Saturday, October 23, 2010

Homeschooling an Only Child & the Socialisation Debate

Homeschooling an only child is wonderful!

As I have mentioned in previous posts most homeschooling families are made up of multiple children.
So homeschooling 1 child is quite rare. It has many positives.

Having one child means you are able to focus all your teaching time and attention on that child. Our lessons are very streamlined and flow smoothly. As she is still very young I most of my teaching is spent 1:1 with her. For tasks where she has to work independently, like writing practice, then I will watch her do the first couple of examples and then leave her to it.  I am then able to prepare the next lesson or catch up on household chores.

We have grown very close since we started homeschooling together. She and I have a motto that in our family we work together as a team. Normally she will follow me and help me with all the chores in the house, like putting washing on, hanging out the washing together, cooking & baking together etc. She has learnt that we all need to work together to keep the household running smoothly. She has a really great attitude & we often make games out of our chores, like racing to see who can put their clean washing away first.

Since we started homeschooling Seychelle's behaviour has improved dramatically. She is respectful towards us, kind and loving. She has learnt manners, how to speak to people, how to look after her belongings etc.  She had a number of character trait issues before we brought her home to school - most of these gone. Seychelle in some ways has a very different personality to me. I prefer to rush from A to B, forgetting to enjoy the journey. Seychelle prefers to take things very slowly, enjoying the journey of a task - stopping to smell the roses. Homeschooling has meant I have been able to appreciate her personality better. Before I found this part of her personality very challenging & frustrating - now I am appreciative of her as a little person, with a different personality to me, who goes about life in a more relaxed manner.  I realise that God has given me a daughter who in many ways challenges my areas of weakness and personality flaws. She has made me a better person.

There are many who question the socialization aspect of homeschooling in general, let alone homeschooling an only child. Seychelle is a very social child. She loves her friends. Homeschooling her has not "changed" this about her. She is still developing her social skills in the same way a child going to school would. Anywhere we go, Seychelle is able to easily make friends. Just yesterday we went out for lunch at a local restaurant and there was another little boy there. She confidently walked straight up to him, making easy conversation and being friendly. They played together the entire time we had lunch. Homeschooling has most definitely not caused her any social problems :)  Seychelle has regular playdates with friends & is a very happy child.  In ways we see that our daughter is more confident since being homeschooled. She no longer has to deal with issues of insecurity & fear that she may have had to handle or go through attending school.  She is 100% secure at home, where she is loved unconditionally & is schooled by someone who always has her best interests at heart. There is no-one who can love my child more than I do, as her parent.  Therefore no-one will be able to cater for her best educational interests more so than me. There is no teacher in the world that would be able to do what I can 1:1 for my daughter.  They just simply cannot! The time and focus that I can give my child is second to none.

I remember reading on a website once how ironic it is that we send our children to school to be "socialised". The irony is that when want our children to learn a skill we will send them to a professional skilled person in that area. For example if you want to teach your child to play the piano, then you will send them to a skilled piano teacher. The irony is that we send our children to school at the age of 5 to be socialised by other children of a similar age - who know very little about socialisation. Children and not mature people of social skills. Children need to be taught how to socialise from those who already have skills in these areas- adults. I thought this was very good moot point on the debate on socialisation problems in homeschoolers.

As we are a family of only 3, Seychelle has matured a lot in her speaking and understanding of matters that normally children of her age would have no exposure to. She is a very strong and decisive young lady. She has no problems with speaking to adults and holding conversation at a dinner table. She joins in the conversation just like Nick or I would.  I think the difference with an only child is that they have more opportunities for conversational input, which means she has developed confidence in this area quickly.

Seychele has developed a beautiful caring nature for all the animals in our neighbourhood. When I am busy in the house, Seychelle will spend her time outside playing with the goats, picking flowers, playing with the dogs etc. At times I have been immensely proud of her compassion & care towards animals. Living in Rarotonga has exposed us to many cases of 'in your face' animal neglect. She has learnt to come up alongside me and help many animals in a bad way. (She had to learn quickly not to get freaked out when we see seriously injured animals). She has learnt to look around for sick, injured animals or simply those in need of shade or a drink of water. She has also witnessed seeing her Dad and Mama stand up to people verbally who mistreat their animals. This is something we would never have had a chance to do in New Zealand.

Homeschooling an only child has been one of the most rewarding times of my life. It has brought our family very closely together. It has also given Seychelle the very best education she can have.