It’s Okay to Worry

This post has been shared on my FB feed a lot in the last day or so.  It’s a very nice reassuring one so I am not surprised.  Home educators do hear the word socialisation a lot!

What is noticeable but perhaps not too surprising though is posts like this always feature photos of very young children and the people sharing it all have still quite young children. 

My personal experience is that many people (myself included) do worry. Particularly after the age of 10/11. Not about socialisation really or social skills, home educated children do not exist in a little bubble nor are they chained to the kitchen table, they are out and about in society talking to all age groups and generally are polite, confident, well-functioning human beings. But people do worry about friendships!

Firstly it is lovely that people feel so comfortable and welcomed and happy in the home ed community be it local or national. I don’t mean to undermine their experiences, they are lovely to hear. But at the same time there are many people who for many reasons – chronic illness, children who struggle in groups, social anxiety (child or adult), parents working, home eding around school runs, lack of transport, financial constraints… I could keep going – who struggle to access groups/activities at all. 

Home ed socialising requires far more effort from parents than dropping at the school gate. You can’t drop them off and know that they have all day with a group, you need to facilitate them meeting up with others. That can mean arranging not just attending meet ups.  Groups need parents who are proactive about organising meet ups and that can be a problem as groups get huge and numbers a bit overwhelming as it’s not the least stressful thing to do.

For those who can access groups they don’t always ‘gel’ into a community (adults and/or children). Not talking about people not getting on, talking about people not finding those people where something clicks and acquaintances become friends. It might be that a group gets dominated by a certain parenting/education philosophy and someone doesn’t quite share it and doesn’t feel that comfortable, it might be that local groups have older/younger children, activities/venues might feel wrong somehow, might just not be children in the group of similar interests who attend the same activities, might be nothing in particular.

The home ed world is like life you get on with some people better than others. Most people are nice enough and hopefully you find a few kindred spirits, but sometimes personality clashes do arise.  The home ed world is populated by people who can be a bit evangelical about the choices they have made and particular philosophies and by people who are often strong characters who are in a habit of fighting for their kids and defending their choices so unfortunately fall outs between adults happen and adults get drawn in to kid’s disagreements and things escalate. Not often, but the home ed world can be like a more intense, more geographically spread school playground so sadly things like bullying do happen. 

Friends and friendships do change a lot in the teen and preteen years. Children in school often start secondary school with one bunch of friends and by the summer they have made a whole new bunch as their social circle expands hugely.  In home ed though the opposite happens the social circle seems to contract massively. No idea where people vanish to but they definitely do seem to. Some go back to school for secondary, most I think do reduce the number of groups they go to, trying to go for quality over quantity as suddenly the whole home ed thing feels more serious.

Plus the children themselves get a lot more picky about what they do and sometimes reluctant to leave the house (teen hormone stuff). Primary age socialising is about going along to activities (play or structured) and parents chatting and children hopefully playing with others. Young children are very good at accepting new people and welcoming them into games like they have always been there. This sort of thing doesn’t work so well as children get older. Not that they are unwelcoming but they are generally going through that shy awkward age and chatting to new people is not always easy. Particularly for those coming out of school.

The final point about older age friendships is that in the home ed sphere they are very different to school ones in the level of independence and freedom children have. Arranging to meet up independently and going in to town or just hanging out with friends at skateparks etc is much harder to do when people are not living in the same village/area. Where children make those sort of friendships it is often through other groups and can be trigger to go to school. Home ed socialising tends to happen as a family with parents and siblings along. For some that is definitely a good thing, for others as they get older they need something more.

So what was my point? It was simply that people’s experiences even in a same community can be very different. It is lovely how positive many people are about home ed socialising. It doesn’t mean it’s like that for everyone though. It doesn’t mean that there is a problem with the local home ed scene or that those who find it harder are anything but unlucky. It’s fine to admit that there is something that makes home ed not perfect. It doesn’t mean that your children aren’t happy or home ed is failing them or isn’t completely the right thing, life isn’t perfect everything involves compromises and home ed is no different.  In our case Sam is happy, he has friends, attends plenty of activities and gets the down time he needs, it doesn’t stop me worrying that things will change though. Worrying is normal and people shouldn’t be afraid to voice concerns, you never know it might lead to new opportunities or at the least the reassurance that your worries are shared by others.



