Tuesday, 16 April 2013
When I was interviewed on Radio Sheffield the other day, it was perhaps inevitable that one of the questions asked should relate to socialisation. I often get a little tetchy when this subject is raised in connection with home education and it was all I could do to stop myself swearing at the idiot asking the question!
What nobody with children at school ever seems to realise is that the socialisation which is the norm at schools is actually of a very limited and specific type, which is often not transferable to real life. To explain what I mean by this, it will be necessary to relate a personal anecdote.
When my daughter was thirteen and also in the summer when she was fourteen, the local authority here in Essex managed to get hold of some money to run a series of events over the long summer holiday. These were courses and activities aimed at children and young people of all ages. They ranged from archery and canoeing to poetry and self assertiveness workshops. All were completely free to the young people taking part. My daughter signed up for masses of things for each of those summers and had a great time.
What I found profoundly depressing was that many of the activities had to be cancelled, because not enough children wanted to take part and it was not worth laying them on only for one or two. This was puzzling, because a constant complaint round here is that there is nothing for young people to do. I was so curious about this that I looked into it a bit; asking the parents of schoolchildren that I know, why they thought that their own children had not been interested. The answers were interesting. Typical responses from the young people themselves were statements such as, “I wouldn’t know anybody.” or “None of my mates are going.” The idea of turning up to met a bunch of people that they did not know was frankly unnerving for these schoolchildren. My own daughter and also incidentally a few other home educated children locally, just turned up alone and joined in. This was an uncomfortable idea for many children of school age, which is why so many events were not run in the end.
In effect, the children at school had been conditioned to socialise with a group of thirty or so other young people, none of whom varied in age by more than twelve months. They were keen to mix with these children, but not with anybody who was slightly young or older. They certainly did not want to spend the day with strangers. This is in sharp contrast to many home educated children, who are used to mixing with unknown people of all ages; from toddlers and babies, all the way through to very old men and women.