homeschooled children and socialisation

photo by Sara Welch from

It is the first challenge, disapproval or question you receive when people first find out you are a home educating family. Everyone asks it in different ways, some more tactfully than others. But however it comes out, it always comes out.

"Don't you think she will be lonely?"
"how are you going to tackle the social aspect?"
"well she's going to be deprived of friends isn't she?"
"aren't you worried about her socially?"
or the blatantly outright "Your going to ruin her."

you get the idea.

Allow me to answer the question of socialisation here. And please know this, I go forth here with the biggest amount of grace I can summon, for the subject is a sensitive one. But I will not tippy toe for you. You have been warned.

Firstly, It's rather amusing that of all of the questions, this one is the most popular and highest on the list of concerns. There is rarely question about her actual education, how it all works, why we want to homeschool or anything else.

For some reason the word homeschooling seems to summon thoughts of a little child crouched in the corner of a room, knees to chest, rocking back and forth like a little hermit, memorising her times tables and not knowing what another human voice sounds like outside of her home. Seriously. It's really not like that. at all.

I can promise you, homeschooled children get "socialised" plenty. They have friends and acquaintances, they are well able to get right in there and hold a conversation with pretty much anyone they meet. They do not behave as though they are allergic to people and they certainly aren't the piglet from winnie the pooh.

All joking aside, I really want to address this with you. Our decision to homeschool was one made with our children's best interests at heart. We are not homeschooling out of fear or control. We are homeschooling because for SO many reasons we believe it is best for our family. Socialisation is no exception. Just like I feel that my children are best educated outside of the schooling system, I also feel that my children are best "socialised" outside of the schooling system.

You see public and private education are choices. Just like homeschooling. Just like they are not the only valid way to educate a person, they are also not the only valid way to develop social skills in a person, and I'll go as far as saying, they are also not always the best way. If your child is or has any of the following, public or private schooling may not work out so well socially for them:

If they are:

> quirky or "unusual" (according to pop culture standards)
> Especially gifted
> find it hard to grasp new concepts or take more time than allocated 
> extremely active/cant sit still
> constantly asks questions and asks "why?"
> quiet, shy and content with simplicity
> still quite innocent for their age

If your anyone else, public or private schooling might very well be just fine for you. But if your child ticks any of these boxes, well, it could get interesting. Any child who fits in any of the above descriptions, do not make it through socially because of the school system, they make it through despite of it.

For example our little girl is quirky, vibrant and is full of questions and wants to know why why why?! In a school environment these qualities are all seen as "problems" and we are not about to throw a wet blanket over our little girl.

lets stop here for a minute and just talk about the word "socialisation". To most people it (put very simply) means:

"The act of interacting with other people, regularly". 

I could go on a 6 paragraph spiel about how much further reaching the meaning goes, but I'll save that and go right into the purpose of socialisation. The meaning of the word can be debated and perceived in various ways, and so can it's purpose.

I believe the purpose of socialisation is: 

1. Interacting with others in order to bless and enjoy them and be blessed and enjoyed by them.
2. To grow interpersonally
3. to communicate effectively 

If you think about it, that is what socialisation should be about. You don't guide your child in social skills for socialisation's sake. There is purpose behind it. With those three purposes in mind, it begs the question...

Which is more valuable when it comes to socialisation? Quality? or Quantity?

If your answer is quantity then you may as well stop reading right now. But if your answer is quality, well... I dare say homeschooling would meet that criteria. My children get to spend 7 days a week with their family, living in the real world, day to day life, interacting with many different people, of all walks of life, all ages and all cultures. She is enabled to develop friendships with people of her own choice (not a selection of the same 25 children a year), all the while frequently meeting new people on an almost daily basis. In which you could say, the quantity certainly is up there with schools or even beyond it, added to that the quality surely is of a high standard.

That brings me to another point. Being homschooled means that super young children who are not yet equipped or wise enough to deal with the complex issues that come with socialising, still have there parents with them to face life's many social conundrums. They aren't thrown into the deep end and told to sink or swim, they are brought into the shallows, hand in hand with their life guide thus far (the parent/s) and at a pleasant and manageable pace, walked into the water until they are ready to let go of the hand and explore the depths independently, all the while being able to reach out and take the hand of wisdom and support once more if they need it.

Here's a popular point of view:
"Well real life sometimes requires you to suck it up and deal with it. Your wrapping them in cotton wool by not letting them deal with social difficulties. If they are bullied or pressured, it'll prepare them for the real world"

.... umm... no. No amount of bullying or peer pressure is going to prepare them for the real world. And no amount of it is healthy or helpful in the slightest. Don't take my word for it, ask anyone who got bullied or mistreated in high school, they won't tell you "Oh boy did that help me in life so much, I'm so grateful to my bullies for making my childhood living hell, I was so much better off for it and emotionally prepared for the real world"... it actually sounds ridiculous when you lay it out like that, doesn't it? Being thrown into social situations at a very young age such as these, does not "teach" them anything but how to build up walls, close up emotionally, cry and loose self esteem, conform and/or get angry and get even.

