Sunday 11 August 2013

What about friends?

Yes, that topic again.  I don't think we (meaning home educators) will ever escape it.  This time of year it seems to crop up more and more, perhaps more people are chatty with the sunshine out and children playing together at the park often ask what 'school' other children go to parents and others asking if the school holidays have started yet.

To be honest 'what about friends?' or 'is socialising a problem?' is rarely not the first sort of questions asked when someone new discovers that we home educate. 

When we say we home educate or home-school we do not mean we don't leave the house we simply mean we educate them outside of a school building.

I get it, most people don't seem to know that home education is a possibility or have never met a home educating family and get curious.  A lot of people are negative about the choice to home educate but some are positive.  But the thing is they really need to think about is what sort of social skills children are learning, positive ones or negative.

Are children who socialise in large groups really better at it than people who socialise in small?

Honi has never been to school.  Putting her in a large group without me made her go quiet and refuse to participate so I, or my husband, have always been there with her, waiting for the time that she is ready to make that step.  Even though this is the case, Honi is so out going and open and friendly, she is not afraid of questioning what others say (even doctors), she is the one out of all my girls who makes friends, interacts and even leads groups in play.

It certainly put away the myth of home-schooling produces weird unsociable children with our neighbours.  Honi loves to say hello, she loves talking and making friends.  Why do people think that home-schooled/home educated children don't know how to socialise? 

The world is full of people and social skills are far more refined in a world of many people of different ages on the same level than a class of children all born in the same year with a teacher, the adult, in charge I believe. 

How is school this really true preparation for life in 'the real world'? The fact that we call it 'the real world' surely shows us that this is a fake plastic environment, an environment that is not healthy for all.  Schools are run like prisons in so many ways, as are so many jobs these days too, but not all jobs are like that and not all children will grow up to be adults that want to fit into these jobs.  So even though school can be a place that some children thrive, it is not for all.   I think some children, like my Honi need room to grow, would be frustrated by the confined space socially and educational that school provides.

I believe socialising well comes from what sort of social skills you are taught, not by how many people you socialise with; learning what is acceptable to say and what ways are acceptable to behave is what helps children to learnt to socialise positively - to me that makes complete sense.  I think it is also about personality. 

Honi has some difficult behaviour, as all my regular reader will know, however (in my opinion) I can help her more by her being at home.  Having Honi at home with people who love and support her, people who can hug her and kiss her for reassurance is something she really needs. 

I believe she needs someone near to tell her when her behaviour is destructive so she will grow into full bloom, so she can grow into the beautiful, kind, generous and caring spirit that she really is and leave behind the negative.  Sometimes frustrations get the better of her and she needs her own space - not something she would find in a school.

On the other end of the spectrum, I could put Chiara in a large group of people she'll be ok but she'll be very quiet because that is her personality, she is a very quiet girl.  I would feel that she might get lost because she will clam up all her real feelings.  That does not mean she is anti-sociable, she is simply an introvert, she takes everything is, she is a listener, a watcher and she soaks up all that is around her like a sponge.  Honi on the other hand is an extrovert and loves being the centre of attention. 

People don't learn to be introvert or extrovert, they are born this way and should be allowed to be who they are.  I don't want to turn Chiara into an extrovert, I just want to help her to become who she is and be happy and confident about that.  She doesn't need a school setting for that, she doesn't need to socialise in huge groups and neither does she want to.

I'm writing about Chiara here, as our LA was worried about Chiara's shyness towards her last visit, even though academically she is so far ahead.  The thing is she, the LA bod, doesn't really know her and that Chiara is naturally shy.  Why do so many people think this is unhealthy?  I would say that being wary of those you don't know is a wise thing and being quiet isn't rude so long as you aren't ignoring those around you.  Imagine a whole world of attention seeking, outgoing, loud extroverts in this world!  I have two (not including myself) and believe me it is a noise place to live -  there wouldn't be room!   A lot of writers, actors and the poets be are introvert, a lot of engineers and inventors are introverts too.  We are all so different and that should be celebrated, not frowned upon.  We all have our place in life.  As Chiara said once: what is normal anyway?  We are all so different that normal doesn't really exist does it?

It is not all negative.  To be honest I get a lot of positive feedback from people when they discover we home educate like the lady at the shoe shop a few weeks back.  She was shocked in a positive way by us home educating.  Still said: What about friends?  Once we got talking she thought it fantastic.  She wished she could have done it with her own children as she would have loved to have more time with them. 

