Wednesday, 21 March 2018

But What About Socialisation?! And Other Common Questions About Home Education

Yesterday morning, as I was settling down with my morning coffee while my three sons played happily at my feet, I noticed a few more notifications than usual pinging up on my phone.

I opened the article I was being tagged in to and saw that it was a piece about TV personality Stacey Solomon and her decision to home educate her two young sons.

I read it with interest, nodded along with some of Stacey's reasons for choosing home education and then momentarily fell down a comment hole as I so often do - reading various misinformed opinions and common misconceptions from those with no experience of home education. "But what about socialisation?!"... "These children are the ones who struggle with keeping Time and Attendance in the workplace!" and various other generalisations were thrown about.

 And for a moment I thought about perhaps writing a blog post to correct explain all of the ways that my son socialises as a home educated child, and how he mingles with more children than he ever did at explain how I went to school but still managed to grow up to be an adult who was terrible at getting to work on time, so good  Time and Attendance are not something that automatically come with school life....but I was soon distracted back into the room by those three little boys of mine.

One of them playing with a maths app on his tablet, another creating dresses for his dolls out of playdoh at my feet - honing his fine motor skills and chatting about the different colours he was using, and the little one marching up and down the living room in a helmet shouting "No! My castle! I viking!" at the top of his basically, our usual Monday morning chaos.

A chaos which looks decidedly different to that which most parents experience on a Monday morning, yes...the "Get your coat on/Where are your shoes!/ Eat your breakfast, we're going to be late for school!" sort of chaos...but chaos nonetheless.

And soon the comments about home education were forgotten, along with any thought of writing a post about them (or finishing that coffee!)

But this evening it was pointed out to me that Matthew Wright is going to be discussing Home education (or "Home schooling" as they keep incorrectly referring to it) on The Wright Stuff on Wednesday morning and was asking for opinions online...and once again, I found myself on social media... reading through misinformed opinion after misinformed opinion.

But what really stood out to me was that among the expected idiocy from the cretins and attention seekers, there were lots of questions and misconceptions from people who seemed to genuinely be concerned or perplexed by home education.

So here I am taking the opportunity, as a home educating parent, to reassure those people and answer those questions as best I can.

We have only been home educating for a few months, and there are certainly people far better qualified to be writing this post than me...but I'm the one with the blog, so there we go! You're stuck with me!

This is, by far and away, the most common misconception there is when it comes to home education.

And I'll be totally was a big concern of mine too.

If you're new around here, you won't know my reasons for removing my son from school - if you'd like to you can read all about it here - but in short, it was not something we decided on without a lot of careful consideration.

Socialisation was the aspect of home education that concerned me the most. I worried about how he'd make friends (even though he hadn't made any in school either), I worried about him feeling isolated (even though he complained that he was spending every play time alone anyway) and I worried that I'd somehow make him "weird" by removing him from school.

But in just a few short weeks, I realised that my worries had been completely unfounded.

Home education has been a very sociable experience for us. We are spending more time out and about, mixing and mingling with other families, than we ever have done before.

My boys go to around 3 different home ed social groups every week, as well as to classes and activities where they mix with school educated children too (such as karate and theatre classes).

Last week alone they played with around 35 different children over the course of the week. They meet new people often, and learn how to make new friends. They form and maintain friendships with their peers. They come across children they don't get along with and learn how to handle conflict too.

Basically all of the important elements of socialisation that a child gets from school - they can also get from home education. With the added benefit of not being limited to spending the majority of their time only with children who are the same age as them - Home educated children learn how to mix with children of all ages, which I feel is going to better prepare them for life...because at what other stage in life are you expected to mix and form friendships only with people born in the same year as you?!

These points have largely been answered above but I will say that comments like this make me very envious of other peoples overwhelmingly positive school experiences.

However, people need to realise that not all school children come away from school having developed friendships and lasting relationships. Or having made any friendships at all.

 In actual fact, I came away from school feeling incredibly isolated and separated from my peers - in fact I personally am still in therapy for post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the bullying I experienced throughout my school years. 

I can't help but feel that I would have been a far happier adult if I hadn't attended school.

There are also increasing numbers of children committing or attempting suicide because of their experiences at school - which again demonstrates that school-based socialisation is not good for every child.

I completely agree with the notion that kids SHOULD be enjoying school life...but the cold hard fact is that often they are not. Infact all too often, it is literally killing them.

I is the thing that shapes us. Unfortunately, for some of us things are experienced which do nothing good for us. My confidence in both myself and my academic abilities was destroyed at school, and it's taken years to try and repair the damage that was done. 

Life has a lot of positive social and educational experiences to offer, this is very much the ethos of home education, but school is not the only setting that can offer this.

