Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Social skills in home education

Usually the first question asked about home education is 'but what about socialisation?' This afternoon at the park I watched Eden, aged 5, making friends with a just turned 1 year old. They were sharing lovely moments together. I watched Eden proudly holding the hand of this toddling unsteady one year old learning to walk. She spun her gently on the roundabout. She asked the little girl if she'd like to watch her ride her bike, she showed her where to stand for a good view and waved as she cycled past. The little girl responded by putting her arms out for a cuddle when Eden returned. Lots of moments. All the time Eden was chatting away to this little girl's Mum, completely comfortable in this social scenario of young and old. 

It was an example of how broad the social skills are that Eden is developing. She may not be in school 5 days a week, spending her time with 30 children of the same age, but who decided that was the necessary length of time required for children to be adequately socialised?

If we wanted to, there are local home ed groups and activities to get involved with everyday, we're spoilt for choice. We see our friends perhaps on average 2-3 times/week, which suits us as a family and it varies week by week depending on how we feel. But when we do see them, the children are spending quality time together often with no other agenda than to just have fun. As adults we catch up with our friends by going to each other's houses, out for meals, the pub, church. Thinking back to my own school days, my memories of quality time with my friends didn't happen at school, but rather I remember visits to friend's houses, going to kids' clubs together, sleepovers, parties, and trips to the fair. Our home ed children go to friend's houses, parks, soft play centres, parties, church, children's groups to see their friends. They will spend a few hours at a time, a morning or afternoon together, with no agenda and no interruptions to their play.  Eden will just as readily play with a baby, enjoy a shared interest with a child of similar age, follow the lead of a much older child in play, or chat to an adult. In the home ed community I see first-hand the children mixing together, boy and girl, old and young, comfortably talking to everybody, seeking common interests, cooperating, and inviting others to play. Research supports that home educated children are ahead in social skills for a number of reasons, including having a wider range of role models than that typified by peer-interactions at school. 

We may not be seeing our friends everyday, but that doesn't mean that the kids stop socialising inbetween. Home educated children have many opportunities to regularly and actively socialise with people in their communities. Social skills are transferable. The kids chat to each other, us parents, the grandparents, they use FaceTime. They're out in the real world, doing life everyday. They talk to the shopkeepers, the shoppers waiting in the queue, the librarians, the people at the bus stop, at the allotment, the museum, the dog walkers we pass with Viking, other children at the park, at church, at home ed groups. They are exposed everyday to people interactions of some form or another. Their communication is broad, with people of all ages and backgrounds. 

"But what about socialisation?" 
My opinion is that more thought is needed as to what 'socialisation' actually is. Is 'socialisation' the same as 'forced association' with 30 other children of the same age sat in a classroom? I believe our children's interactions with people can be a much richer experience than that. 


Stefi Djemila said...

This was a fantastic read, well put! I especially loved the ending!!!!

Ponderings from the Kitchen said...

Thanks for the comment Stefi. Glad you enjoyed it!