October 24, 2008

I just wanted to pick up on the comments on Ran’s blog about schooling and socialisation because ever since we started telling people we were unschooling our children (often we just say homeschooling so as not to frighten them) the single most common objection we receive is;

“But what about you’re child’s socialistion?”.

After several irritating years of this it suddenly dawned on me that no one had ever said;

“But what about your child’s education”!!!

From talking amongst friends, and with homeschoolers on-line, it appears that this a pretty universal experience for all of us.

There’s a mad absurdity about this situation but I also think there is something deeper – people happily, and immediately, concede that school is not that great a place to learn because (I suspect) that at a subconscious level they completely understand the main purpose of school based socialisation. They’ve internalised the values of the domination system and move immediately to defend it.

The absurdity has hidden depths too. The meaning of the word socialisation obviously has to do with a child learning social skills but there are no specific classes on socialisation at schools, and even more bonkers children spend their time almost exclusively with people of their own age who couldn’t possibly teach them how to socilaise because they are at a similar level (Not to mention the issue raised on Ran’s forum about socialisation being repressed for most of the day).

It goes deeper though: In New Zealand homeschoolers have to submit to being reviewed by the education ministry in the same way that schools do and we recently heard from an unschooling parent who said that the reviewer asked a few question’s about their child’s socialisation. First of all this is not part of the New Zealand Curriculum or the curriculum document that the parent’s submitted to the MOE when they applied for a homeschooling exemption (so the reviewer had no right to ask about it). But when they told him that that child regularly plays with a large number of neighbourhood children on a daily basis the reviewer said that it didn’t really count!

He was only satisified that the child was getting proper socialisation when they said it went to more formalised events like soccer practice – despite the obvious fact (or maybe because of it) that child to child interaction is completely mediated by a dominant adult.


Also: Ran ended his piece with this comment;

…it’s almost impossible to come out of the schooling system with both high intellect and high social intelligence

and I would add that it is the ones who come out with low social intelligence who end up having more power and the most say in how our society functions.

Whic of course is the system working exactly as it’s supposed to



  1. When I had heard of other people homeschooling their children I would think to myself, “I could never get my kids to do all that work that they do in school unless I bribed them or threatened punishment.” And then I immediately thought, hey, that’s what their teachers do! We immediately took our two boys out of “school” and have never looked back. They, on their own, do/and have done so much more than they would have done within the confines of “school.” Even, and especially, with “socialization.” Rather than only learning to relate to other people with birthdays within 8 months of their own, our kids are as comfortable with 80 year olds and 8-month olds.

  2. Lisa, that ability to relate to people of other ages is one of the delights of moving in circles with homeschooled kids. Our oldest daughter and her friends have neve needed to be aked to include our youngest daughter in their games and older homdeschooled children just love tolook after our little ones.

  3. A new homeschooler here, who found you through Ran Priur. We’re actually currently hating homeschool, though not QUITE as much as I hated Public School. Everything you all say about public school is correct. Unfortunately, they had 5 years to indoctrinate my daughter into the idea that how they work is how things SHOULD work. I’m homeschooling with a pre-made curriculum because I don’t feel quite ready to put together my own curririculum (AND, I’m work a 30 hour/week job -outside the home- as well, and my hubby works 40 hours per week). But, trying to get through my daughter’s head that she really WILL need to do math equations, write coherant essays, and understand (at the least) basic biology as an adult…. ESPECIALLY if she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. But, the school was teaching at such a low level as to make many of the students incapable of even holding a job at the local grocery store for very long, as they can’t even tell time and argue with the bosses over the most simple of activities. In the long run it’s going to greatly benefit my daughter to be homeschooled, but it’s hell getting there. We’ve knocked heads so much, we’re actually considering a private school, instead. Though we can’t afford that, financially.

    Homeschooling definitely has it’s high points, but there are some definite lows as well. At least in my experience so far.

    And, as for socialization, I always get a chuckle when I hear that kids at public school are “better socialized”, when I recall how often I was told by my teachers to “stop socializing” or “this isn’t the place for socialization”. The hypocracy is astounding.

  4. Hi Kati, I’m sorry to hear homeschooling is a struggle for you at the moment. If it’s not out of line I’d like to offer a few thoughts:

    Almost every homeschooler I’ve met who pulled their kids out of school has said that they started off quite strict and after about a year or so they realised that they could easily afford to be more relaxed about schooling at home. As you said we tend to think learning can only be done the way school’s do it but much of the strict institutional approach has come about because it’s not possible to do things any other way when you have a tacher/pupil ratio of 1 to 30. I think a strict curriculum is probably more of a hindrance than a help at home and would encourage everyone to allow learning to be directed by the child’s interests. You can always keep the curriculum and use it as a guide to make sure you’ve covered all the areas you want to.

    As you may have noticed we use the unschooling, natural learning approach. In some ways it was probably easier for us deciding to homeschool when out first was still a toddler, we spent her first 5 years watching her learn how to walk and talk with enroumous enthusiasm and have never doubted her ability to learn without being directed.

    Our oldest, who is six, is in the process of learning under her own steam. As an example, today she got a book out of the library all about snails because they are her current fascination. A few weeks ago it was a book about shells which she used to fill an exercise book with drawings and information she had learned about them. Most of what we do doesn’t look like normal school but that did.

    I don’t know how you feel about this approach to your child’s learning but there are a couple of books I’d reccomend if you want to check it out: Teach Your Own, by John Holt and The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn (which is a little more radical).

    We already butt heads enough with our kids as it is during the course of the day so we’re glad to have removed the issue of forcing them to learn from our lives. I thoroughly reccomend it.

    I don’t know how new all this is to you but what I hope my kids get from this is a better realtionship with me and their mother, the ability to motivate themselves and the ability to learn and research by themselves. I also hope they won’t have some of their natural interests killed off by school like I did.

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