Tag Archive | socialisation

A little bit of championing!

It’s not often I champion the daughters. I’m just not into blowing trumpets in people’s faces – as much as I might secretly like to!

But the thing is I do get asked.

One from the archives from when we were making the iron age hut described in A Funny Kind of Education

People who’ve read about the little girls in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, who’ve read about all those comical antics and Home Ed moments, not to mention the stories in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ (their pictures are on the back), ask me what they’re up to now.

And with current events I thought it might be a good time to mention those two adults I still think about as my two little lovelies.

For tonight is the opening of ‘Model Organisms‘.

Chelsea, the poster girl

It’s a one woman performance (yep – that’s Chelsea) of a play that is part of the Brighton Fringe.

How this daughter, of a woman who does her best to hide away from any performance whatsoever (not great for selling books), has grown into an actor with the guts to take the stage for an hour all by herself is beyond me.

As well as this performance she’s also the founder of a production company which, through a collaborated effort, are also putting on a piece during the Fringe. As if this wasn’t enough she also has a job to help keep the roof over her head – did I say? I feel exhausted thinking about all she does. And some people would suggest that home educating makes the children unable to mix and work shy?

Charley having a chuffed moment

Charley meanwhile has fought her way through a lot of dross in recent years. This has come in various forms consisting of a crap Uni course which she left in disgust, dickhead employers, and general disrespect of young people. And with much fight and staying power has finally landed herself an assistant manager’s job and is determined to give that her all for the time being. Consequently disproving another accusation aimed at home schooled kids that it’ll make them too dependent and not give them the life skills needed to get out in the real world. Since both live independently and have vibrant social lives I hardly think that stands up now does it!

Just thought I’d say, since many of you Home Ed freshers ask about those little girls and I thought it might be reassuring for you to know that they’re out in the world achieving the kind of stuff everyone else does – quite like normal people!

I said ‘quite’! 🙂

 

Navigating friends and Foes!

Friendships are fragile things. Kids inevitably make them and break them, whether they’re in school or home

Two pigeons deciding whether to be friends!

Two pigeons deciding whether to be friends!

educated. And whatever age they are. We adults do too, don’t we?

I read a little paragraph the other day in a random book which had nothing to do with parenting or home education but said that by keeping children clubbed together we are blocking them from learning what it is to be grown up.

I thought about all the children clubbed together in classrooms when I read that. Especially in comparison with those who are home educating in the wider world, with a high proportion of adults from whom to learn what it is to be adult and how to behave towards others with respect and compassion.

Ironic then, that people ask how home schooled kids will learn social skills! And continue to think that schools and classrooms do this. When in fact they don’t reflect the social world at all really.

Wherever your child is and whatever groups they belong to the hardest thing for a parent is to watch a child be hurt by friends. We torture ourselves with the thought of them on the receiving end of unkindness, being left out, or hostility.

It’s something we have to talk them through and help them deal with by encouraging honesty, diplomacy and compassion. Our own example will teach them most of all – you can’t tell them one thing and then behave differently yourself.

Looking back over our children’s lives, and the times they’ve had to deal with some of the ways so-called friends behave, I was thinking about how we helped them navigate these difficult times. Thought I’d post them here in case any are of use to you. Here they are:

  •  Staying on their side – always – even through inevitable mistakes
  • Always making relationships something you talk openly about
  • Helping them see we are all different and there will be things we don’t like about each other and that’s okay; sometimes we can tolerate them or compromise, sometimes it’s not worth it
  • Making time to listen
  • Encouraging empathy towards how others might be feeling and why this might affect their behaviour
  • Explaining that some friendships may need abandoning
  • Helping them move away from accusation, recrimination and blame, which never helps you to move on
  • Making sure our own relationships with our kids are based in honesty and respect, loyalty and trust, as this is the example of good ones they’ll hopefully have with others.

Friendships are magnificent, important, and where our security lies as much as anything. But it is inevitable that there will be times when they go sour. This is nothing to do with schools or home educating or parenting, it is just to do with human nature. We found that keeping an open dialogue with our children was the best way to support them and help them through.

It still is!

Do children need forcing over shyness?

Charley and I had a jaunt out together the other day. She’s a lovely young adult now and we share grown up things together like art centres, charity treasure seeking or walks. And I always enjoy the opportunity to chat – and listen. How did she become so intelligent and astute? Sometimes I feel I’ve been overtaken!

Quite randomly we got to talking about shyness, particularly in children. She was painfully shy; pulling hat down over eyes rather than engaging with people. Hated crowds, hated people noisy places, and generally had a serious frowning face as a baby. It was a good job our first child was beaming as I might have thought it was me making her miserable.