Out and About and Brotherly Bonding

Trying to shake off the maladies we’ve arrived home from holiday with, taking it in turns to bounce up and down healthwise. Moodwise though can really feel the difference a holiday and the change in weather has brought. Everyone can summon smiles and has stopped moaning about being hot 🙂

We’ve had two days out this week. First one was with my dad to our closest museum. It’s a replica 17th Century village run by volunteers who do it in character. One day when I manage to conjure up more hours in a week I’d love to volunteer there.  Sunday was a little different to their usual activities as it was their rural crafts day. Lots of external crafts folk around and far, far busier than normal. The highlight was watching the kiln being opened, my morning FB memories told me it was exactly a year to the day since we went to watch last year’s firing of the kiln.

They had a ‘trickster’ there who we’d not met and who Sam spent most of his time with, while my dad chatted with the potter and I wandered around enjoying the crafts and the setting.

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Monday we turned the need to drop off some books into a chance to get out and enjoy a walk I have been meaning to do for 16 years (I get to things in my own time) along the Titchfield Canal.  We’ll be back at some point but next time we won’t have errands to run in Fareham after so we can continue all the way down to the beach.

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Tues and Weds have been catching up on housework, admin and cracking on with work if you are me.  Reading and watching wrestling if you are the boys.

Review 16/17

Struggling to write this one as another very successful year so not a huge amount to say.

Did we stick to all I’d planned? No of course not but managed the majority.  I think the only thing that changed from the plan was dropping the computer science/programming and the art award for most of the year. Although we did pick both up again towards the end of the year when we finished off other stuff. 

One of the big goals for the year was to work on writing. Not so much creatively (although had lots of fun with that) but more working towards being able to answer essay questions. I started off by pushing it as a blogging/typing exercise thinking that would make it easier but it ended up falling by the wayside as felt a bit forced. We talked about answers to questions in books also it became obvious from English writing course that he has got the basic skills there to neatly handwrite and begin to structure answers. We’re not ready for essay level stuff yet but question and answer style paper is not as far off as I thought before this year. Having looked through a couple of GCSE papers this year for minor subjects (General Studies/Classical Civilization) I don’t think either would have been a mammoth ask of him now.

The other big goal was working on control and ‘ownership’. Breaking the work down into jobs he can move about on the planner was definitely a smart move, really helped with him being able to visualise what needed to be done.

We continue to rely heavily on a Charlotte Mason style of education for subjects, lots of reading and documentary watching and discussion. Spent an awful lot of time reading aloud this year which has been nice.

In terms of general knowledge he is thriving, continues to have an insatiable thirst for history of all types. The surprise hit of the year was a visit to a Russian Revolution exhibition at the British Library (we’d actually tried to find a day we could go without kids and failed so he was a tag along really), normally he quietly absorbs things and looks like he’s taken nothing from trips and then out it flows 6 months or so later, this one though has been a big topic of conversation. A year long Victorian project has convinced us both that Prince Albert was amazing in what he achieved for this country. I think the project and particularly our look at the slums and factory working conditions and many conversations about Chartism have fired a political animal in him.

Geography, he has a brilliant knowledge of where places are and flags (I’d love to take credit but suspect his love of military conquest strategy games is real reason). He’s loved looking at Asian culture this year, India and China didn’t excite him too much but Japan and Korea really did. 

Science we’ve had fun with a lot of handson learning how much of that translated to in depth understanding I am a little sceptical on but hopefully it will have sunk in a little.

The most positive thing though that comes from the year is that we’re both still really enjoying home ed. At the crossroads where many home ed kids talk about and consider school Sam is sure it isn’t for him. I have noticed him switch in conversation when discussing this from focusing on perceived negatives of school to actively stressing the good points of HE and that is rather gratifying.  I am happy to admit I’ve found the juggling it all hard over the last 8 months. Work has been pretty full on and I’ve gone from a small number of hours to work around to being able to work as much as I want. Sounds ideal but comes with a load of guilt.  I love my job and am relishing the opportunities to do stuff that time hasn’t allowed but HE is a big commitment and huge drain on time to do well, it is a full time job easily. I know though that I am lucky to love what I do so it’s worth the ridiculously early mornings (5.30am is a lie in!) and late nights and grey hair 🙂


Solva 17

Our family holiday posts are very low on activity content but high on lovely scenery photos. Mind and body relaxed and soul restored 🙂 We enjoyed lots of relaxed pottering at the cottage.
A meal or two out and a check to see if the very, very ancient doddery dog in the local pub was still going, the fact he was made Sam’s holiday.
A trip to Havorfordwest to buy books (lovely lady in Oxfam checks stockroom for Beano annuals for us) and a couple to St Davids for ice cream from the gorgous ice cream parlour, art gallery and a Treasure Trail.
Plus getting knocked about and submerged by over your head waves, bodyboarding and fort building at Newgale of course.