Questioning the Need for Regular Frequent Peer Interaction - the Homeschool Socialisation Question Again!
© Beverley Paine
Years ago I found examining and reflecting on the way I naturally learn and socialise was a fast track to understanding what my children needed, educationally and socially. Often our expectations of children generally in society are totally out of whack with what is 'real'. When I began regarding my children with the same respect and manner that I do myself or others, I found that most of the issues and problems we'd been battling with as homeschoolers disappears, as did many of our worries!
Pondering on just why we have this expectation that children need to be with crowds of others made me look closely at the media, beginning with story books and then television programs and movies, kids magazines and shows, etc. I haven't done extensive reading on why society believes that children should hang out in big groups, but I suspect that it's driven by the Industrial Revolution and the need to alienate people from their communities to make them pliable and agreeable - a sort of socialist (in the worst, not best sense of socialism) plot. When we break down strong family and clan ties we can easily move people from A to B, even if it's to the other side of the country, or even the world. We can make sure we always have an amenable workforce... The result - the nuclear family and persent day western society, which is based on individualism and materialism.
In the past, when children from indigenous tribal communities played it was within sight and sound of many adults, not just one or two, as happens in schools and other 'constructed' communities. The adults ranged from teens to grandparents and wise old crones. Working parents - male and female - were probably not so attentive, but then again, children played where parents worked, or worked alongside them... It's still like this in many places in the world, but we (westerners) keep pushing the idea of school, because education is probably the quickest way to eliminate poverty. I'm not against educating folk, I just think there has to be a better solution for these countries than offering them school as the only approach...
Creating Learning Communities is a great book and a fantastic idea. It's what I wanted for my children - a learning community that respected all learners as learners - even the teachers! But especially the young folk in our lives.
Children do have different social needs from adults though. Toddlers have different social needs from children. And individuals have different social needs to each other. It's important for children to 'compare' themselves to others, to 'try on' different personalities, imitate the actions of others and see if they work or are suitable. Not just other kids either, but a range of folk. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes! Kids need free time - free from unnecessary adult interference or construction - to explore, investigate and experiment on their own terms, within a safe, caring environment. They need time to be alone, in groups, or as individuals. Beyond three or four years of age children need to hang out with other children to learn how to get along cooperatively, to learn about compromise, and rules. Siblings really help this cause along, but the family is a limited environment and children love a good challenge! They need to bounce of others, with the odd exposure to strangers, who may become friends, to grow.
I have found that children will ask for more social contact when and if they need it. We needn't supply it before then, unless we suspect our child has social learning difficulties, in which case we'd be plotting a course to help his or her development along, suitable and sensitive to his or her needs and timing.
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