Written by Hazel Davis

Lifestyle

Hey! Teachers! I’ll leave my kids at home

Hazel Davis and her fella have decided to home-educate their kids. This week, she’s getting hacked off with people implying her kids won’t be socialised properly.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

I’m going to get a jar for the kitchen. With an ‘S’ on it. No, it’s not a swear-jar (swearing is actively encouraged in my house). It’s for every time a visitor mentions the word ‘socialisation’. “I would LOVE to home-school but I am so worried about socialisation,” they say, wringing their hands.

When asked what that means they talk about how their children won’t learn to interact with the world or be able to make friends. Lots of people believe that home-educated children are socially inept because they are missing out on necessary life-skills learned at school.

I take huge issue with this. Lumping a load of children all the same age and from the same area together day in day out with one person in charge of the whole process is about as unrealistic a model for the rest of society as it’s possible to have. Unless, that is, you want to set them up for a career in government (ho ho).

“How on earth is removing children from society and sticking them in a place where they rarely see adults interacting meaningfully with each other in any way socialisation?”

I am loath to bring my own (HORRIFIC, since you’re asking) school experiences in here but… I read something worrying the other day about most workplace bullies having also been bullies at school.

I’m obviously not saying that all schools are hotbeds of bullying or that home-schooling is for everyone or that it’s the best way (it may turn out not to be), BUT if you’re going to tell me my children won’t be well socialised, I would counter how on earth is removing children from society and sticking them in a place where they rarely see adults interacting meaningfully with each other in any way socialisation? Call me naive but I want to ready my children for life in the community, for life in the real world. The only place school really socialises children for is school and other similar institutions.

There’s this idea that home-educated children stay indoors all day, playing on PlayStations or watching their mother fold washing or read from the Scriptures in a bonnet. Not on my watch. I work from home, therefore it’s the LAST place I want to be when I’m not working. I’ll repeat, I work from home so that’s the LAST place they want to be when I am working.

My children have a more rounded and developed social life than I do. They have a weekly park meet with a friend and his daughter and another dad. They have a regular home-ed group on a Tuesday, choir on a Thursday, occasional home-ed meets in the local area and Clem is just about to start a regular dance class. Not to mention the hordes of other waifs and strays we seem to have parading through our house at any given time, such as grandparent visits. Unsocialised, my arse. Knackered, more like. As one (home-schooling) friend archly pointed out to me recently, “Anyway, all teachers ever seemed to say at school was, ‘You’re not here to socialise.’”

“I really love the idea that when they’re a little bit older, the girls can actually, you know, participate in everyday society where people walk and talk like grownups.”

In fact, most of the home-education groups and events we’ve attended so far have contained a range of ages. Wearing my worried parent hat (it’s blue with a pink trim), I think, “Good god, they’re all at different learning stages, how can this be right? What on earth has an eight-year-old got in common with a four-year-old?” Then I watch as said eight-year-old walks over to a bush with my four-year-old and shows her a beetle, passing on some information he’s discovered himself, in a language she understands and in a way that engages her and I think, “Hang on a minute…”

And, though it sounds a bit rose-tinted, I really love the idea that when they’re a little bit older, the girls can actually, you know, participate in everyday society where people walk and talk like grownups. You know, hanging out with the folk at the local National Trust estate and making tea for old ladies and that (yeah in my head it’s the 1980s and you can still totally do that – and they’ll also totally be wearing dungarees and listening to UB40) rather than coming in from school exhausted, having to do three hours of homework before bed and waking up to repeat the whole thing again.

I know, I know, school’s not THAT bad and plenty of people love it and plenty of people make meaningful friendships and go on to be normal, well-balanced members of society. But that doesn’t mean that people who were home-schooled can’t do the same.

@hazedavis

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Written by Hazel Davis

Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".