Her Gran could get her giggling though and when she did crack out a smile the sun shone. But she was never one for leaving my legs and joining in.

Yet she recently managed a very difficult conversation with a boss. How did she get from being the shy little girl, shy big girl as well, to someone who could deal with situations like college, Uni, colleagues and bosses? As a home educating family, whose children don’t experience the affray of school, you’re often accused of failing to push them out into the big wide world. ‘They have to get used to it’ you’re told. Is this true?

It’s a dilemma for parents: How much do we push interaction and how much do we leave it to develop naturally?

Not being a parent who was comfortable with any kind of enforcement, and being shy myself, I felt very strongly I shouldn’t push. That in the right environment, with the right encouragement and a consistent demonstration, with exposure that a child feels comfortable with, you don’t need to push interaction it will develop naturally through developing confidence. And confidence comes from support and experience.

This is what Charley says about it; ‘I hated it when people approached me when I was little. I felt sick and like I wanted to cry. I was so grateful to have you as a shield if I needed it and I can look back and see now that you let it be alright if I didn’t want to talk to people. If you’d pushed me out before I was ready I would have thought you were ganging up on me as well, as that’s what it felt like. Instead I had the choice to interact or not and very young children need that protection’.

I knew that sick feeling well, so I was determined that she shouldn’t suffer the same. We are all different and all have different characteristics.

However, I knew that Charley did need to become confident in dealing with people. And I thought about certain strategies to pass on as she grew to help her over those difficult situations. I remember telling her that sometimes all you have to do is look people in the eye, say hello, then look away and they’re satisfied with that and leave you alone. I made sure that I approached people with confidence so she could copy my example (I was bluffing but she didn’t know that!) and told her about ice-breakers, where you talk about something that’s common between you – even the weather. And smiling always helps! Little tips like these she could put into practice and gain experience from using.

As we were chatting about this Charley went on to say; ‘As I got older I realised that being shy, and not being physically able to speak to people, wasn’t going to be help me progress and get where I wanted. So I had to get over it so I took courage and went for it as my confidence grew. I also wanted people to think I was approachable. Looking at people and smiling changes their responses to me and helps them relax’.

And now you wouldn’t know she was shy and she seems very good at putting people at their ease. Better than her mother probably! She certainly does when she’s photographing them – there’s no worse subject than me, but she managed it for my blog.

Yet this was a child who was not taken to toddler group, contrary to the advice of health visitors who think it’s a way of ‘socialising’ them. (That’s rubbish and you can read why in my book ‘Mumhood’). She was not sent to school. She was not forced into group situations before she was ready. She was not forced to party, mix, engage, unless she chose to, just came along as we did it, but whether she interacted was up to her.

And I wanted to write this here in support of all those painfully shy children who are forced to ‘get over it’. And all those parents who worry or who think they should be forcing their children to mix – you shouldn’t. Or that home education is going to compound the problem. It doesn’t.

You don’t have to push them out there – they want to get out there for themselves when the time is right. And they will do – Charley is proof.

What are your social skills like?

The age old socialisation question raised its head the other day.

“What are your social skills like?” a home educated young person was asked at a job interview.

What kind of question is that F*S!!!

There are several irrational things about this (the question – not my response!):

  1. Couldn’t the interviewer tell – he’d been talking to the interviewee for over half an hour by this time?
  2. What on earth does he mean exactly – I doubt he could answer?
  3. How the heck could you – or any of us – answer such a question?
  4. Would he ask a school leaver the same question?

I always think it’s rather weird that the most pressing thing on people’s mind in relation to home educated children has little to do with learning and education – it’s about social development. And even more weird to think that ‘normal’ social development would take place within the abnormal social setting of a school.

Anyway, what are ‘social skills’? How would we answer? We’d better think about it in case any of your children get asked! By ‘social skills’ is it meant:

  • That we are polite and articulate?
  • That we can converse and interact in an appropriate way?
  • That we can assess and make suitable responses to people’s (sometimes weird) questions and behaviour?
  • That we’re chatty and articulate?
  • That we show empathy, consideration and respect when with others?
  • That we can pick up social cues?
  • That we are mature and act responsibly in company?
  • That we’ve got friends?!
  • Or that we are just nice people!
  • Maybe all of the above!

Every home educated child that I’ve ever met is all of those things anyway – and more.

I wonder sometimes how many parents, when they send their children to school to mix among a population of socially inept youngsters, how they think this is going to ‘socialise’ them. How many children or parents even know what that is? How many school using parents think about it? Yet bizarrely they are the ones who challenge home educating families with such doubts and sometimes accusations.