There is more than one way to learn, there is more than one way to socialise and there is more than one way to live a fulfilling life.

I find it difficult to answer this particular statement without first pointing out that if this is the kind of judgemental and frankly ignorant person who could be teaching my child, then I would absolutely prefer to opt out and I feel sorry for the children being taught by her.

Unless this "lady" is referring to a person who's intelligence she has personally had opportunity to measure on all counts, then who does she think she is to judge?! There are many ways to be intelligent, we all have our strengths and weaknesses in life.

Secondly, if school is the answer to the problem that "less than intelligent" parents create...why are there still so many thick buggers walking around who DID go to school?! Clearly school is not a cure all! 

Answering the point this woman was, I assume, trying to make regarding whether or not a parent with no teaching qualifications can be a suitable candidate to educate their child - well unless we're going to start asking parents to take tests before they're allowed to take their children home at birth, then it's really a moot point. Parents are the first educators a child has...we are the ones who teach them to talk, to play, to walk, to socialise, to interact with other people, we are usually the ones to teach first letters, first numbers, colours and so on.

Your child has been learning from you since day 1 and will continue to learn from you throughout their childhood, regardless of whether or not they go to school. 

Home educated children learn in all manner of ways - sit down "lessons" are a very small part of it for most home educating families with many preferring to take an "unschooling" approach. Children are capable of motivating themselves to learn, with parents often acting merely as facilitators rather than teachers.  And many home educating parents state that they often learn things at the same time that their child does...enjoying the learning process together as their child expresses an interest in exploring different topics and subjects.

My 4 year old son has interests in ancient Egypt and the second world war at the moment - two subjects that I have previously had no interest in whatsoever - so together we're researching the facts, reading books on these topics, doing projects around them, watching documentaries and taking educational trips to help us learn more - learning together as we go. Do I really need to have a degree in these subjects to be able to help him learn more about them? I personally do not think so.

For me, one of the most important aspects of home education is encouraging a love of learning itself. Something that I personally feel is not considered to be important enough at school.

Again, this person is judging rather unfairly.

I am a parent who works full time running my own business, and I am also the one who takes on the role of educator in our house...home education does not need to be done in a 9-3 style like school, and in fact fits in very nicely with our routine. With just a bit of extra time management and planning, I don't need to spend any more than an hour or 2 per day focusing on home ed - I can make this work and still run my business. 

I am aware that I am in a rare and fortunate position however, and that many families do struggle as choosing to home educate can mean one parent having to stop working. This is always going to be a difficult choice but it's clearly very unfair to label this a lack of "work ethic" as surely it's more a case of putting the needs of your family first. If you feel that your child is going to be happier and better educated at home, then making the sacrifice you need to make in order to achieve that is to be admired and respected in my opinion. I only feel sorry for those who want to choose this route and are simply unable to do so for financial or logistical reasons.

As for the comment about parents being bullies...sadly this is true. However, parents can always be bullies...whether a child is home educated or not. A home educated child is not automatically a child who is cut off from society and therefore at immediate risk - my children regularly see Drs, dentists and family members - if anything untoward was happening to them at home, there would be plenty of people who would be able to see the signs of this. Home education is not a safeguarding risk in itself.

 So there we go...these seemed to be the most common misconceptions and concerns that people had around home education.

There were of course those who A) saw fit to mock Stacey Solomon's level of intelligence and question whether someone "as thick as her hahahaha" was suitable to educate their children and B) simply insisted that everybody who home educates is "strange/weird", a gypsy or a religious extremist...

Those comments can be answered rather quickly and easily though....

A) I don't think Stacey is going to be scratching around behind the sofa to find her next mortgage payment given that she's managed to create a very lucrative career for herself, so yes...I'd say that as an entrepenuer and businesswoman she's probably very well placed to provide an education. I'm sure she'll lose plenty of sleep over the opinions of Daily Mail readers, of course...

And B) I do wonder why people find it so very difficult to figure out why I'm reluctant to send my children to school to mingle with the poor offspring of such vile, judgemental cretins as those who make these ridiculous comments and sweeping generalisations?! Although thank god that your children don't have to spend all day, every day with you...for their sake!

As for today's debate on The Wright Show...I won't be tuning in personally as I can't stand the way he talks over everybody and I'll be too busy out at a home ed field trip with my son (because, you know, that's another way they socialise...two field trips planned with large groups of other children for the next few weeks alone! What a lonely child he must be! ) , but I do hope home education is represented fairly and accurately.

And incase you're still worried about the prospects for the future of home educated children, here's a little collage of some famous home educated people who haven't done too badly for themselves...


See? We're not all "weird religious extremist gypsies"...honest!

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