Homeschooling and travel – Can it HELP social skills?!
Let’s talk homeschooling…
I see a lot of posts from families wanting to homeschool; some are looking at it in order to travel, others due to other reasons. I wanted to share my experiences and the one of the biggest reason reasons why I chose to pursue homeschooling.. It’s that “S” word again, socialization.
Yep, that’s right, I chose to homeschool BECAUSE of the socialization.
When we traveled the first time around, Jaiden was not yet at school age, so I had no reason to look into homeschooling. In fact, it was not something I had even considered; rather (amongst other things) the trip with Jaiden was aimed at preparing him for school.
During our travels we met quite a few homeschooling families, some traveling, some not. As an ex childcare worker who spent the majority of my time working in Preschool and Before / After school care the thing that struck me most about the homeschooled kids I met is how mature and well adjusted they were. Sitting down and having discussions with these kids really blew me away, these were not like kids I had ever met. Whilst it’s assumed that children can only learn social skills by being in the classroom, I can assure you that this isn’t the case. Instead of being subjected to the often brutal schoolyard, these kids were spending a lot of time learning how to socialise by watching adults interact as well as interacting with adults themselves. Let’s be honest, kids don’t learn how to socialize at school, they just mimic the behavior of others. Teasing / Bullying / Isolation does not just come naturally to kids, it happens because they see others doing it, they believe it is acceptable and then copy.
When there were other kids around, they were not just interacting with others their own age, instead they were happily playing with and interacting with kids of all ages. There was no teasing, no isolation and certainly no bullying based on any kind of physical or intellectual differences. Jaiden would often go off and play with kids double, and sometimes triple his own age. Whilst he had issues communicating and understanding the rules of play, this wasn’t an issue at all, barring the times Jaiden would get frustrated and isolate himself. To say it blew my mind is a massive understatement; every time we came across other homeschooled kids I very quickly realised I didn’t have to worry about Jaiden feeling isolated or teased, instead he would go off and happily play without any issues whatsoever.
This is where Jaiden developed not only his social skills, but his social boundaries. When something did happen that upset him, or he felt wrongly done by he would remove himself from the situation and refuse to interact with them. So not only was he learning social skills, he was learning boundaries and how to implement them. Granted a lot of the time it was him misunderstanding things that caused this, it did teach him that he could pick and choose his own friends and when he did or did not want to interact with them, much like we do in adult life.
In the “real world”, as adults we do often have to endure people who we do not like or treat us badly, but and being forced to interact with these very same people who on a daily basis is not generally something we have to endure in our own social groups. Over the years Jaiden has learned to “deal with” kids (and adults!) whom he may not like, or may not behave in a way he feels is acceptable, but the fact this has not been forced upon him from the very start I feel is the difference between him wanting to socialize, and being forced to endure situations that upset him.
Many of the kids we met did distance education, whilst some of the parents would admit to it being a real drag to get their kids to do their work, many of the kids whose parents didn’t struggle was because they had the choice of when they would do their work, be it in one hit in the morning, or coming back to it throughout the day as they pleased or do nothing for days and then spend an entire day doing it. The freedom to pick and choose what work they did and when, whilst still sticking to “deadlines” was also something that also really surprised me. They’d already accepted their responsibilities and much like the real world, they had the choice to plan their own day around the things they needed to do, both chores and school work.
Whilst we follow a totally child lead learning (or unschooling) educational philosophy, I am comfortable doing this as Jaiden knows his responsibilities when it comes to self directing his responsibilities, be it investigating something he is interested in or doing the dishes so we have something to eat off at night. He knows that if he does not complete some ‘formal’ learning, I’ll have nothing to submit to the Home Education Unit, we’ll be given a Show Cause notice and he’ll then have to be enrolled in school. So again, there are responsibilities and consequences if they are not met.
If you said to me 5 years ago I should not make Jaiden go to school and instead let him direct his own education, I would have argued until I was blue in the face that children need to go to school to learn. However after the time we spent traveling, as well as reflecting on my own time at school I very quickly realised that when I left school in year 11, I genuinely thought I was an idiot and was never going to do anything with my life. In fact I hated the idea of learning or studying anything. But when I had the ability to pursue studies that were of interest to me, I not only did it, but I thrived. If something I have no interest in is taught to me, my knowledge retention is absolutely zero, why would I expect my 8 year old to be any different?
So to those of you out there who worry about what homeschooling will do to your children, or who worry that they will ‘fall behind’ in their grades if you spend a year on the road traveling. Remember, life is not about getting good grades in everything, nor does it have to be about spending your life doing things you don’t want to do.
Instead, it should be about finding the things that interest you, pursuing them and making a living out of it.
(For those wondering, the pic is Jaiden testing out the aerodynamic efficiency of the F1 car using the smoke from the burning stick. Not shown is the 4WD that he was using for comparison)