (or whatever the HK substitute is) by now? Honestly you do spoil them dreadfully grit, how are they to become discontented weirdo misfits if you carry on like this!

kelly said...

It's my best thing.

I love the social side of home ed.

I used to hate the drama of the school pick up - especially because my children went to a rather snooty school where every one had range rovers and jags, and we had a beat up ford galaxy.

Glad the shopping went well.

Deb said...

"...home education has touched an insecurity, not about education, but about how they feel uncomfortable in deviating far from the conformity of their social class."

Brilliant, as usual!

nappy valley girl said...

Well said, Grit. I hate the way the English school system revolves so much around social class.

I'm finding the US much less class-based. Where we currently live, all the children go to the same school, regardless of income or social strata - almost no-one goes private. I feel much happier with this, and the children mix with anyone from any background.

Gweipo said...

how do you find each other - especially in a foreign country?

MadameSmokinGun said...

We had one of the kids' chums round the other day and Mr R BLade commented later that 'she talks so much'.... then he stopped for a minute and remembered the old schooly days when the chums that came round wouldn't speak at all - not to us 'grown-ups' - only to painfully mutter 'no thanks' like we were pulling their teeth.

Mr RB then conceded that talking too much was way better. My goodness - it might even be considered 'social'.

This ability of kids to look adults in the eye and speak as if they are talking to an actual real human appears to be a solely Home Ed skill these days.

Just saying.......

Big mamma frog said...

"This ability of kids to look adults in the eye and speak as if they are talking to an actual real human appears to be a solely Home Ed skill these days"

The other day ds1 was explaining to adults at my writing group his plans on getting people together to form a production company for his film-making. 'It's the best way to move forward' he said.
He's 12.
At that age I would have been sat dumb, terrified to utter a word in adult company.

Grit said...

hi people, and thank you for your comments!

gweipo, that is a good question. but you found me. i have an email contact. it sounds simple, but it is, truly.

i think for hong kong, i probably typed in homeschool hong kong to google then followed the threads and started exchanging emails.

wherever you are, there are many lists, email groups, people with an online presence, people who can put you in touch with someone in a region or with a particular focus to the group. i feel quite sure i could find people to meet in many countries.

in the uk people might stick up notices of local groups in libraries, and the helpful local authorities may put up factually correct legal information with a local group to call.

you might see people out and about with kids and ask, too. the home educators i know who've been stopped like this are usually delighted to pass on info. it makes a change from the disapproving busy body or the truancy patrol.

it's different from just a few years ago, when i found the home educators to be a little um, 'clandestine'? but i think 2009-10 badman and balls had an impact, so now people are shouting about it more, and reminding every parent that home ed is a legal choice; education is compulsory in english law, school isn't.

today, i wonder, how can you not find a group or someone you want to find? don't look, might be my answer!