Home schooling can be highly beneficial to a child’s educational development. Children receive tuition either one-to-one or in small groups, meaning that they often gain from more personal attention than those learning in the school environment where large class sizes are often the norm. Classes, tasks and learning styles can be easily adapted to suit the needs of the individual child,so academic progress is often swift and substantial.
Home-schooled children can miss out on some of the benefits of spending their weekdays in a bustling school environment, however. Many parents of home schooled children worry that their offspring may miss out on a healthy, normal social life. This need not be the case, though. We caught up with Tash Young – a mother who home schools her 12-year old son Richard – to find out how she ensures her child stays sociable, motivated and connected.
When you first decided to home school Richard, were you worried that he might miss out on a social life?
Of course, I was terrified! But those worries were useful, looking back. It meant that I did everything I could to ensure Richard enjoyed regular contact with boys and girls his own age, made friends and learnt how to be social. It was always on my radar.
How did you set about making that happen?
It was difficult to know where to start but I approached it from a number of angles. I asked Richard to think about his hobbies and interests and we made a list of his top three. We then set about looking for local clubs that catered to these interests. I made sure Richard was involved when it came to choosing the clubs he might like to join. In the end, he opted for football, martial arts and a kid’s book group. Kids at these clubs come from a variety of different local schools, so Richard has never felt left out. He’s made lots of friends through classes, discussions and matches and is keen to join the local tennis club next year, too.
What other steps did you take?
Word of mouth played a large part. I was keen for Richard to meet other home schooled kids. I asked friends if they knew of anyone in the area. I also looked at regional online forums and even approached parents we saw out and about with their kids during school hours! It’s important to be proactive, I think. You need a bit of confidence but it pays off in the end.
What sort of relationship do you and Richard have with the other home-schooled families in the area?
A close one! There’s a family in our village who have a home schooled son and daughter. When the weather’s fine, we often meet up in the local park and have an unofficial games lesson together. We play rounders or run races – things like that. Joyce, the kid’s mum, is brilliant at maths so she is tutoring Richard alongside her own kids. In return, her kids come to mine once a week and I teach them cookery and arts and crafts. It’s a skill swap!
Does Richard have friends over for play dates?
He does. After a couple of months of attending his sports clubs, I suggested he ask a gang of the boys over for tea. They made burgers from scratch together and then thoroughly enjoyed eating them! That set the ball rolling. Now he has a good handful of friends that regularly come round for food and fun and he often goes to theirs, too.
Have you come across any difficulties?
Whilst Richard has a good number of friends his age, he does miss out on some experiences he might otherwise get at school. He is rarely in a large group, for example. I make sure he gets out of his comfort zone now and then, though. He attends group drama sessions in the summer holidays, for example. I know that, for home schooled children, socialization is just as important as a healthy social life. I make sure that Richard knows how to behave appropriately in a range of situations. If he comes across a difficult social situation, as indeed any child might at school, we’ll talk it through afterwards and think of positive steps to take next time.
Tash has taken a proactive approach to ensuring Richard is stimulated socially, as well as academically so that he doesn’t miss out on the things his school-taught friends get to experience. She’s even arranged a French pen friend for him with whom he’ll be enjoying an unofficial exchange holiday! With a little imagination and perseverance, it is possible to ensure that home schooled children get the balance between work and play just right.