Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So - What about socialisation?

It's something that comes up often when talking about homeschooling, like it or not!

Truth be told it was one of the questions I initally had about homeschooling, so I can understand others having concerns about it.

Once I actually spent some time thinking about it though, I came to the realisation that the concern that homeschooled children won't be suitably socialised is actually laughable.

No one with good intentions wants their kid to be a misfit, or lonely, or unhappy, or any of those things the outcasts of our society are.

I'd hazard a guess that all "good" parents want their children to grow up in a good, healthy social environment, but the question is, "What exactly is healthy socialisation?"

So - what does the dictionary say

socialisation: to make social; especially : to fit or train for a social environment
But it fails to specify what type of social environment, and how to fit into it or train someone for it!

Problem is, socialisation is actually quite an abstract concept, and as far as I can tell there's actually no real definition of what "good socialisation" means.
And before you mention it, I also don't think it's enough to say that children should be socialised to "normal" society. The same issues apply, what is normal, who decides, and even if we can agree on what the normal behaviours in our personal societies at the relevant time are, does that make it automatically a good or desirable thing?

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society"

- Krishnamurti

And just why are schools accepted as the "gold standard" of socialisation?
Is it because most people go/went to school?
Because most people also think things were better when they were younger.
So does that mean they feel there is an ongoing corruption of our current society?
If schools are the golden standard shouldn't our societies be improving over time, seeing as most people have been through this wonderful socialisation machine?

The fact is that at the end of our children's school careers they won't be able to take a test on socialisation and get a winning or failing score, rather the true measure of how well they've been socialised will be their happiness and their ability to function well in the world. Both of which are personal to each individual and so will differ from person to person.

And what is even appropriate socialisation?
Do we want our children to fit in, or be comfortable being themselves?
To get along with others, or stand up for themselves?
To blend in, or to not give in to peer pressure?
To be part of a group, or to lead it?

So many questions!!! And more often than not the answer isn't all black or white, but rather the ability to judge the situation and react in the most appropriate way.
The fact is human beings are social animals, from birth we are driven to seek out interaction with other humans. So rather than having to learn it, we are actually born social!

That said there are still skills that need to be learnt, talking, sharing, compromising, problem solving, peace keeping etc, but there is no compelling evidence showing humans can't and don't learn these skills simply by living alongside other humans.

All these questions about exactly what soclisiation is, are also why it's so hard as a homeschooling parent to answer the people who ask us about it - it's because they're all actually asking a different question. Some may be thinking, "Do homeschooled kids have any friends?", others are thinking "But how will they learn independence?", or even "But how do we know you're not brainwashing your child to think exactly like you do?"; and so on, each based on their own individual understanding of what socialisation is.
How can we answer when we don't actually know what your real concerns are (besides the one about only anti-social lunatics homeschooling their kids of course ;) )?

And are there people out there homeschooling because they only want their kids to learn/believe certain things, or mingle with certain people?
I'm pretty sure there are!
Just like I'm pretty sure people choose schools based on the same principles!
It's one of the perks of parenting, for the most part we all get to raise our children as we see fit, to our own personal values, beliefs and sadly...even prejudices.
But would you actually want it any other way?

So - it has to be said
The more I learn about homeschooling the more confident I personally feel about "socialisation", and that we are not harming our children's social skills by homeschooling them.

Whether we're harming their chances to make many and varied friends while of a school going age probably differs from family to homeschooling family, and probably often has a lot to do with the fact that most other kids are in school, and as such are so busy going to school, doing homework, participating in other school related events and attending parties and family functions on the weekends that those who homeschool probably won't be able to see a lot of them regardless of whether we make friends with them or not.

So - after all that rambing, what is the actual answer?

Well if the question is "will homeschooled kids experience the same socialisation as school going kids?"
Then the answer has to be "No!"
But on the upside I'm pretty confident school isn't the only answer, or even necessarily the right answer to the socialisation question...

...and even better, I know that homeschooling isn't automatically the wrong answer either!

1 comment:

  1. Loved this article, the fact that every person has a concept about right or wrong ways of socialising. :) Your right about children who are homeschooled not being socialised the same way school going children are. I think it's better. :P