Yes, I know that I am late getting this post out today. But I have a very good reason. I have been putting my money and time where my mouth is. I have been doing what is and always has been my biggest role in @PanKwake’s self-directed learning. I have been facilitating her socialization.
One of the biggest myths about #homeed is those poor children never get any socialization. Stuck in the house all day with their family, doing schoolwork. Heck, that’s why some parents do it – to isolate their children.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
90% of home educated families enjoy an active social life, doing the same things that everyone else does.
And the other 10%?
Some of them are rural, making it harder to socialize with others. Some live in other countries where language can be a barrier. Some are traveling the world in the back of an old bus. Some choose not to socialize, or do so only online. Often because of bad experiences with bullying in schools.
And yes, 0.01% or less use homeschooling laws as a cover for abuse. But rarely is there any real education happening. The home education community is no more porn to such abuse than schools are.
In fact, the reason that @PanKwake’s father finally allowed me to home educate her was socialization – the negative kind – bullying. This is an all too common blight of the #neurodivergent.
@PanKwake attended a brilliant community nursery from the time she was three. It was sometimes a struggle for her and the staff. They were the first to notice her neurodivergence. The nursery manager even had her evaluated by the early years’ SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator). But the myth that autism was a ‘boy thing’ meant her social challenges were dismissed.
So, she was sent to the local primary without any support, other than medical for her seizures. To make matters worse, this was her teacher’s first year, and we learned later the young woman was dealing with the terminal illness of her father. A perfect storm for her needs to fall through the cracks.
We sent them a relatively happy child and with months she was withdrawn. Her meltdowns increased. And because her father and I were in the process of separating, all her behaviors were blamed on us.
Until we learned about the bullying. Despite our differences, we sat down with the Key Stage 1 head and deputy. What we were told shocked us. We were told that @PanKwake needed to develop a ‘thicker skin’ that was just how the world works. When I pointed to their Zero-Tolerance Bullying policy, I was told that was just political correctness.
As I said, the best thing to come out of that was her father’s permission to deregister @PanKwake and home educate. But that was just the beginning of our journey. It took over two years for @PanKwake to stop asking me if she was dumb/stupid/ugly. And almost a decade later, she cannot remember the names of her two best friends, but she hasn’t forgotten her bully’s. In fact, I found out later that she had nightmares of the boy pushing her under trains.
So, when anyone brings up the issue of ‘socialization’ I find it hard not to bite their head off. Have you ever considered…
That many of the world’s problems, especially ones related to violence, prejudice, and discrimination begins in our schools?
When that teacher told us ‘that’s the way the world works’ my first reaction was, “But it doesn’t have to.” If our children didn’t learn bullying in schools, maybe we could finally build a more fair, better world? And it isn’t just the children. Teachers have their ‘pets.’ As I said, those teachers tried to bully and blame us. And the head teacher at that school ruled through fear.
In fact, one of the best things about the home ed community is its low tolerance for such things. Sure, there are still cliques. But the kind of overt bullying that happens in schools is not tolerated. And one of the cornerstones of self-directed learning is inclusion and non-violent resolution.
Now, after almost a decade of SDL and loads of facilitating and supporting her, @PanKwake is one of the most social people you will meet. Although she still requires loads of recovery time, she considers herself an extrovert. If the definition of that is…someone who is energized by being around others, then I would agree.
This past year has been incredibly hard for her. Because Alan has asthma and is classified as vulnerable or high-risk, we went from mid-March until August without seeing anyone other than through the door or over the fence. When they finally lightened restrictions, both of the families in our ‘bubble’ were her friends. But that did not last long. In fact, our close call with someone who tested positive was one of her paid companions. Thankfully, Alan got his first vaccination last week. So, hopefully, things will get better soon.
Oh, why was I late with this blog? @PanKwake’s friend spent the night last night. The girls kept me up later than usual so in addition to waking up late, dealing with two teens, and my usual writing schedule, I just feel blah.
Like I said, providing @PanKwake with the opportunity for positive socialization is perhaps the my biggest responsibility as a parent/mentor/facilitator. Over the past decade the means by which I fill her social needs has evolved. Tomorrow, we’ll look at some of those evolutions.