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.