The first question that most people ask when they meet a home educator is, "What about socialisation?" I have written on this before, here and here, and there are many excellent articles on the subject of why home education usually equips children with better social skills etc, so I'm not going to go over that here. However there is one aspect that I really wanted to write about today.
A comment that I have heard often and even used myself is that "socialisation is something you do to dogs, not children" - the idea being that as humans, childrens needs are more sophisticated than dogs. It's a nice little idea that trips off the tongue, but not something I had really experienced - until now. You see, we have recently gained a new four-legged member of the family. Puppy is an eleven week old labradoodle and has more than his fair share of cuteness, alongside sporadic bouts of nipping, chasing, and general what-is-he-eating-now insanity. He is gorgeous and we are all totally besotted with him (apart from when he widdles on the carpet).
The thing is, among the many (and I mean MANY) YouTube clips that I have watched on puppy training in the last couple of weeks, there have been plenty on socialisation. My goodness, I had no idea how complicated it is! When you introduce your puppy to other puppies, you need to take them to a safe, neutral area. You need to keep them on the leash so you can swiftly remove them if they get overwhelmed, to avoid setting up any associated anxieties that could damage them for life. You need to do your best to ensure that you are not introducing them to an anti-social dog. You need to know your puppy and pay close attention to all of their body language during the session: play-bowing, rolling over, sniffing and licking are generally good; barking, turning away, lip-licking etc may show that they are becoming unhappy - and you need to know when to intervene. And that is only as much as I have gleaned so far as a total newbie. Basically, it is a massive deal! It is intense and very hands-on and involved for anyone who wants to be a responsible dog-owner.
This got me to thinking: I am pretty sure that whether they prefer the approach of Cesar Milan, Victoria Stillwell, ZacGeorge or another chosen doggy guru, dog-lovers of the world would agree that the worst way to socialise your puppy would be to find a group of about 30 puppies the same age, leave them all in the same room as each other - sometimes without any supervision at all - and let them figure it out for themselves.
So now I have a question rattling, or rather screaming, around in my brain. I do not mean to be inflammatory or disrespectful in any way, but I am now asking myself this: if puppy socialisation is this involved, this heavily supervised, this fraught with potential disaster - how much more so for our precious children?
Edit: To be clear (I hope)...
If our puppies need a safe neutral place to be introduced, how much more our children?
If our puppies need to be kept on the leash (ie right next to us so we can intervene if they are overwhelmed), how much more our children?
If we need to be closely watching our puppies body language and other cues, how much more our chidren?
If we need to ensure our puppies are not playing with anti-social dogs, how much more our children?
And if we wouldn't throw our puppies into a large group of other dogs who are not fully and closely supervised and leave them to work it out as a pack, why on earth would we do so with our children?
Of course there are many differences between children and animals, and many reasons why some children can do well in school - but in the context of being "socialised", I firmly believe school is not necessarily the best place for success.