Let’s face it, if I was to survey a random group of home educators about the questions they most get asked socialisation would rank somewhere in the top 5. For me it is usually in the top 2.
And while it can get boring and lead me to zone out to a magical place filled with fluffy clouds and unicorns, it is quite an important one to address. For every person we take the time to articulate why we are not concerned, there is one less person perpeutating myths.
Primary socialisation is the process where an infant or child learns to adapt to the cultural norms of the society they live in, so they can grow up to function as contributing members of that society. The members of that society take on values, customs, beliefs, norms and ideas that the culture they live in hold dear. It isn’t just a process for the young, but is one that we all are undergoing daily. Socialisation is a life long process, it never stops.
Secondary socialisation happens in smaller groups. These smaller groups are a reflection of society at large.
That being the case, I have put together some reasons why I am not terribly concerned about socialisation when it comes to my own children.
Across every culture the first people to impact their child’s development and learning are the parents. Parents are where a child primarily learns to understand the culture they live in and how they fit within it.
It is the parents responsibility to teach their children how to function in the world around them. This may included, values, manners, dealing with societal norms, expectations, cultural celebrations, social mores and of course socially acceptable behaviours etc.
Essentially, it is the job of the parent, to prepare the child to live within the society they have brought that child into.
Somewhere along the way, we have made the State responsible for the socialisation of our children in the form of schools. How do I know that? Because of how people react when you tell them, your kids aren’t going to school. People usually ask, ‘But how will they learn how to socialise?’ They have made people external to the home, responsible for teaching our children how to live in the world we brought them into. Society has begun to think of socialisation in terms of how will they learn to make friends, deal with bullies, or get on with other people. We are doing our children a disservice if that is all we think socialisation is. It is a much broader and richer process.
I have a real problem with societies view that the most acceptable form of secondary socialisation is the small group of peers that kids interact with at school on a daily basis. Now please hear me right. I think it is important for children to form solid friendships. I think it is important for them to spend time with their friends and to participate in age appropriate activities. To become more independent as they get older. To hang out, have fun, do crazy things, and have good mates. I also think it is important for children to have to work with kids they don’t like in group settings, and to know how to handle themselves with a bully, or someone pressuring them to do something they don’t want to do.
But I don’t think it is their peers job to teach those things.
Because those peers aren’t fully socialised themselves. They too are learning how to get on in the world. What values are right, how to behave in a socially acceptable manner, how to build resilience, how to say no, learning about who they are, learning societies norms and mores, they are still often wrestling with self-esteem or identity. They too are on a huge learning curve, and they still very much need the input of their families to navigate their way successfully through those chapters of life.
If secondary socialisation, happens in smaller groups of people that reflect society at large, I want it to be a true reflection of society at large, not just their peers.
One of the things I love most about home education, is that more often than not, when my child makes a friend, that whole family becomes a part of their world. Siblings, parents, even grandparents sometimes. They are being exposed to several small groups of people, not just their own age, but all different ages, that can effectively aid the secondary socialisation process in a way that better reflects society across the board, not just one age group.
One only has to see how culture is changing in the teen world. Things that are acceptable now to many teens- like sharing nude pictures for example, have become so because the culture in which they are growing up (a peer dominated culture) is telling them it is normal behaviour and that there is something wrong with them, if they don’t do it.
They are drawing their secondary socialisation from a group that isn’t reflecting society at large. I bet if you were to ask their grandparents and parents about whether it is a socially acceptable behaviour for kids/teens to be sharing nude pictures of themselves, they would be horrified. It is not a socially acceptable behaviour, it is a peer acceptable behaviour. But the more it continues, the more socially acceptable it becomes.
Whether your kids are at home or at school, please, please don’t take your hands off where socialisation is concerned. Keep being the loudest voice in your child’s life, and keep building in those skills to help them cope and contribute well, in the world at large.
As I read through comments at the end of online articles or speak to people, there seems to be this underlying assumption that ‘Home Ed Land’ is some kind of perfect utopia where everyone gets along, parents have wings, and children wear halos. Where nothing bad ever happens, and kittens and puppies are kings. How can kids ever learn anything about the real world?
This my friend, is not always the case *smirk*.
But it was never going to be. Wherever there are people, there are problems.
The good thing about that is, our kids, get exactly the same kind of opportunities to build resilience, deal with bullies, get on with people they don’t like, or problem solve like any child at school. But we are more hands with that process.
Because we all often access the same group activities, sometimes the kids, do come across others that they don’t get on with. But they still have to learn the necessary skills of how to do it.
My children did anyway. Because I hold the fundamental belief that while we don’t have to be friends with everyone, we should be kind and polite wherever we can, regardless.
However, unlike school, I can more easily pull them out of socially damaging or manipulative situations. They don’t have to spend hours with a bully, if that is detrimental to them.
I am all for building resilience in my children, however that has to be balanced with advocating for their well-being. And despite what society would have us believe, bullying does not make you stronger, or better able to face the world.
Teaching kids skills like how to recover from bullying or face a bully, or seek someone out to be an advocate etc can make them stronger, but they have to be taught those skills. That is my job, to teach my kids how to face those situations, but also to know when to walk away and say enough is enough.
I have the same expectation of my children, that I have of myself. Try to get on, build appropriate skills, but know when to walk away. I wouldn’t stay in a job or a small group of people if I was being bullied or manipulated and that behaviour was unlikely to stop. If we don’t teach our children how to set appropriate boundaries for how they should be treated, then who will?
In 19 years of home education, my experience has been, that people are people wherever you go, and the same problems kids deal with at school, they still come across in home ed groups, churches, cubs, brownies, scouts, sporting groups, dance classes etc. So there are plenty of opportunity to build the necessary skills for becoming well socialised, and a contributing member of society within the family unit. However, socialisation is not only limited to building those skills, and families are supposed to be the first port of call, when learning about the society around us, and how to grow up well within it.
How about you? Do you get asked about socialisation? How do you respond?