One of the many questions I’m often asked is “Do my kids socialize with other kids?”
The answer is a resounding yes.
Socializing the Home-schooling Way
My kids socialize with other kids of all different ages at various social platforms through the home-schooling events constantly organized throughout the year. They also still participate in the same extra murals they did in school.
My 7-year-old daughter recently was awarded Silver in her RAD ballet exam. Her ballet class consist of girls her age and is done at the Curro school. She is also learning to play the violin and recently started art lessons. All these activities are done with groups of kids her age.
My 10-year-old started karate at the age of 6 and has continued with it, recently achieving his advanced orange belt. His karate group has over 20 kids. He plays indoor cricket once a week. He's learning the piano and recently performed a solo at the Regional Eisteddfod and received Gold.
My eldest son is 16 and has always played soccer. He continues to play for Sporting club which is a Portugal based soccer team. He is currently preparing for his grade 4 piano exam and recently performed with a band at the Regional Eisteddfod. The band achieved a Gold certificate. He also plays piano in the youth band and attends youth every Friday evening.
My kids have never enjoyed afternoon playtime as much as this year of home-schooling. They are not bogged down with tons of homework or incomplete schoolwork brought home. There are no deadlines for projects due. This has freed up their afternoons and allowed them to do what kids were meant to do…play freely. Sometimes, as parents, we equate learning with busy-ness. We deceive ourselves into believing that if our kids are working until midnight with schoolwork then the schools are doing something right. But what we fail to realize is that, most times, teachers cannot cope with the demands of teaching large groups of kids in oversized classrooms and hence the reason for sending work home.
In the small area we currently live, we have over 30 home-schooling families. Some have up to 5 kids per family unit.
Home-schooling events are organized constantly, and this allows my children to interact with other kids of all ages not just their specific grades as in government schools.
The sports day for home-schoolers was held in January, it was amazing to see so many kids competing on a competitive and fun level. Many went on to compete in the government school’s sports day and were awarded Gold, Silver and bronze medals.
We have Ice-rink Fridays once a month, home-school groups can ice skate from 10am to 5pm, this is where my kids learnt to ice-skate something they were never really had an opportunity to try before.
Once a term we have show-and-tell days where our kids are encouraged speak on any topic, say a poem or scripture verse, sing or play an instrument, my kids confidence levels have soared. My 10-year-old recently spoke on the planets and addressed kids who ranged in age from 10 years old up 16 years of age.
Earlier this year there was a chess tournament from grades 1-12 and included moms who wanted to enjoy a game. This worked on an elimination bases and not on age or grades, so it allowed for interaction on all levels. The overall winner was in grade 7.
Our most recent excursion was with a group of 6 families on an outing to a silk worm farm and a tour of the amazing Graskop Gorge. Again, this included all ages, so the tour and the talk given was interactive on all intelligence levels as well.
The reality of Socializing at Public/Private Schools
Much has changed over the course of the last decade. Schools usually cannot cope with managing large groups of kids and usually employ disciplinary procedures to do so. We’ve found that going to school does not necessarily meet the socializing needs of kids. In fact, most kids (especially teenagers) would agree that the social aspect of schooling is the most stressful. The need for kids to conform and fit in is now more stressful than ever. Bullying is now also one of the major factors of suicide in school going children (not to forget cyber bullying which a topic on its own). My second eldest was bullied at school both in grade 1 and grade 3, and both times went a few weeks without saying anything except showing signs of been bullied. He would cry every morning not wanting to go to school and when he came home with a knee injury I realized he’d been bullied.
What we don’t realize is that the schooling system is not designed for socializing. Kids are not allowed to speak unless spoken to by the teacher and kids are often put outside the classroom or given detention for talking in class. My eldest son was often labelled as disturbing the class when he was communicating with the person seated next to him. He would also get demerits for talking and if you had 10 demerits your reward was detention.
During break time there were many rules, they would sit at first break with friends and eat their lunch within the fifteen-minute time slot. Often lunch came back uneaten because of lack of time. Some of the schools my kids attended had very strict rules for break time so even at second break, there was no running allowed, no balls of any kind were allowed during break, and no games involving jumping or skipping. My son came home constantly complaining about these rules. In grade 7 boys and girls were not allowed to sit together, they had separate eating areas.
Practically speaking, in a typical school day with moving between classes and two 15 or 20-minute breaks, students do not interact as much as we think they do. And neither do they get enough teacher-student time either.
Mostly, the only time my children were excited about socializing was if there were extra murals after school or music lessons as part the school day.
There was so much homework, school activities, projects or revision that they couldn’t socialize after school or weekends.
So, in my opinion my kids were not at school to socialize. In our interaction with children who are home-schooled, one does not get the impression that there is a lack of social cohesion on any level.
Here is a link to an article about the positives and negatives of socializing in public schools:
Deborah Pretorius is a mother of 3 kids and a BCom graduate on the amazing adventure of home schooling her family.