Category Archive • Socialisation
September 22, 2004
"How sociable is school anyway?"

Outstanding letter in today's Times:

Studying at home

From Danielle Shanks

Sir, I'm a 15-year-old, home-educated student and for me, leaving school was one of the best things I've done. I left about a year ago, thoroughly miserable after being bullied for three years and after various meetings with teachers about it, which achieved nothing.

I am now doing a correspondence course.

Contrary to the popular belief, it is actually quite easy to make new friends outside of school. I've kept in touch with one friend from school and I play the violin, so I go to an orchestra every Saturday, where I've met new friends. I'm also a member of " Education otherwise", which is a home-ed organisation, where I write to various pen-pals.

How sociable is school anyway? You have all your cliques, but if you don't fit in you can be ostracised.

Yours faithfully,
56 Vaux Crescent,
Walton on Thames,
Surrey KT12 4HD.
September 20.

Here is the link to Education otherwise. Otherwise, I think it says it all.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:43 PM
Category: BullyingHome educationSocialisation
May 09, 2003
A school which really supplies socialisation

Well here I am in the south of France, staying with my goddaughter and her family, and since I'm trying to put something here everyday, I today cross-examined the goddaughter about her school. Did she like it? Yes. I spent about fifteen minutes hurling questions at her about why she liked it, and for a while it was not at all clear. She said she liked mucking around with her friends during the lunch hour interval, but apart from that it didn't sound especially good fun. She has to memorise lots of stuff. And do you like that? No. She had to learn about Napoleon, and Joan of Arc. And is that amusing? Not very. It just sounded pretty much like a school to me, and as such very boring.

I carried on with my cross-examination and finally stumbled upon the answer. Which is: that the lunch hour lasts two and a half hours.

School is often touted, especially by the opponents of home schooling, as something that offers "socialisation", in a good way, i.e. in the form of lots of fun friends of the sort you couldn't make if you are stuck at home. Well, with this school, for my goddaughter, this really seems to be true.

The secret is the extreme length of the lunch "hour", presumably a reflection of the siesta that they have down here in these parts, these parts being Catalonia, rather than just France, Catalonia being something that spans the Spanish-French border.

Think about it. If you had a school lunch hour lasting only an hour, then you wouldn't have much time to do any truly amusing socialising. And if you just worked through the morning and then stopped and everyone went home, then those precious friends would probably disperse. All you'd ever do is "socialise" by attending classes, which is hardly very enjoyable. But by going to a school where the day is divided into two chunks with a long gap in between, my goddaughter really does get to do some truly enjoyable socialising, in a way that she and her friends decide about, rather than her teachers.

She doesn't dislike her teachers. They are strict, it seems, but fair. They don't have class favourites. But it's those long, long lunch "hours" that really make the difference.

The true test for whether school is fun is: Do you miss it during the holidays, and look forward to it starting again? Says the goddaughter: yes.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:41 AM
Category: Socialisation
January 15, 2003
"But what about socialization?"

It was never my intention that all the writing on this blog would be done by me - Brian Micklethwait. From the start I hoped that others who were ideologically sympatico would in due course be persuaded to join in, and liven things up samizdata-style. So it is with extreme pleasure that I introduce the first of what I hope will be many contributions to this blog by Julius Blumfeld. Like me, Julius lives and works in London. Unlike me he is a parent and a home-educator. Enjoy.

These last few weeks, we've been 'coming out', which means answering the question that all home-educating families come to dread:

"But what will you do about socialization?"

Roughly translated, this means:

"You're mad. If they don't go to school then they will turn into sad misfits."

Yet we can hardly blame people for asking. We thought much the same when we started out. We planned in minute detail how we would compensate for the lack of school socialization. They would go to choir. They would join the local drama group. They would go to dance classes. They would meet with friends every weekend. If we worked at it hard enough, then hopefully they would become socialized just like school

Well of course it didn't work out like that. They don't go to an endless stream of clubs and groups. They do meet with the occasional friend at the weekend. But that's only for a few hours and it's not even every weekend.

Yet the funny thing is that they seem to be turning out pretty normally, in spite of the dismal failure of our Five Year Socialization Plan.

It turns out that we were wrong. Socialization is not something that has to be worked at. It's not like learning a second language. It's more like learning your first one. All a child seems to need is contact with other people. It doesn't seem to matter much who those people are. They don't even have to be other children. Now we tell people that you'd have to keep a child locked in a room for ten years for it not to become 'socialized'. At least that's our story and we're sticking to it.

Julius Blumfeld

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:52 AM
Category: Socialisation