School Is Not The Standard For Socialisation

When a family decides to forgo school, it can feel necessary to replace so many aspects of it even though it’s really not. Socialisation is a big one of them and if you seek (and live in a reasonably populated area) you will be able to find ways to fill just as much time with peers as school would produce but why??

It was never a priority to consider the ideal amount or type of socialisation for children whilst creating the structure of schools, only what would make children grow to be most convenient to adults and a financially beneficial cog in society. Socialising, as resonates with children and their needs today, was not the point. 5 days a week, 6 hours a day as the amount of time spent with peers (in a severely diluted [almost entirely with same aged people] and externally controlled sense) developed merely as a bi-product of making decisions relating to different goals. It is not the “standard”, it is not the “ideal”, it is not anything but an arbitrary conditional amount we now see as “normal” because it is so common.

How much time do children need with peers? We really don’t know and it would be extremely difficult to find out in any large scale, generalised way considering that the majority of children are “socialised” in a schooled fashion, the test conditions are already bias and compromised.

“This is when it occurred to me: people today do not even know what children are actually like. They only know what children are like in schools.”  Carol Black, A Thousand Rivers

And surely it is an obvious red flag that the same 5 day, 6 hour recipe is used for both young children and teens, for people all over the spectrum between introversion and extroversion, through-out history despite the shifts in society… are our needs really as universal as that? Of course not.

For our own children there is much we can do to understand their individual needs and act upon them. And this is probably something you’re already doing through observation, through open dialogue with your children, through contemplative reflection and a little trial and error. This process, though, can be corrupted if we don’t first reject all we came to know about children filtered through school’s existence. By understanding that school was never set up on the back of some universal truth about socialisation and really has no stake in claiming the monopoly we can begin to see the irrelevance its paradigms need have on our lives. Sure, things have evolved a long way in the area of honouring the varied aspects of growth but still people are researching through the perspective of school and people are implementing through the constructs of school, certain aspects granted immunity as though they are unchangeable even when they are found at best neutral in effect and at worst, harmful. The focus needs to shift from being cast on risk and harm minimisation to instead asking ourselves do we need to take this direction at all? But so far, that seems far off the radar of most reformists and certainly those who have any influence.

It can be most tempting when the conversation of socialisation comes up, as it inevitably does, to talk extensively about all the opportunities for socialising as homeschoolers because it is an easy way to assuage any concerns. And I do think this can be helpful in that it informs people of what’s available but it also continues this notion that even when deciding to forgo school, one still should be tied to the standards it has created. We justify that we can do something every day of the week [just like school], that there are avenues for xyz [just like school] but it isn’t the whole truth because whilst we can, what we decide to pursue has absolutely nothing to do with being just like school and what we need to be talking about is why. In that why is the potential for re-evaluation beyond our homes, instead of reassurance that to reassess current educational structures is unnecessary. When we continue to back up the confines of school by trying to relate our own situations within them, nobody else has to.

And they should be. Just because it is the way things are done, majority speaking, is not good enough; the burden should not be on us to provide evidence that what we do “lives up” to school because home came first, it has much more basis for being the baseline. Surely it is up to the newcomer, school, to justify its existence – continually and thoroughly. Ask yourself, has it?

Socialisation - Memoirs of a Childhood

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9 Comments

  1. Powerful point. Well made! Why had I never considered this before? 1 year into our Home Ed journey, I realise that school socialisation was actually way too much for my pretty extrovert but sensitive child. And yet as you say, I always ‘justify’ by reeling off the numerous opportunities in this area to socialise. I shall try your approach from now on 😉

  2. Thank you so much for writing this. We are embarking on a new adventure, unschooling (natural learning) this year and the biggest issue has been peer pressure and even outrage over socialisation. We are a fairly introverted bunch, so not having to hang out with people (at school) whilst at home is one of our guilty pleasures. I keep thinking … in the ‘real world’ I don’t hang out with hoards of 39 year olds – why do my kids have to put up with 120, 13 or 8 year olds?! It seems absurd! And on top of that even as a family of 4 with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins a few good friends, the neighbours, the librarian, kids at the pool and the people at the bank or the shops etc… do we need to learn to hang out with more???!! Surely we are all learning every day how to get on with each other .. with out having to subject ourselves to the nightmarish social situations that ONLY happen at a school (maybe in an office building?) I wish more people would say this as you have – yes why is school the measure?

  3. “…school was never set up on the back of some universal truth about socialisation”, love that! You’re brilliant Jess.

    And yes, keep talking about the ‘why’.
    Another wonderful post.

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