Sunday, 18 September 2011


Occasionally I meet someone who asks about home ed. Soon enough that word pops out in their list of fears. Socialisation.

It's true. It's a fear. Usually, that's all. The reality is, most places you live are rich with opportunities to get out and about, aren't they? You don't have to join with other home ed groups, although once you start seeing them, you'll be tripping over them, wondering why you never saw them before. Because they're everywhere. Even here, in Hong Kong, where home school is illegal.

But I wonder if those parents, picking out the S-word with a special wild-eyed look of dread, have a model in their mind, not of what education could look like, nor of the life of their child, but of what they assume a home educating mother's social life must be like.

Whether the words they're silently fretting upon are, 'locked in the house with kids all day long'.

I can't tell anyone how they'll manage daily life with kids around, nor tell you how you'll feel it's best to handle the responsibilities of education.

But from my perspective, the home ed world has probably been a life saver of socialisation.

In the conventional, school-attending world, I would have been out on a limb. For a start, I couldn't have tolerated the tedious lunchbox chat and bizarre idea that we all shared the same assumptions. Crikey, I had enough problems with BritMums! And that's filtered through a screen! I wouldn't have lasted a day at the real school gate, when the chat was over and the knives came out.

By Monday tea-time it would be obvious. I'd be the loner. Never complying with school requests. I would have asked Why? Arms crossed, bolshy stare, I wouldn't have seen the point, or rather I would, and undermined it. With no self-control I would blab my childish scorn. Mocking the system by bottom jokes would become a favoured technique. By Tuesday I would have made myself Public Enemy No. 1.

Work would not have provided enough of a range. I'm not an office woman, nor a person who likes to live by the clock, nor very agreeable when it comes to complying with someone else's requests. Not unless a shed load of cash appeared as part of the trade, and somehow, with my skills set, I doubt it.

Now I'm observing the trailing spouse world. I consider how little I could socialise here, too. I'm not a natural-born, country-cruising expat. I don't engage in competitive Dior. I don't employ a maid, so I'm not in need of a support group to whine about her. I don't play squash. I don't use shopping malls (except for the toilets). The monitoring of each other's salaries and husbands and cars and pools would have driven me to madness.

Maybe I would be lost and alone in all those worlds.

But here, in this home ed life, I'm not alone, not friendless, not locked in the house with kids all day long.

Here is an immediate welcoming group; we have strong interests and values coinciding. Here, these intelligent, no-nonsense women get straight to the heart of the matter. They expect a coherent argument. They have opinions and ideas to share. They nod in immediate understanding when someone speaks about choices of education, social norms, cultural conflicts, or how to manage kids abroad when kids don't want to go. They see the deal on wage-earning absent partners who are supporting these rounds of walks and meet ups and groups, all in the name of the offspring's education. We nod in understanding of that cover, too.

These home ed groups can be so straightforwardly welcoming in fact, that last year, I think I had a little problem. The bizarre idea that to like people in Hong Kong was a kind of betrayal to the people I grew older with in England. I suffered Badman and Balls with those English women, and simply to go off and fall in love with someone else's good sense, why that is tantamount to disloyalty.

This year, stepping between these places, England and Hong Kong, I discovered what I probably instinctively knew. That the home ed world, wherever it is, is astonishingly open and welcoming. It's tolerant and sociable. You can leave the kids to go form their own friendship groups, while you'll meet people happy to share ideas, time, and kindnesses.

Then, in answer to that question, What do you do about socialisation? don't fret. Because your child won't be alone, and neither will you.

1 comment:

Belgravia Wife - sort of said...

Grit, I don't know how to say it and I've gone all English and bashful.....thank you xx