OK, some of you may not approve of what I'm about to say, but it's true: socialisation is one of the big issues of Home Education. Taking the experience of my now eight-year-old and comparing his social experiences while at school and now he is home educated, I have concluded that children can be put at a serious social disadvantage - if you send them to school.
Middle's personality is very loving, very willing to be friendly to all and very sensitive to the moods of others. In school he really suffered. His friendliness expressed itself in wanting to hug people which the other kids found irritating. I understand that, and we did talk to him about not hugging people who didn't welcome it. However, his classmates turned into a hostile pack, led by one particular little girl who took against him, and he became anxious and depressed, aged just 5! I am not exaggerating. By his now infamous 6th birthday (sorry if you have heard this before - I am obviously still scarred by it) the pack had become so hostile that the little girl who despised him persuaded the class to boycott his party and only go to hers, even though they were on different days of the same weekend.
There was one beautiful and shining exception of a little girl who he has always been best friends with. She came to his party two years ago, and she came again to his eighth birthday party today - as did eighteen other children!! It was wonderful. He is now Mr Popular. His confidence took a while to recover from the bashing it received at school, but now he is home educated, he is free from the merciless pack mentality so often found in school. His home educated friends (of different ages) are much less likely to gang up against somebody "different" - in fact I've never seen it happen over the last two years, and we've been in a lot of different social situations. Of course some friendships are stronger than others - there is always an element of those who just click, and those who have nothing in common - but his willingness to be friendly to anyone has meant that very few children, if any, actively dislike him. He is still very affectionate, which can need reigning in a little, but his peers still want to play with him. There is no sense of 'picking on the weakest', no 'alienating the different' - certainly no victimisation. If they want to play together they do; if they'd rather play with someone else, they do that; if they want to be left alone for a while that's fine too. It is healthy, and he and I are happy.
You know, next time somebody with children in school asks "but what about socialisation?" I am tempted to say, "well yes, that is a concern - I feel for you: how do you think you'll handle it?" Just don't feel sorry for Home Ed children - they generally have a great social life and make for really well-balanced and lovely sociable adults. It's the children in school I feel sorry for: herded into a pack where they have nothing in common except age - and then left to figure it out by themselves and survive as best they can.
Yes, the socialisation issue can be a big problem - for those in school. Not us!