September 22, 2023

How Can Home Educators Socialise an Only Child?

How Can Home Educators Socialise an Only Child?

by Craig Smith
We have six children, so I cannot speak from personal experience. But I have talked to a few and read others and offer the following for your consideration.
How much of what most of us think of negatively in relation to an only child is formed by our own experiences at school? The socialisation we experienced is immediately drawn upon subconsciously as the standard by which we will judge the issue of home educating an only child. There is an element of nostalgia attached to what we did, even though some of us had a lousy time overall at school and on the playground. We immediately think children need other  children without actually stopping to think about it. And therefore, in the case of an only child, he or she would most definitely need to be around other children for there are no built-in sibling socialisers.
Think of the typical classroom. The mix you get is not of your choosing. There may be some lovely children there. It is also true that they may not be all that lovely by the end of a year of bullying or being the bully, intimidation, rivalry, humiliation, learning how to gangup on others, tease the odd-balls or be teased, etc. There may, in fact, be few other children there who you’d want influencing your child, assuming those few could do so positively in the school environment and not themselves be drawn into the negative and aggressive behaviours and survival techniques.
Think of the children in your neighbourhood. We used to have some nice kiddies our children could happily play with. No more: our street is populated by some undesirable types, and we’ve noticed that all children seem to be far less conspicuous than they used to be, possibly because they spend more time watching TV or doing computer games. We also know that there is a growing number of acutely dysfunctional “families” and other ad hoc groups out there, some more than a little perverted in their ways. These are found both in the schools and in our neighbourhoods. It could well be that the friends the only child’s parents would choose are from church or other Christian friends anyway.
Note I said the parents would choose the friends. This is an element of socialisation that comes to the fore when you stop to think it through carefully. Normal practise is to let children find and keep their own friends. Yet we all know about coming under the influence of a “friend” who really only teaches us bad habits, disrespectful attitudes and fosters in us an appetite for forbidden fruits. When you factor in the high levels of obscenities, nakedness, immorality and violence that many parents allow their children to be exposed to these days, being a lot more strict about who you let your child mix with is no longer seen as paranoia. In fact, if we are endeavouring to disciple our child for the Lord Jesus Christ, training him or her in godliness and righteousness, we will acknowledge it does not happen all by itself or with a wee bit of Bible reading here and Scripture memory there with something tossed in for them at church on Sunday. No, there will be a constant and consistent guiding, training, modelling and molding. You are hand-crafting this child to take on the lifetime career of Ambassador for the King of Kings. To achieve the best result we most certainly do not leave things to chance: we choose their friends.
Here is another area that will not look after itself, but one that we parents need to supervise, think about and become creative in order to finish the race as the Lord directs us to do: striving for excellence. Excellence means out of the ordinary, straining toward and surpassing higher standards. What are our standards for our child’s socialisation? Have we ever even thought about it? Let’s list a few: respectfulness to all, especially the aged; the ability to converse with much older and much younger people; showing deference to others, that is, letting others go first, especially women and children; having a servant heart toward others; having a clean sense of humour and one that does not laugh at another’s humiliation or character assassination; knowing how to choose conversation topics that are not centred on self but are edifying to all and/or inquiring after another’s welfare and interests; knowing how to avoid and/or direct conversations and proposed activities away from inappropriate themes.
This requires training in discretion and judgement, learning how to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad, wise and unwise. Now please notice: as soon as you embark on such a journey, you will immediately incur the wrath of a great portion of our society, for they have been indoctrinated into Political Correctness which says one must never discriminate or be judgemental. Therefore, understanding why you do certain things, learning how to stick to your guns and resist peer pressure are also essential ingredients of socialisation. Again, these things do not happen by themselves. We parents need to work on these things ourselves and seek out other like-minded parents of children from whom our child would glean good things and to whom our child could be a blessing.
There is often concern about your child having a close friend or a best friend. Again, much of the thinking around this subject is coloured by rose-tinted glasses and an illdefined nostalgia for getting up to fun things and sharing secrets. A bit of this is surely ok….too much is unhealthy, especially when the fun things progress (downhill, as any unsupervised activity is likely to do) past “high jinx” and into naughtiness, destructiveness, vengeance, etc. The obvious on-the-spot solutions are being yourselves (Mum and Dad) your child’s best friend. Since your attentions are not divided among many children, take advantage of the opportunity to invest heavily into this one child. Spend lots of time together reading all those incredible books out there, investigating everything that comes to mind by staging another impromptu field trip, impart skills a 7-year-old would normally never have (how to weld, drive a sewing machine, analyse the power bill and balance the cheque book.
What about team activities? Join one or start your own. Sports can be a bit of a bind with weekly practises plus weekend games. Music groups will expect regular attendance, but missing one does not cause the same crisis as missing a soccer forward. Submitting to the grind of coming up with a fresh programme every single week need not happen if you run your own club. Institutionalising fun things can drain the fun out of them. Staging your own activity only as often as you can fit it in, without sacrificing other priorities or suffering burnout, can in fact allow everyone concerned to fully savour the anticipation and planning, as well as the execution and afterglow stages, of an occasional wellplanned event, rather than settling for the hurried, slapped-together offering of the traditionally institutionalised programme dished up relentlessly every week or fortnight. This is not to say one should be slack in meeting commitments or wary of making them. It’s an alternative to the regular scheduling society expects which so often becomes a bind due to its inflexible nature. The social benefits of club commitments may not be worth being a slave to the calendar.

From Keystone Magazine

January 2004 , Vol. X No. 1
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Palmerston North
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