social skills

Something I was led to expect, by home educating, would be that our children would have more contact with people of different ages, especially adults, as they spend more time out and about. And many home-ed families have commented that their children grow up to be more confident talking to adults and enjoy spending time with people of all ages. I really hope this will be the case. 

I have certainly noticed how our children have more opportunity to socialise with older people (people older than they are). I notice it more in the ‘cringe’ moments, as they are still learning the social skills of how to talk to people, how to ask and answer questions, how to ask for something. They are learning opportunities!

I’m relishing these opportunities. For example, Zachary’s ‘product’ didn’t fall out of the vending machine (it was a kiwi, honest!) so I encouraged him to go to the reception desk and ask the lady for help. She told him to ask at the cafe and he confidently did! I had actually observed another Mum do this a couple of months ago. I was struck by it, as it wouldn’t have occurred to me to encourage the child to ask for help…I know I would’ve just done it for them. So I was inspired by her. And how brilliant for these kids to be learning such assertiveness at this age. I was so proud of him! 

My elder three children were confidently chatting to another Mum and her young daughter while we were out and about. I wasn’t close enough to hear them but the other Mum later told me they had introduced themselves. And this week I’ve enjoyed watching them chat to the nurse at the doctors surgery (she had quite an audience as they watched Rafael have his injections!) and our health visitor. I often feel quite ‘watched’ when we’re out of the house. Children often draw people’s attention and having four of them, I think people sometimes watch to see me juggle them all! It’s so nice to receive compliments and encouragements and for people to be patient with the kids and give them time. Those occasional frowns give you a thick skin as a parent! And I would be happy to have £1 for every time someone has said ‘You’ve got your hands full’!

The children are becoming accustomed to people’s questions. What’s your name and how old are you? Why aren’t you at school?! People’s reactions and questions about home schooling differ….I still say ‘we are home schooling at the moment’. It’s easier to be able to tell people that it’s come out of circumstances initially…people don’t feel you’re making such a point about it. But I’ve also been led to expect I will have to answer for and defend our decision to people continually! So I’m trying not to mind so much. 

‘And you’re doing the home schooling yourself are you?’, I’ve been asked a couple of times….Er yes (I’m not sure what they were picturing in their mind)! 

Each family is so different and we are coming across loads of different ways that home educating families live. For us, at the moment, it does not look like school. That doesn’t mean we don’t learn anything…it’s just not a quasi school environment. It’s our home and it will be different. I have, in days of insecurity, brought out the workbooks and sat with the kids to ‘do their work’, but in my heart of hearts I believe in a more child-led learning approach. That children learn best when they’re motivated to do so. That the early years of free play are crucial and full of goodness…that they were meant to be. And we are still in those early years.

This doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing. We put things in our children’s path; things we sense they will enjoy and want to discover and learn about. They were born curious and we need to nurture that curiosity and model a life of learning.

One of my tasks is now to help the children communicate this when people in the public ask them why they are not at school!

The other day, I was watching another home-ed family, as the older boy (he must be about 15 or 16) scooped up and played with his younger sister, almost acting like another parent to her. She clearly delighted in him and he in her. It was a beautiful moment to witness and I’m sure their relationship has been nurtured by spending so much time together as a family. This boy just didn’t seem to care about what was or wasn’t ‘cool’. He loved his little sister and was happy to be effusive about this in a public place.

These moments are giving me such joy and thankfulness that we are doing this. I think I’ve been trying not to be too evangelistic about home education. (And some days I do not feel evangelistic about it!) I don’t want to be annoying if you’re not a home educating family. But many moments this week, I have just felt such a deep joy that we are doing this. I know it’s good and – even when I’ve been tearing my hair out, the moment passes – and I’m still so glad. So privileged I know, and so very glad!

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