I do feel so blessed to have my girls round me near enough all day, every day - even though there are the tough days there are so many good, happy and positive days full of laughter and fun!



  1. Hope all that with Chiara doesn't cause any problems for you with the LA. It would be silly if it did as you obviously socialise them well and as you say we need introverts like me and Chiara. Honi again sounds like Iona - we had to virtually drag her out of church today as she just wouldn't stop talking to the older people, and when we got the train from Derby to Wakefield the other week she nattered to the teenage girl opposite for the whole hour!!

    1. Thanks Angela, I do too. Our LA lady is reasonable but it depends what pressures she's getting from her boss I suppose.

      That is lovely how children like Iona and Honi are so friendly isn't it :)

      I think it's people like them that knit the world together in friendship I think and it's just as important to let them grow and be who they are too :)

  2. this a lovely post,i am glad its working out for you, all children are different, i am sure Chiara and Honi will be fine,there are so many home ed club activites to do,it did't work out for my home ed mainly because she was a teen and had bad experinces in school, but most home ed kids that i have met are lovely

    1. Thank you divasupermum, I feel very blessed even though we do have the odd sore day) I'm sorry to hear your home ed journey didn't work out :( x

  3. Couldn't agree more. The idea that you can only socialise with people more or less exactly your own age is so false. I have a friend who often questions stuff about home ed and she once said it was a shame Hannah didn't go to school as she was so sociable and would probably like to mix more with other children but a) she has plenty of opportunities to mix with other children...we invited 45 children to her birthday party last year..children aged between 6 and 13 (she was 9) and b) when she's chatting to *you*, corncerned friend...she *is* socialising. Just because she is a 10 year old girl and you are a 53 year old woman doesn't invalidate the social interaction. The people with whom she socialises range from her 6 month old cousin to out neighbour who is in his late 80s. They are both male and female and come from a range of different cultures and backgrounds! She is adept at socialising in the "real world". And where she's had difficulties, a loving parent who actually *cares* what kind of person she grows into is better placed to guide her through it than her peers or adults who do not know her or care about her.

    1. Thanks Smuckybee :) 45 children! Wow, that's fab and makes a super point to those who worry so much about socialising - cool! x

  4. Well said. I couldn't agree with you more and I couldn't have put it better myself!

  5. Great post and a subject I'm often writing about on my blog too! It's so weird to think that the social climate inside a school is a normal one really as it isn't replicated anywhere outside it! Charley, my youngest, was so shy as a child that she'd pull her hat over her face rather than look at people. She certainly wouldn't 'perform' for the health visitor who had to keep coming back until she'd satisfied her chart ticking! During all her Home Ed years we integrated with groups that were non-threatening, inclusive and empathetic to all children's differing personalities and I also gave her a few simple strategies to help her cope with others like a quick smile and a hello is all she need do till she felt more comfortable. And now she's 19 she's the most socially competent, caring, loving a and huggy person I know and can't understand why others aren't capable of a simple conversation! Even my adult friends always say what lovely hugs she gives and how easy she makes people feel. Who'd have thought it - she's better at it than me who still feels I'd like to pull my hat over my eyes sometimes! :)

    1. That is so encouraging, thank you Ross for sharing that here :) I know my Chiara is fine and will grow into a confident young woman I just hate it when other adults voice their concerns (unnecessarily) about her in front of her as it can be damaging.

      I do the same thing as you, I encourage the smile or a simple hello and thank you where needed. She is getting better but like you say I don't want to push her to be something she's not. I do listen her when she is uncomfortable in certain groups. It's so good to hear that with love and support it all works out well in the end <3 x

  6. Great post Lisa :)

    Chiara will be just fine, the most important thing is to let her develop at her own pace-which is just what you are doing. Our son Alex was a a chatty little soul when he was young probably because he had to be, nursery school from age 2, then Primary school until 11 and holiday camps and every activity going under the sun. As an only child I felt that I 'had' to ensure that he mixed at every opportunity. As he grew older he became less inclined to mix and more content with his own company. When we took him out of school one of the first things that he said was how relieved he felt not 'having' to be with other people all the time !!

    I should have realised sooner than he is like my Hubby and my dad, happy with his own company, a few friends or mixing with older people. Peer groups have never really been his thing. Took me a long time to wake up to that fact. Now he is coming up 17 and a well adjusted, polite young man, happy in his own skin and growing in self confidence xx