Social Skills Lost...
Initially, when the “homeschooling” thought surfaced, I laughed it off. Like a pressing gnat, signs were becoming more clear that this was the route I was supposed to go. I prayed a lot and toiled over the pros and cons with my husband…a lot. We mutually decided that this would be the best choice for our family.
Outsiders wondered why…our daughter was a 4th grader with an average GPA of 3.5 and was on student council. She was loved by her teachers and administrators; however, completing homework was a nightmare, foundational skills weren’t mastered, and her writing did not align with her large vocabulary. My husband and I found that when she was faced with a challenge, she would fall apart. We knew this was not the norm. It just wasn’t adding up…
On the other hand, our son was at least a grade level ahead. He was eager to learn, constantly complaining about persistent boredom at school and finishing homework in 5 minutes or less. Make no mistake, his teacher did an amazing job to keep him engaged, but it simply was not enough. Our options were to test to skip him ahead, or to let it ride because of the widespread belief that “boys are less mature than girls.” While I don’t think this guy is less mature, I think he is pretty wild…but that’s another story.
Announcing our choice to homeschool garnished mixed reviews from family and friends. Side-eyes and widened stares were often the initial response. Glaring proclamations about our brevity to choose to be with our kids for unlimited amounts of time followed the initial response. However, we decided to forge ahead while sticking with the original plan. Time and time again, we heard from others, “what about your child’s social skills?” We even heard magical stories about children that were homeschooled “lacked appropriate social skills.” From a speech and language standpoint, I understand extensively how pragmatics “aka” social skills work, so this idea puzzled me a bit. I shook the comments off, steered clear from defending, and allowed their opinion to be fully voiced.
Undoubtedly, I reflected on their opinions, wondering…”did people think the children would be uniquely isolated in a room with me while I caged them off from the world?” “Or did they believe that my husband and I would be there only peers?” After going through one thousand questions in my mind, silently defending my views, and leveraging our decision…I concluded that most concerns were out of love and a lack of knowledge. It may be misguided…even misplaced…but primarily out of love…and heck…everyone has a right to their own opinion.
Nevertheless…it got me thinking about social skills. It got me thinking about how our thoughts are shaped around the establishment of social skills-and let’s be frank…I wanted to debunk myths that social skills are primarily cultivated on the playground.
Truth 1: Social skills are learned at home, not at school. Before a sugar enters a daycare, preschool or classroom setting, home is where our sugars acquire early social skills. They learn how to greet, have conversational exchanges, engage, empathize, love, and everything in-between. As they become older, they continue to learn from family members more complex interactions (e.g., conflict resolution, handling grief, problem solving, interpersonal relationships, building, cultivating and nurturing friendships). Rarely do you hear adults proclaim, “I act just like Timmy on the playground from 5th grade.” We typically hear, “I act just like my mom,” or “just like my dad.” This is for a reason. These are the individuals that shape your thoughts, ideas, and how you respond to the world around you.
Truth 2: Children bring what they learn from home and adapt it to the school setting. Everything your sugar learns at home is taken to the playground. Think about it…you know the “good kids,” “challenging kids,” “quiet kids,” “cursing kids,” “fighting kids,” and so forth. Again, this behavior comes from home. Now, other children may pick up on this behavior at school and try to bring it home; however, what they bring from home comes from the playground.
In my experience, I had to do more damage control from the playground. Sometimes the responses, morals, values did not align. This became a teachable moment or a catalyst for a conversation. Needless to say, the playground did not add a lot of value for their relatability to the world.
Truth 3: Children will exhibit difficulties relating to other children. This is ludicrous! Children learn through the world around them. As parents, what we display at home is what they will exhibit to the world. Or what we allow them to take in is what they will emulate. Have you ever observed a toddler at the park? They are happy as can be, and even more excited when a peer comes around. Within minutes, these two are playing as if they’ve known one another for years. Children are easily able to adapt to their peers.
Are there exceptions to the rule? Absolutely! However, it is our job as parents to provide opportunities for our children to see same age peers or have opportunities to socially engage with same age peers.
Take yourself back to your school playground. There were kids that did not want to be bothered. There were kids who did not relate to others and they spent years in the same classroom as you. There are adults in this world who spent 12 years in formative school and still don’t relate to same age peers.
In essence, we cannot overgeneralize that homeschoolers don’t relate to others because they are not in a traditional classroom setting.
World changers, we cannot lose sight of the purpose of the educational setting. It is the role of the school to educate our children. Socializing is an added benefit, not the purpose of that institution. My social skills did not come from school. It was time spent with my family and neighborhood friends.
Am I saying that relationships are not built in school, absolutely not! What I am saying is that we cannot rely solely on educational institutions to be responsible for cultivating socialization.
In my families case, we wanted to provide more for our childrens educational needs. The educational institution did the best it could, but we simply wanted more. We understood that their social skills would be nurtured by playing with peers outside of school settings. We also understood that intentionality would be devoted to creating opportunities for them to relate to others that they genuinely connect with.
We understand and respect that this is not the path for everyone.
Since homeschooling, our children have not changed. They are still goofy, rambunctious, congenial, loving, creative and excited about almost everything silly. But, that is what we have cultivated in our home. That is what we have driven and those are the gifts they share with the world. We don’t regret our choice to homeschool. We still believe it was the best decision we could have made.
So…during this time, don’t worry about whether your child will lose their social skills. As a unit, you will have to create new ways for your child to hang out with their friends. We all are at this point. They are still learning from their strongest model…you…
Take care, C