Children experiencing bullying or peer pressure, do not build resilience. They build issues, walls and caution. Resilience is built, when one is gradually equipped to deal with life's hardships. When one learns how to manage their emotions and how to read the emotions of others to a certain degree. When they are guided through situations and led gently to the best outcomes or conclusions. When they come out the other end stronger, (not tougher, there is a difference), when they come to understand right and wrong choices and that they actually HAVE choices.

That is another thing. I have absolutely no idea how one can come up with the notion that homeschooled children are not prepared for the "real world" when they actually live daily in the real world. They aren't stuck in a classroom, the world literally is the classroom. Or the notion that homeschooled children are not exposed to social hardships. Hey, they are still people interacting with other people, constantly. There are still problems, there will still be clashing of personalities, there are still heated moments on the playground. The difference is, well, there are many differences, but the main one I think, is that they don't have to go it alone. They don't have to "dob" to a teacher only to find nothing has been resolved and the situation is still as bad and is ongoing. They don't get told to "be brave" or to "stop provoking" or (in less outrageous wording than this, but,) to "suck it up". They get the chance to resolve it for themselves and learn the ropes of communication and conflict resolution, with a caring and ever present guide who is not preoccupied with 25 other little people. They can be given the chance to grow and learn about socialising, without the burden of doing it ALONE.

Think about it. Out here in the "real world" as so many of us adults call it, what do we do when we are having a huge problem with a person or people? Do we sit around and think it out and come up with a cracker of a solution, on our own? Not always. As adults we are FAR more capable of that than children, but still, we usually talk to a friend about it, or our spouse, or someone we trust, for advice and guidance. And not 7 hours later when the dust has settled, but usually, immediately after the adversity. Oh, and we adults usually don't have to be faced with our tormentors on a daily basis. If we have a terrible experience with someone, we can move on. We don't have to continue to be surrounded by the poison. We can choose new, better friends, or leave a relationship, or even leave a job or be transferred if its bad enough. In a school situation, most of the time, your stuck with your bullies all year, maybe more than a year, with no escape but the bell.

I really wanted to get right into the whole resilience/bully thing because It seems to be a very misunderstood part of socialisation. But moving right along...

Whilst I have discussed quality, sound guidance, and variety in socialisation, I haven't stated the simple and very obvious yet.

Socialising is natural. People are social creatures. The act of socialising does not need to be forced, and really, it cannot be stunted. (I will add here, that although the act of socialising is a natural human thing, it doesnt mean its easy for everyone. Some are naturally more introverted or have special needs which restricts their development in social skills, but does not change the fact that human beings consistently must interact with one another in one way or another). You cannot leave your house without being faced by a plethora of people. You also must leave your house regularly for day to day living. Leaving the house + people living their daily lives = natural socialisation. There is nothing forced about it, and also nothing held back. If thought about rationally there is no question here. How will she be socialised? The same way I am.
How will she make friends? The same way you do.

Won't she be lonely? Well is loneliness being surrounded by family who love you dearly, having a sibling to enjoy (they get along beautifully) and constantly meeting people everywhere we go every week, and building friendships with people of your choice? No, that is not loneliness.
My children will be just fine.

To end this, I'll tell you about my observation of homeschooled children. The ones I've met,

> Do not have headphones over there ears at social gatherings, rather they are the ones talking to people of all ages and races, asking questions and enjoying everyone.

> At the supermarket (on a school day lol) they greet the woman at the checkout, acknowledging that the woman is a human being who is worthy of a "how are you today?"

> even at 5 years old, can confidently look an adult in the eye whilst talking to them.

> They don't worry about scanning the playground for the "cool kids"... in fact, they don't even know what a "cool" kid is. They just want to play with whoever happens to cross their paths.

They are usually well adjusted little people whose parents get asked "what school do they go to?" or whose parents get told "Gee she speaks well for her age doesn't she?" or "He is so confident!" Could it be partially because they are home educated? Give home educators a chance. Instead of laying the socialisation accusation on us, watch. Stand back, relax and know that we love our children enough to make the best decisions for them, and that we have considered every single aspect of this journey and we know exactly what we are doing. Homeschooling Isn't for everyone, and we aren't trying to convert you to home educating. We merely want you to understand that home education is most definitely a legal, effective and wonderful option for many families the world over. Our family being one of them.

I pray that you and your families always have great wisdom in your own educational choices and journey, and that you as parents will be imparted with the wisdom required to make the best choices for your family. We are all different, and we need not all walk the same educational path. Isn't freedom and choice an amazing thing?