So I’ll say it again – and home educators will probably need to go on saying it until there are so many choosing this option others begin to notice how socially unskilled many school children are – home educated kids:

  • are sociable,
  • have friends,
  • do talk to others,
  • do get out with others,
  • can mix appropriately,
  • can hold a conversation,
  • are very socially mature
  • and are usually nice people!

And they are like this because they don’t go to school; because they mix with many others out in society in the natural social clusters found in society (not the unnatural one found inside schools), with a high proportion of adults who do have social maturity.

Perhaps if you’re home educating you should go about asking ‘what are your social skills like’ to everyone you meet? This way we might get some answers that would prepare the children for bizarre and ridiculous questions like these.

Or maybe just prime them with the answer; ‘excellent thank you!’ And that will be the end of it!

Weird social behaviour and baked beans

Some people are so strange.

There was a lady in the local shop who’d rather stare at the baked beans than say good morning. Perhaps it’s just my good mornings make her feel uncomfortable. Or perhaps it was the fact that I used to have kids with me during school time and they said good morning too and she didn’t know what to do.

Some people just don’t know how to respond to a child saying good morning or chatting to them. They tend to smile patronisingly at the kids and say nothing, unable to make an appropriate response.

The thing I find totally bizarre about this is the fact that it’s always an issue that’s raised about home schooling – how do the children become socialised? Bizarre because it appeared at the time that the kids had better social skills than the adults they came into contact with!

I also find it totally bizarre that anyone could think that school was the ideal place for children to learn to be socialised. The social climate in school, where kids mix mostly with lots of other kids who are immature socially anyway, would not be where I’d expect my kids to learn good social skills.

Because that’s what ‘socialisation’ means; learning good social skills. The ability to interact and converse with others, what the appropriate responses are, how to listen, when to listen, when to chat, how to behave in company.

Kids can’t learn that when they are discouraged from talking, when they’re surrounded by less than ideal behaviour, where their social preferences are disregarded and they’re forced into being with people they may not like possibly for years, where confidence is eroded by the shame attached to failure, when the climate is of one-up-man-ship rather than communal care and where some of the adult examples of social behaviour are also questionable!

There’s also the question of discrimination. If you think about it, many schools are discriminative before they even start. They discriminate against the less academically able – those who’ll do nothing for their climb up the league tables, and those who need different learning approaches. Which is total hypocrisy when you think about how schools profess to be all inclusive of race, religion, colour, physical disability, etc. Where does academic ability or learning preference come into that so-called non-discriminative policy?

That’s the beauty of home educating groups – they’re all inclusive – even of those who learn differently. And the social interaction we had in home educating groups was exactly what children needed to develop those social skills.

For children to develop social skills they need to: –

–          Be with people who do have social skills

–          Be with people who support and encourage them whatever stage they’re at

–          Be listened to and encouraged to converse

–          Be respected

–          Feel cared for

–          Have regular conversations and interaction with adults

–          Have appropriate behaviour demonstrated towards them

–          Be encouraged to share opinions and ask questions

–          Be loved

–          Feel their opinions are valued

–          Experience a variety of social settings

–          Mix in the real social world

These are the conditions which encourage and develop good social skills. They are not usually the conditions schools have time to nurture. So actually, ‘socialisation’ would be the last thing I would send my child to school for!

Socialisation is also of course about making connections and friendships with others. Again, school is not the ideal place for caring, committed and loyal friendships to form. The social structure of school, where it’s considered weird to mix with anyone outside your age group and competition is of more importance than care, does not reflect the social climate in real society.  And the other misconception is that it’s not the only place to find friends.

Kids make friends at school because they happen to be at school. Kids will make friends out of school with others they encounter just as easily. If you home educate you have far more time to interact in a social and uncompetitive way, which forms bonds and provides a healthy setting for children to learn and practise social skills, not just from other kids but also from the high proportion of adults home educating groups always have.

For children to have friends they need to understand that it also requires something from them. Friendship is about mutual respect, trust, care, loyalty, support, love. Their understanding of that is built from receiving it, from seeing how the adults around them behave towards friends, by forming relationships with adults themselves, and through confidence. The skills of friend making and keeping are built over time and change rapidly. This is healthy and natural. It doesn’t need to be forced.

So if you’re thinking of home educating and the socialisation issue has been bugging you I hope this helps. If you’re a parent of a child in school you can help them form friendships by being the best friend they ever have. That way they’ll learn how to be a best friend to others and everyone that’s of any worth will be their friend too!

And not be a person who grows up thinking that staring at baked beans is an acceptable response to ‘good morning’!

Read all about our other social activities during our home educating years – funny and otherwise – in ‘A Funny Kind Of Education’! (See the Books page)