When we told friends and family that we were going to home educated the most common question we were asked was, what will you do about the social side, how are they going to meet lots of people like they do at school. I was completely baffled by this as it was not something that I had even considered when thinking about home education. I was more concerned about whether learning really could continue as it had been, child led, or whether I needed to start planning and researching to put lessons together for my children and about my own friendships, yes that's right my friends or lack of them.
The school experience is one where you are put together with all the children who are born within the same twelve month period. You may have lots or nothing in common with them, this may be the perfect or worse environment for your child depending on their personality. Furthermore whilst you spend a large proportion of you time with them there is actually little time to properly interact with them in a typical school day. I would dare to suggest that the friendships between school children develop and flourish off the school premises rather than in it.
I don't remember having a group of friends whilst at school, there were children I played with but I rarely if ever played at children's houses other than those who lived on the same road as me and went to my school. After I left school I went to uni, worked several live in jobs, moved around a lot, went travelling a lot and met lots and lots of people but made few if any lasting friendships, we were more like ships passing in the night. I got married, found a good job that I loved and settled in the village I live in now. When I became pregnant with my first child I did not seeking out other pregnant women so when my child was born I knew no one who was also a first time mum, I returned to work and was content with my life. Then came the time when we had to decide about education for our eldest, at the same time I discovered I was pregnant. I knew that school was not the place to send my eldest child, not right away, he would find the number of children in his class and school too stressful to allow learning to take place, the busyness of it would be too much. So we didn't complete any forms to register for a school place and I gave up my job. All of sudden I found myself at home with a young child and a baby and had cut off the only place I had regular contact with adults who I would not have called friends, but who I enjoyed the company of immensely. I was
We took it slowly, my eldest and I, I am not sure who was holding whose hand in those early days. We were often on the periphery of things taking tentative steps forward and then retreating to the safety of home to recharge. We would go for days, weeks on our own. We were finding our way. I met some lovely people but it was like there was this line in front of me, a boundary that I could not cross to take things a bit further. What I could not fathom was why, what was stopping me then it hit me like a hurtling train. I remembered back to my six year old self, a friend who left, emigrated with her family, I can still remember her name and walking out of her house for the last time. I spoke to my mum and realised very quickly that I had simply been afraid to make friends in the same way since because of how my parents dealt with that situation. Perhaps they had not realised how important she was or perhaps they thought, as so many parents do, that I would get over it and move on after all children are resilient aren't they? My feelings had been ignored, not validated so I had not thought them to be real, so friends were held at a distance, safely away so the hurt could not come back.
I have made peace with those feelings now and am slowly building friendships. I am comfortable with a group of women in a way that I have never been in my life, I am not in the same place as some of them, but my comfort zone is getting bigger! But I love where my life is right now, I cherish my time with my female friends and that when I need help and support I can and do ask for it. We sit and talk and craft when we get together, we discuss openly so many issues that are important to us, we agree, disagree and argue. We laugh and cry together.
We are four years the wiser, my eldest and I, we have come along way in that time. He has friends who want to be with him and stay for a sleepover at our house, I have feel part of something that I hold dear and would be sad if it could no longer be.