The thorny issue of “socialisation” is probably the most commonly misunderstood issue connected with any decision to home educate, and most certainly an issue you will need to address in some shape or form, since it will most likely be one of the first, if not the primary concern of grand-parents, neighbours and other interested on-lookers, as well as your local educational authority.
Although for many parents the danger of ‘negative socialisation’ in schools is one of the reasons leading to their decision to homeschool, it is often nevertheless taken for granted that children still need to be ‘socialised’ outside the family and, further, that the school model of socialisation in segregated peer groups is normal and healthy (a notion that I would seriously question).
However, taking the decision to effectively go ‘against the flow’ and homeschool can make one feel terribly isolated, especially at first. Therefore, most home educators in the UK join one of the nationwide support groups (of which Education Otherwise is the oldest and probably the largest), as well as local groups around the country. Many local or regional homeschool support groups meet on a regular basis, some as often as several times a week for various group activities, such as sports, art & craft, outings and purely social events), but also in order to tap a valuable resource of support and encouragement from like-minded (or at least ‘similar’-minded!)people, often with several years of experience of homeschooling behind them. An added advantage of Education Otherwise (as with the HSLDA in the US) is their access to a wealth of legal expertise relating to home education should you need it.
My experience has been running a local Christian group, in co-operation with the EO local group, and it has been one of lasting, enriching friendships and support, not just for us as parents, but also for the children. In my opinion, it has proved a far superior method of socialisation.
“Homeschool Co-operatives” may go a little further and actually meet every day in order to educate their children together, in a kind of “mini-school” environment, some even opting to call in an ‘expert’ to do the teaching instead of the parents themselves. Indeed, if you have a collective total of 5 children or more, it is possible to register your homeschool co-operative as a small school. This appears to be a popular scheme in America, but we tend to be less organised in the UK!
You may certainly find that there are advantages with this kind of arrangement, but please check out my list of potential problems before you decide to go down this route.
One advantage of both of these is pooling resources:in terms of knowledge & expertise, financial resources. For example, to enable the purchase of more expensive equipment such as microscopes or buying books in bulk to obtain reductions, and so on, as well as sharing existing resources.
The following is a consideration of some of the potential problems associated especially with Co-oping officially:-
Where do you stand?
In a Homeschool Co-op, unless you have some kind of contractual arrangement bywhich you all have to be bound, you may end up with problems knowing where you stand with each other: is this a formal business relationship or a relaxed, informal friendly arrangement – and if so, how long can it stay that way? Can you all be relied upon to ‘pull your weight’ equally?
Who’s in charge?
It seems to be human nature that equality is very hard to achieve! By its nature, a “homeschool co-operative” requires its members to co-operate, but this may take some doing. It might be worth each member having different responsibilities, but you may well find it necessary to appoint a “head”, if only to mediate in conflicts! This may pose a greater problem where all the families wish to teach the children together, and less so where the children are taught individually. Putting together a curriculum or teaching plan for the whole group will most likely take a great deal of planning and discussion (and who will teach?!).
If you decide to register your homeschool co-operative as a small school, you may find that you end up bound by exactly the sort of Government bureaucracy, including increased form-filling, monitoring and inspection, that homeschooling is able to avoid! You may not appreciate your freedom as a home educator until you lose it!
The ‘Back to Egypt’ Syndrome
To coin Rick Boyer’s phrase, homeschooling families often seem to fall into the trap of allowing the ‘support group’ to go beyond its ‘support’ remit and become a school alternative, even going so far as re-creating peer-age segregation and replacing the family as the primary source of socialisation and learning!
“The Socialization Trap” by Rick Boyer
“Scriptural Principles of Socialization“, tape by Jonathan Lindvall