My wife Olga and I have now been involved in the home education business for as long as we have been married. As of April 5th we celebrated our 7th anniversary, which our little Genesis struggled with, calling ‘ammivassary’! Early on, one of the subjects we discussed was home education. As a result, we started meeting with a few (mostly) western families who were home educating before we got married.
The single-most frequently asked question people have consistently asked us is “How do you handle the aspect of ‘socialization’ for your home educated children?” The way this question is asked so frequently makes one wonder whether the essence of education is “socialization.” This whole notion of man being a social animal resonates so well with most people. Without making you think that our three children are perfect—far from it—I would love to respond to this topic in the following lines.
First and foremost, this question usually comes from an assumption that socialization for children takes place with fellow children and, for that matter, a school environment is the best place for this. This is not true per se; in any case, what happens in a school environment is that children will learn to socialize, simply put, with their peers. The way a school is structured is that four-year-olds interact with fellow four-year-olds most of the time, and so on. But that is not a true picture of socialization. Society does not constitute only our age-mates or peers for that matter. It is in the natural family (that is why it is the basic unit of a society) that we find people of different age groups socializing together.
In addition to that, the question of socialization comes from an assumption that home education means keeping one’s children only in their house or compound and that is all they do. Most of us who have resorted to home educate our children have a high appreciation for the reality that education is what happens throughout life. It is not isolated from life in general. It is everywhere. Home educators tend to be very intentional that where ever they are, they take advantage of “teachable moments.” In the Holy Scriptures we are guided by Moses as he instructs Jewish families to educate their children when they are seated at home, when they are on the road, when they are going to sleep, when they wake up (Deuteronomy 6). Unlike the “school” system, home education is not limited. It gives one the freedom to teach and learn everywhere you go. Most home educators take advantage of being with their children wherever they go. This gives children an opportunity not only to meet children of different age-groups, but also adults of all kinds, and they take advantage of socializing with them all.
I have had a privilege of doing a job that exposed me to a variety of schools in Uganda. But I would assure you that the children with the most confidence and the best interpersonal skills are those I have met that are home educated. Even if socialization were an issue to do with children interacting with fellow children, there are all kinds of possibilities for this to occur with home education! Remember that whatever we practice, we tend to make permanent. So if all that children are practicing in the name of socialization is play and interacting with mostly peers, this is what will become permanent for them. No wonder that when we meet them as adults after they have graduated from school, they cannot express themselves around other people besides their peers. Think about a group of only four-year-olds interacting with one another—what is it they will learn from each other apart from the “law of the jungle” (i.e. survival of the fittest)?
Admittedly so, man created in the image of God is a social being, with great need to live in society. Society should not be limited to only one’s home. We must appreciate that a home or a family is the natural educational ground, which God has ordained, with the purpose to learn the necessary social behavior they will need in larger society out of the home. Besides being social beings, man in God’s image is also spiritual, rational, volitional, emotional, intellectual, physical, and all these other aspect that must be developed to bring out a complete person. Unfortunately, the school environment has largely concentrated only on trying to develop the intellect at the expense of the others. Yet you and I know that life is much more than our intellectual development. If we fail to recognize this when our children are still in our care, we are destining them to regret it later in their lives, where it might be too late to turn the hands of the clock.
Godfrey and Olga Kyazze are home educators in Uganda involved in pioneering this form of education and strengthening education in general in East Africa. Send them an email.