Who are your friends?

Take a look around at your nearest and dearest friends. What do you have in common with them? Probably some interests that drew you together. Perhaps you are neighbours. Maybe you met them via your children’s interests – I’ve met two parents through Brownies and swimming since we’ve moved here that we’ve spent time with outside of those activities.

Most of my friends share a common interest in home education. Some of them are older than me, some younger. One is even exactly the same age as me, so I’ll grant you that I could have met her at school 😉 Actually though, I met them through groups, through blogs, at camps and on lists. (In the interests of full disclosure I will say that one person I met through home ed turned out to be someone I was at school with. Lost contact with her after that though, and then met her again on a list I think. Small world eh?)

And most of those friends are not within six months of my age. In fact, Tim left (his) senior school before I got to mine 😉 I would not have been able to socialise with them easily, if at all, at school. And that’s supposing that our teachers allowed talking in class which, mainly, they didn’t. And I don’t find socialising easy, I’m not comfortable in big groups, definitely not the life and soul of the party. School didn’t give me those skills.

What gave me the skills I needed was my time at university and then work. At university I mixed with mature students as well as those my own age, ppl from all walks of life and all around the country. I got to broaden my horizons and encounter all sorts, both in lectures, social activities, and in holiday and weekend work. (Working in pubs and as a cleaner definitely opened my eyes after in some ways quite a sheltered upbringing involving a private school for girls.)

Once I got to full time work it broadened my social horizons hugely. Oh and there was Mensa, which I have to thank (or blame? 😉 ) for my relationship with Tim. In fact, apart from facebook friends, there is only one person (plus her family) I’m still in touch with from school. So much for the lasting friendships eh?

My children, as you are very aware, don’t go to school. It does mean that it feels we have to work a little harder to find them friendship opportunities. They have lots of home ed friends, but not many of them are particularly close by, although they do now stay in touch via google chat, email and various online games such as build-a-bearville. They go to Beavers, brownies and swimming as well, and are looking to join the swimming club. We also then have to work to make sure they see their friends – Big has started what will hopefully be a regular activity of going to a funplay session at the pool once a week with a swimming/ Brownie friend. She gets to meet other girls there too. (And probably boys, but she isn’t that interested in them. Yet.)

She does tend to gravitate to children around her own age, but she isn’t forced to. One of her Brownie friends is a year younger, the other 2 weeks. The children in her swimming class are probably within 2-3 years of her age.

The children at her home ed group are mainly younger than her, it’s just the way it is atm. When we went bowling last week they all grouped together to help the youngest bowler with very little assistance from any adult. By contrast the three children recently pulled out of school were too nervous and shy to stay and join in. 🙁

Why do ppl think that school helps with socialisation? I don’t get it. It’s a completely false environment, not at all representative of the rest of the world. What transferable social skills do ppl think you learn there? (That *is* what ppl mean by socialisation isn’t it?) I think a lot of ppl learn how to bully or be bullied. How to cheat, pretend to be someone other than they are, how to fit in with the crowd. I daresay for some children it is a lifeline, an escape from a home life that isn’t good for them. And I daresay for some it’s absolutely fine, neither particularly positive, nor particularly negative, just a place where they spend the day. But I don’t think it’s the be all and end all of social skills, and I think a society that has come to believe that should be taking a long hard look at itself.

Let’s face it, family is the natural unit of society. with extended family, neighbourhoods and communities spreading out around it. School is a johny come lately whippersnapper, a manmade institution that seems to lurch from crisis to crisis, surviving really because no one knows what else to do. It isn’t even particularly good at education, which theoretically is its primary purpose (though for a different perspective, I recommend Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling). So why, when ppl worry about home education is it socialisation that we find ourselves explaining time and again? Doesn’t really make any sense does it?

I don’t have any answers. Except to say that socialisation is not something I worry about all that much when I think about home ed versus school. And I’d very much like the ppl who do keep asking that question to pause and think about it rationally and then come up with something more interesting please 🙂 .

About Jax Blunt

I'm the original user, Jax Blunt I've been blogging for 14 years, give or take, and if you want to know me, read me :)

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  1. It is a myth that confuddles me constantly. Why do we continue to push same age socialization for children, when it certainly hasn’t been my norm as an adult.

    Thanks for sharing.


  2. Sadly, though i completely agree with you, i think people sometimes mean something rather different when they’re talking about socialisation here. If people are going to go into soul-destroying jobs and be good consumers, not questioning the poor quality of their lives, knuckle down under bullying and jump through absurd bureaucratic hoops, and not question any of that, school is where they need to be to learn that.

    For real positive socialisation, of course, they would generally benefit from being somewhere else.

  3. For what it’s worth, I think people get mixed up between socialising and socialisation which are 2 different things. People do, ignorantly, seem to presume that children cannot have any friends outside of a school context which if they stopped and thought for 1 second they’d realise was rubbish. But I think that what people often really mean, even if they don’t consciously realise it, is socialisation – it is deeply challenging to most people to consider children outside of the mainstream being socialised to different norms and taught to value different things.

  4. @Mark but according to various articles from business leaders, school isn’t achieving that either…
    .-= Jax´s last blog ..Who are your friends? =-.

  5. I agree with Liz. I think the real fear people have (based solely on ignorance and prejudice) is that by homeschooling your child you shelter them from the “real world”. Particularly in the case of religious families, it always assumed that because the children aren’t getting “proper” socialisation (which is really a polite way of saying not being taught according to society’s standards/values) the kids will be brainwashed and unable to think critically for themselves. When we were asked this question about socialisation by an extended family member I simply replied that if my child being choked around the neck, punched in the stomach, and called names that make even a grown adult blush is what schools are calling “proper socialisation” these days then we’ll do just fine without, thankyouverymuch. I’d challenge folks to define those terms they like to throw around, such as suitable education or proper socialisation. I’m quite certain there isn’t a one size fits all answer.

    Loved your thoughts. 🙂
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..A Day in the Life =-.

  6. ‘Why do ppl think that school helps with socialisation?’

    I think some grand/parents want their kids to go to state school and get exposed to the mainstream memepool so that their kids turn out ‘normal’ – without any ‘weird’ ideas, that might upset the state.
    Working class parents are (un)consciously afraid of the state, and so hand their kids over to keep it happy; it is what ‘everyone’ else does, and it requires very little thought.
    At school the kids can receive the politically approved ideas, become nationalized, and further class imprinted.

    Lack of ‘socialization’ is kneejerk criticism of HE that doesn’t hold much water. I think it really refers to ‘nationalization’, and the learning of class appropriate ideas and aspirations.

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