Sunday, November 30, 2008

Socialisation? It's difficult..

.. sometimes I have to break off from chatting to my friends to see to the children!

No, seriously, I love my children and I socialise with them all the time. We play, eat, live and work together at home, most days of the week. We are certainly, like most home educators, closer than your average family.

But when we go out to mingle with other people, you wouldn't necessarily get that impression. Especially if there's some child-oriented activity going on, the children are happy to leave me without a backwards glance and I'm happy to sit and relax and chat with other parents.

Sometimes at home ed meetings this approach of mine has drawn raised eyebrows, to say the least. The best kind of home educating parent is apparently involved with all of their children's activities, all the time. They deny themselves the luxury of indulging their own socialisation needs - or perhaps attend to those when their children are asleep, I don't know - and want to stay right by their children's side at social events.

I have actually been told off by another parent, in years gone by, for pulling up a chair to chat instead of assisting my [quite capable] child's group collaging attempts. Hmm. Maybe I'm just selfish and disruptive. I certainly don't mean to be - we were chatting very quietly, in a corner that was out of the way of everyone else, but apparently it Wasn't Good Enough. *Rolls eyes..*

And I do keep a watchful eye open. OK, maybe I don't see and hear everything, but aren't our children entitled to any privacy from us? As long as we know where they are and they seem happy, do we have to be there by their side absolutely all the time? I suppose I trust other people to let me know if any of my children are causing a problem that I didn't see, and they look out for each other to a large extent as well.

If I hovered more closely, I think it would irritate them. They'd feel sort of obliged to try to involve me in their games and it would certainly cramp their style. I've tried it sometimes and it doesn't feel right, for them or me. They just want to go off and play. Like me, they like to know roughly where I am and that I'm happy and enjoying myself with my peer group, then they feel free to do the same.

And seriously, home educating parents need to socialise too. Even feistily independent and self-contained ones like me. It feels so good to just sit down with like-minded people and have a right old chat. Most of the time we're at home on our own with our children, focusing on their every need. It wouldn't be healthy not to have a break from that from time to time. We need to be happy and refreshed to serve our children well, no? And to forge bonds and links with other parents in the same way as our offspring do with their children.

Some gatherings we've been to over the years have been very isolating events, consisting of little separate family groups each availing themselves of the activity on offer and very little communication from one family to another. But it's been a long time since we experienced this - we tend to give those kinds of events a wide berth nowadays. And actually our preference is to stay at home for most of our time. There's so much for us to do here, it's comfortable and convenient and we get quite a lot of visitors.

I do hope I haven't offended anyone here - except the bossy lady who told me off in Leeds about 7 years ago. If she's reading, I don't mind offending her ;-) But everyone else - well, I know some brilliant, exemplary parents and obviously we're all doing the very best we can. I absolutely don't want to criticise anyone else - just to speak out in defence of what I do, as usual. Sadly, it's difficult to do the latter without seeming to do the former.


Blogger Clare said...

I think our he group would be right up your street (metaphorically, obviously, being geographically in a completeky different part of the country!). We are always being brought various children by a helpful he'd teenager because of a grazed knee or something. How can they make their own friends and have their own privacy if we don't allow them the space to do so?

Our group is mostly about socialising, though - a chance for children and adults to get together and make/maintain friendships. We do provide activities, but they are not the 'main event' as it were.

I'd personally be concerned about a parent who had to be with their child the whole time. So long as you're there for them if they need you - that's what children need.

5:35 pm, November 30, 2008  
Blogger 'EF' x said...

A happy medium is needed methinks. I bristle at parents who give me the eyebrow for being uninterested in my kids goings on if I am in a larger group, and say deep in conversation with someone else (could be child or adult or dog), I can't stand all that hands on stuff when there is a group of parents with their kids, cos the kids end up looking like puppets.

But equally, I've had enough of the so called 'ideological' set, often those who are the fiercest autonomy flag wavers (also campaigning attachment parents) who have fallen on me like a pack of vultures at social events for 'intervening'. Apparently, my 'intervening' as in (just one example) "Hey Tarquin,(not childs real name) could you get the f!!! off my kids head, you are way to be heavy to be sitting on it like that and he cannot speak for himself at this point because you are suffocating him?!?"-is offensive to those who wish to allow their kids to run free/riot to 'find themselves'.

