After speaking to many people about home schooling, I have found that most of the criticism and negativity around it has come from people who know little or nothing about it. The first thing most people say is, “Are they getting social interaction?” or “Are they mixing with other kids?” (or something along those lines), and they look very concerned or suspicious (like the social police) when they ask?.

Before we can talk about socialisation we must define it and identify its foundation. Where does socialisation begin? Many believe it begins at school. They say the kids need to go to school “to learn social skills”. This is the first misconception. Socialisation doesn’t begin at school. It begins at home. If we leave it to the school to socialise our kids, then it’s like building a house on the sand. It has no foundation. Children learn how to deal with relationships at home where their parents are actively involved with them, guiding and correcting them when they step out of line.

I wasn’t home schooled. I went to a small, private primary school and a very large high school. One grade in my high school had as many kids as my whole primary school! And in both of those schools I remember kids who were very anti-social, quiet, lonely and introverted. Evidently, social skills have less to do with the school and more to do with home life. One thing I will say about home schooling is that it is the parents’ responsibility to give attention to the child’s social connectivity with family members in the home and with other kids through social events, sport, clubs, youth groups, church, family events with extended family, etc. according to the child’s needs.

At home they learn how to deal with conflict. You see, they can’t run away from a dispute with someone who lives in the same house. They have to deal with it. They need someone older and more experienced to coach them through the situation. And that’s what their parents are there for. At school they can just find another friend if they have a dispute with someone. It’s easier for them to walk away, but they never learn conflict management which is a vital skill in our society. And in a society that’s filled with classroom-educated people, it’s evident that the skill of conflict management is very lacking.

At home they learn to take responsibility for their actions. The parents can quickly pick up areas of their life that need correction or guidance. At school, parents are told not to interfere with the disciplining of the children (even their own children!). Only if the problem gets out of hand, then the parent gets a note from the teacher. By then it’s a big problem that could have been avoided. Granted, some kids get along easily with their friends and never really have any problems. But what about the one’s who have emotional challenges – these are the ones who need the guidance. They will often get told that they are lying, are rebellious, are naughty … They get called all kinds of names that never help them but rather break them down.

All skills can be learned anywhere. It’s not that they don’t learn these skills at school. The difference is that someone else is teaching your child by their standards, not yours. And if they have a good standard, that’s good. But if they have a wrong standard that disagrees with yours then they become a poor role model for your child. For one year they will be a role model for your child. Then next year your child will get a different role model. And so it will go on every year. And after 12 years of changing role models … Can you see it? … Yes … No consistency. I would like to believe that a school will have consistency in how they deal with matters, but that doesn’t happen in the real world … even in the top schools.

With consistency comes stability, security and surety. This builds a sure foundation in a child’s character. And this is achieved by the child having a few strong, reliable role models that are chosen by their parents who know what they need (and not a stranger who becomes their class teacher for 1 year and is chosen by yet another stranger who doesn’t know your child).

What about skills that the parent doesn’t have? Well, just like any other child who gets a sports coach or extra maths lessons, the parent enrolls the child in the sport or activity where they will learn those skills.

What if the parents are not good role models? That’s a tough one because it is every parent’s responsibility to provide for, teach, guide, correct and prepare their children for life. Sadly, this is also lacking in society. No matter whether you send them to a school or home school them, there is the risk of bad role models. So, I can only speak from my own experience. You see, I wasn’t home schooled. My parents owned a retail business. As kids, my siblings and I worked with our parents in the shop after school almost every day. Looking back on my life, I can say without hesitation that I learnt most of my life skills from working with my parents. I learnt a lot from school (and I had some good and bad role models in both schools), but the most important life skills and strong character I learnt from my parents, hands down! Then I had my own children and sent them to the best private school in our area. After a few years at the school we took them out and began home schooling them. And this is what I saw happening in my home … Suddenly we couldn’t leave the house to get away from any challenges or conflicts. They stared us in the face until we dealt with them. Now we had to deal with them because they were around us all day. We were forced to tackle conflict, make reconciliations, confront bad habits (not just the kids’ bad habits, but also the parents’ ?)! There was just no running away. What a great life skill to learn!

So, home schooled families don’t have perfect lives. No system is perfect except the Kingdom of God. Must every child be home schooled? No, not necessarily. Of my 3 children, one would still have flourished in a school, one would have flourished academically, but not socially, and one would have flourished socially, but not academically. From my experience I believe that every child is a candidate for home schooling, but not every child is a candidate for classroom-style schooling.