Surprising as it may sound, I consider socialising one of the great unsung strengths of home education. Children learn social skills from others around them. In a home education scenario, where the ratio of children to adults rarely exceeds 6:1, adults are able to intervene constructively to help children build effective social skills.
For example, for a long time, my daughter was close to a girl who is very different from my daughter in personality, in the way she thinks, in her whole outlook on life. My daughter is rambunctious, exuberant, and enthusiastic. Her friend is quiet and loves inventing rules. Yet the friendship was important to both of them. For the first couple of years, as we met up every week, the friend’s mother and I spent much of our time helping the girls to resolve problems. Since they saw the world so differently, they frequently ran into difficulties. Because the friendship was important to them, they stuck with it and resolved their problems with parental guidance and teaching. Eventually they reached a place where they used the skills we had so patiently taught them, and we would overhear them solving their problems themselves. Both girls have taken these skills beyond their friendship and used them to resolve problems in other relationships.
Another example is in the co-operatively run home education group that we participate in. The children are friendly and welcoming. New members are drawn into games and feel welcomed and wanted from the very first day. If other children come into the playground while our kids are out there playing, they are welcomed into the game and sorry to say goodbye. The teenagers stand in a circle chatting, but welcome any adult into their group and involve them in the conversation.
Because adults are involved so closely in the friendships of home educated children, bullying is minimal and immediately dealt with. Better social skills are modelled and directly taught. Indeed, I have seen very little bullying at all. Two of my daughter’s friends have stutters, one of them bad; when I mentioned it, my daughter was surprised, as she hadn’t noticed it. My daughter, who has learning difficulties with reading and spelling, was only ever bullied once: ironically enough, at church, by friends who attend school. Because I witnessed it, I was able to intervene constructively, and those friendships have been maintained now for over a decade.
Because of home education, my only child is a confident, friendly girl who can make friendships easily and maintain them for many years.