I mean, also, my experience of my own brood is that each child is different. My youngest just happens to know what he likes and can 90% of the time navigate around without our 'deciding' for him or leading the way. (Exception being when we step in when he turns into an ar!e just before he falls asleep, then firemans lifts etc are needed for good reason.

But another of our children needs constant conversation and feedback. He flounders without someone else being on the ball,he doesn't benefit from being forced into self governing and needs a reassuring hand on a shoulder or a 'quiet word' if social situations overwhelm him.

The nasty reactions I have had over the years from more 'relaxed' parents who don't have children of different needs has made me realise that it doesn't really matter what our approach, home birth hospital birth, quality time, all the time: each parent has to find a way to parent each child approprately and this can be so varied.

I pride myself on knowing a really varied bunch of parents, and the ones I get on with are no 'one' thing, except humble and understanding.

To look askance at a parent because they don't do it our way is tremendously undermining and disrespectful and it makes social gatherings uncomfortable.

I say: vive la difference!

However, I gotta say, I find the unprincipled uneducated parents a lot easier to be with since the treat any one doing something unusual as an interest and not as ignorant. I am tired of both extremes in parent groups, those who think kids should run totally unchecked and those who feel they have to be in on every tiny developmental stage their child becomes engaged in.

Problem with theories of child rearing is that they are too rigid.

6:07 pm, November 30, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

We've always run our local group like that Clare - but sadly the room hasn't been available lately. Must remember to give them a ring this week..

We have provided activities from time to time, but I'm hopeless at introducing or encouraging from the top down, as it were. Some of the best things we've done have come from the children themselves - they've had some great ideas.

It's weird though - even the centre managers seemed to be against us socialising. They took our chairs away! (It's a big room, used by other groups for sports like badminton etc.)

EF, "Vive la difference!" - definitely. I wouldn't prescribe or judge anyone for wanting to stay near their children in social situations. As you say, parents know their children best and some children probably need it. I seem to think mine have too from time to time.

Yep, come to think of it, I'm generally anti any kind of "We must do it this way.." ethos. Not that I've come across such a thing for a long long time, thankfully.

I think there can be problems at meetings sometimes when people have different agenda though. Like, some activities are arranged specifically with the intention that there should be a lot of parental involvement.. then someone like me turns up, gets out her deckchair and starts nattering with her nearest neighbour. Hmmm, yes, I can see how that could be annoying.

6:43 pm, November 30, 2008  
Blogger mamacrow said...

I totally agree. My children - even the younger, less verbal ones - are all totally able to attract my attention when they want to. They revel in being able to go off confidently - because I'm still in the room.

(another counter argument I have to the one about school increasing independence and getting them to detatch from you. too much too soon too forced, in my opinon.

And I could go on about son no 4 - slung him every where, and he liked to go in his cradle at 6pm every night and go to sleep BY HIMSELF and sleep for an hour or two, no crying whatsoever, from a day or so old. Found out quite by chance when I put him down for a second the first time to grab something. He obviously didn't read the bit about how pandering to their needs means they never 'learn' to go to sleep by themselves. phooey. but I digress.)

The problem I have with our local main home ed group gathering (that I now rarely attend, going to the newly set up alternative geared towards younger children) is the polar opposite problem to yours Gill, in that a large majority of parents seem to pay no attention what so ever to what their children are doing (too busy socialising themselves) and unfortunately, they usually happen to be parents of the children inclined to snatch and name call.

10:35 pm, December 06, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

My older children are the same, Mamacrow! Isn't it great? I've blogged a bit about it today, actually. (Though never had one do what your no.4 son did!)

Hmm, I'm wondering now whether my children are snatching, name-callers. I don't think they are. Everyone seems happy when I look over at what's going on. The trick is probably - as ever - to get a happy balance, isn't it? In this case: somewhere between neglect and paranoia.

9:32 am, December 07, 2008  

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