What about socialisation?
This is one of the most frequently asked 'frequently asked question' about home education. It is important to question whether the social needs of children are properly met through exposure to hundreds of other children for long periods of time, as occurs in a formal schooling environment.
Prior to the advent of modern education, children were not socialised in this way. It is also unlike the world our children will experience when they emerge as adult contributors to society. Rather, a child's social needs are often more fully met through interaction with their direct and extended families and as they mingle with their community. This involves exposure to people of varying ages in real world contexts, whereas interaction in school is largely restricted to a single, narrow age band in an environment which offers limited experience. Home educators believe that, far from disadvantaging their children socially, education at home gives them a social advantage, with an ability to communicate with all age groups and an absence of the restraint of negative peer pressure. - from Home Education Australia
When people talk about socialisation and social skills, what do they really mean?
The dictionary (Random House Dictionary, 2009) defines ‘socialisation’ as,
- a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behaviour, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.
- to convert, conform or adapt to the needs of society.
Socialisation therefore, is a process of learning the norms of society, learning one’s ‘social position’ and status in society and learning to conform or adapt to the demands of society. Schools do an admirable job of socialising children to fit within the demands of society - indeed, it’s one of their primary purposes.
People often confuse socialisation with forced association. Placing people together in an artificial situation is not socialisation and it certainly isn’t social skills. People also sometimes socialisation when they actually mean social skills.
For some children, institutionalised learning exposes them to unhealthy forms of socialisation such as competition that encourages getting ahead at the expense of others, individualism where helping others may be seen as cheating, social status such as a social pecking order and popularity issues, going with the crowd, anti-social behaviour from a sense of self-preservation, the need to be a good boy/girl in order to please authority or receive reward, not questioning, not trusting our intuition or feelings, consumerist or elitist thinking, conformity, unhealthy relationships, communication or problem-solving.
Healthy social skills
Social skills, as compared to socialisation, are the skills widely regarded as being necessary to lead a happy, fulfilling life as a contributing member of society. Important social skills include:
- Emotional self-awareness: recognising and naming own emotions, understanding causes of feelings, learning the difference between feelings and actions.
- Managing emotions: expressing anger appropriately, ability to handle stress, loneliness and social anxiety, resilience, learning responsibility.
- Empathy: seeing and relating to another person’s perspective, sensitivity to others’ feelings, listening, reading emotions of others.
- Self-control: modulating and controlling our own actions, a sense of inner control.
- Relatedness: engaging with others based on the sense of being understood by and understanding others.
- Capacity to communicate: exchanging ideas and feelings with others clearly, effectively and confidently.
- Cooperativeness: balancing one’s needs with those of others in group activity.
- Organising groups: leading and coordinating the efforts of a network of people.
- Negotiating solutions: mediating, preventing and resolving conflicts.
- Teamwork: acknowledging and being acknowledged for one’s presence and contribution, working together to achieve common goals, sharing responsibility.
- Leadership: setting goals, managing conflict, working with others & effective decision-making.
- Self-concept: discovering one’s own personal beliefs and values, interests, dreams, talents etc.
- Emotional maturity: this includes the ability to see the big picture, to laugh at oneself, to freely express who you are, to solve problems creatively, to rise above pettiness such as gossip, pay-back or complaining, being able to see beyond the need to always be right.
Research on socialisation indicates that the home educated student:
- is often more socially mature and has a higher self-concept
- has a far wider range of social skills
- has fewer behavioural problems and is more socially and emotionally well-adjusted.
The typical home educated student is not deprived of social skills or experience, but is regularly involved in activities such as; sports, Scouts, church groups, ballet, neighbourhood play, playing with friends and relatives, part-time employment, voluntary work, special interest classes, resource days and classes for homeschoolers, excursions and visits to many places in the community, mentoring and interaction with people from different levels of society.