Socialization for children growing up without school

Often I and many other parents who do not send their children to school face this question repeatedly…

“What about socialisation?”

Depending on who is asking the question and what the real intentions of the person asking the question is, I frame my answer.

If the person’s intention is to see how convinced I am about this then I just say “Yeah what about it?” Simply because I do not need external validation or approval anymore since I am living this life and the results are in front of me.

If the intention is to see if my children are social misfits and unfriendly then I ask them, “Are you planning to unschool?” The answer generally is NO. And the buck stops at that.

However if the intention is genuine and enthusiastic curiosity then I have this to say:

Socialisation is the bane of human kind. The need to socialise at all times has left us handicapped in staying with our own company. Almost every human being is afraid and paranoid of being alone with himself or herself. It is too uncomfortable to be alone. No one to talk to, no one to listen to but simply being with one’s own self and one’s own inner voice and mind is a scary option for most.

We as human being are ready to indulge in mindless chatter, arguments, discussion which more or less leads none of us anywhere. Once the excitement of the company is over, and it is time to go back home alone… the loneliness creeps back and the fervor of the party can no longer sustain us.

So we sleep it off and hope to make it to the group again. For people who have jobs and go to workplace, weekends are a torture chamber. The restlessness starts from Friday evening and the whole family is pushed here and there to start planning parties, gatherings, to keep each other distracted from each other. If you are single there are various other options to keep company.

Forget about one’s own company it is more difficult to be in the company of family members also. There is so very little familiarity and knowledge of each other’s needs and desires and interests that being in close proximity with a family member is an avoidable option.

I often ask people who ask me this question, “What is a real life social set up like?”

For example in your workplace do you mingle only with colleagues who are 25 years of age? When you go to a social gathering do you talk only to people who are of say 40 years of age? Does the department of an organisation have workers who are of one particular age? Do you prefer to make friends only when he or she is 60 years old because you are also 60? Does a nation at any given point of time have only 13 year olds?

Then why subject our children to grow up in artificial environment where 40 to 50 children of the same age are made to ‘socialise’ and stay closeted in a room for 8 hours in a day.

Peer group is a group which has youth of similar age group. It is assumed that they have similar interests, similar goals, similar tastes in fashion, speak the same lingo, have similar tastes in music, art and literature. They see the same kind of films and listen to the same rock bands.

No wonder parents find themselves more and more alienated with adolescent children. Most parents do not have the same characteristics as the peer group. Most parents have lost their children to the peer group. When it comes to choosing between the views and opinions of the parents and the peer group, 99% of the time the peer group prevails. The peer group is the group which sustains the child till he or she is ready to go out into the ‘REAL’ world, a world which has individuals from dissimilar peer groups and ages and social backgrounds and culture. That is where the discord and disharmony begins. And the feeling of alienation starts to creep in. The need to belong keeps nagging and the longing is unbearable at times.

By then the individual is incapable of sustaining himself or herself without external support. Parents are already strangers, peer group friends are all scattered, the pressures of work and higher pursuits take a toll on the individual who is dependent on others so heavily for mental and social support that he or she is now at a loose end. Soon one realises that many of the choices made under peer pressure were actually not intrinsic to the individual’s true nature… Some of us become extremely competitive and defensive…some of us are disoriented and spent a lot of time figuring out a way to reconnect with that essential true nature. Some of us just get lost forever.

One is so used to being in a group which has similar tastes and views on everything on earth, to be in a real relationship with another man or woman with differences is difficult.

In families, who unschool, the children spend their time with themselves and with adults who are their principle care givers.  The children interact with adults who are genuinely interested in their world and are not passing on that responsibility to teachers and instructors. Even when these children start to attend classes outside home, the child often chooses the teacher or instructor. The children learn to be silent in their own company. There are no crutches. The children figure out their inner world and all that they need to sustain themselves. No one is pushing him to do otherwise.

The children are comfortable to be around adults. The relationships they form with others outside their families are based on common interest and passions and not just age.

With children who are unschooled I often find that when they do go out to join classes they actually extract the maximum out of their instructors. Because they have themselves made the choice to be in that class.

My son can have a perfectly fluent conversation with any adult who is interested to know what interests him. He has friends who are older than him, younger than him and of the same age. He likes a particular friend of mine because she is French and he has a keen interest in France because of Eiffel Tower. He will speak uninhibited about his passions, which could range from films to ships, to pirates, to countries and the latest toy he has bought.

My 10 year old daughter can play long hours with a girl who is 5 years old or talk about films and fashion with a 13 year old. On a holiday to Pune, 14 year old daughter of my host neighbour found my daughter interesting enough to invite her for a girls’ only slumber party to watch a film. They exchanged personal stories about the separation of their respective parents and before we left they exchanged email ids and mobile numbers!

When I get friends from abroad, my daughter speaks to a 20 something woman about jewellery and fashion. My son shares his passion for tall towers of the world with a 20 something man form USA. The other day at a homeschooling meet I overheard my 5 year old son narrating the story of a film to another homeschooling mom. Both my children love to baby sit.

Of course there are children who are unschooled who keep to themselves also. That is fine too. They come out when they feel the inner need or urge to. And when they do they know exactly who to be with. They make conscious choices of what company to keep and what not to keep. Years of un-rushed and unhindered time and space given to silently explore one’s own inner world and inner expression make these children self-assured. I find unschooled children have better clarity about, who they are and what they need and what they do not. It is not a false sense of self. It is very very real and organic. And it is not looking for any group approval or validation. It is self-validated. For most unschoolers it is a spiritual journey to the essential Self – The Self which is at ease alone and in a crowd.

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