When people talk about ‘socialization’ in terms of the many criticisms levelled at home educators, I have to admit I squirm at the term and want to ask them if they want their kids ‘socialized’ too because it’s a term that sounds like something straight out of George Orwell’s ‘1984’ – something DONE TO kids by Society in order to make sure they fit in and do what they’re told to do when Society wants them to do it. It sounds like a term used by a Society who wants worker ants/drones/compliant robots. So I’m very happy, in this respect, if my kids aren’t ‘socialized’! But even with respect to the way they mean the term, I still have strong feelings about why they think it’s such an imperative for my kids to be ‘socialized’.
Yes, I want my kids to have friends they can play with most days of the week. But I’d like those friends to be kids that they don’t have to play with because they’re in their class. I want those kids to be friends because my kids genuinely get along with them whatever their age and gender. I’ve read some lovely home education stories about kids having genuine friendships with geriatrics who have started off perhaps mentoring them and these friendships being very nourishing. Ideally, one has a variety of friends in terms of age, gender, social, economic, racial and cultural background. At school, we parents had to get our kids together outside school in order for them to learn to get on better inside the class and playground. The school encouraged this (I am sure all schools sensibly do) because it made their lives easier. Naturally, they’d prefer not to have to deal with kids having power struggles with each other whilst they are meant to be sitting in silence doing Maths worksheets! Although to be fair, if they have hearts, they also feel sorry for the kid wandering solo in the playground ‘looking’ for friends. They may never find genuine friends in their class but to at least have someone who will play with you through artificially cultivated home play dates is probably much better than nothing. So, ‘friendship’ through school always seemed to me to be a bit forced and not a recipe for lifelong, deep and meaningful friendships.
The friendships between mothers were much the same. Most mothers at least tried to be friendly to help keep the peace for their children. But many of us had entirely different values and I found it very hard to be friends with people whose values were so opposed to my own and who were so smug about it! Neither my son nor I had much in common with the families in his class. But because they just happened to be in the same class as him they were meant to be friends. I’m looking forward to meeting a whole community of home educators/home education sympathizers who, for a start, share at least this very strong learning/education value with us and so probably share a number of other important ones too (although some, religious values for instance, may be very different).
Home educated kids and their parents are not isolated. “Homeschoolers take responsibility for learning back to the family realm but do so in the context of a large community where each child grows whole and strong within a vibrant network.”, ‘Free Range Learning’ by Laura Weldon. My kids will have a greater selection of friends to choose from, of various ages. My son’s best friend is already not someone he went to school with, nor is his own age (this nice boy is 2.5 years older than my son. They don’t even share the same first language. So, we’re used to socializing and making friends with a broad range of people and their children and since my kids are extremely outgoing I don’t expect it to be too long before we’ll make a nice new group of friends who are much more in tune with our values and interests and with whom we can therefore share our lives more profoundly. Isn’t that what friendship is really about, sharing time together in a meaningful way; neither party being afraid to be who they really are? So, no, maybe my kids won’t be ‘socialized’ after all. But they will, I fully expect, have in the natural course of time a great group of friends and so will I! And we will treasure each other, the way I do the real friends that I am so lucky to presently have (more traditional educators as they mostly are!)
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