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School Socialisation is Addictive

by Beverley Paine

From birth we are conditioned by the pervasiveness of the school system that it is necessary to be in the company of same aged children and that is how normal socialisation occurs. It isn't. It's warped and very unnatural.

No one hangs out with people all the same age year after year for 12-15 years, or didn't until compulsory education arrived only a dozen generations ago.

If every child was forced to drink cola for a dozen years and the natural alternative, water, was frowned on, drinking cola would become the social norm. After a few generations people would take it for granted that cola was essential to healthy development, despite mounting evidence that when consumed in these compulsory and large doses it was actually damaging and harmful. A few people would find cola doesn't affect adversely affect them and actually boosted their performance and enhanced their perception of success - these people would vigorously promote and promulgate the need for cola and call for greater regulation to ensure the benefits flow through to all children. However, the majority would exhibit some issues that would affect their overall health and performance but this lower standard would eventually be accepted as the norm. A few would suffer incredibly and a small amount of money might be spent trying to rehabilitate them and get them back into using it. Eventually no one would realise that their need for cola wasn't natural.

School socialisation is like that.

Because of our own school socialising experiences and those of our parents and their parents it is hard for us to feel okay about allowing our children to socialise differently.

We were taught that not having special or 'best' friends our own age means we are social failures. We're taught that the more special friends our own age we have the more successful we are: success based on popularity.

Because school is a competitive environment based on comparison the values upon which friendships are based are often distorted. For example, if our best friend this year is placed in another class next year we are no longer friends and don't hang out with each other during lunch and recess times, and possibly even after school. It's difficult to maintain the close relationship and we're expected to have friends within our own class.

School socialisation is based on the amount of time we spend with our friends. The frequency with which we are together with our friends is considered very important to maintaining those friendships. Constant companionship is reassuring because it proves loyalty which is more important than shared interests or personality.

Keeping up with the latest fashion and trends are important too. If one of our friends can't afford or her parents won't let her keep up with the latest fad then, in order to protect our 'image', we drift away from that friendship. It isn't socially good for us to be seen hanging out with 'losers'. We won't win the popularity contest that socialisation has become if we do...

Schools are deliberately structured this way. By alienating people from natural social situations, where friends are selected based on compatibility, interests, personal growth needs and companionship it is possible to manipulate whole sections of the population.

In the early years of school the bond between the child and the family (parents and siblings) need to be undermined so that the teacher and principal and school can replace the natural authority and responsibility of the family in order to manage large numbers of children.

Break that natural loyalty and the ties to family and you create additional consumers down the track, fodder for the 'economy'. In traditional societies where family bonds remain intact people - whole communities - share and recycle amongst themselves expensive resources. Economic 'growth' isn't the imperative that drives those societies.

If our children have been in the school system then they have been exposed to this very powerful and addictive socialisation process. The fact that we, their parents, have also been exposed and are in recovery means we are very vulnerable to self-doubt. We feel that what we are doing and asking of our children is radical. We feel that withdrawing our children from the socialising energies of school is a social experiment. In fact, in terms of human history compulsory schooling with its abnormal socialisation is the experiment. Given the increasing stress levels in society and accumulating incidences of mental illness I'd say the experiment is failing...

When we deschool our children and worry enormously that we're not meeting their needs, we can think about the cola example above. Our child might not be affected yet (or at all) by the addictive socialisation prevalent in society thanks to compulsory schooling and the attitude and beliefs it engenders. She might simply be an wonderfully social child who definitely needs a range of people in her life every day to thrive plus regular access to one or two special friends who are at the same developmental stage of life (not necessarily the same age!) Or she might be like the rest of us, craving something we've been coerced to believe we need, but when given in bulk and without alternatives, wears us out, makes us fractious and irritable, and leaves us confused, but still craving more.

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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