November 9, 2011

But...what about their social skills?

Here is how this conversation usually goes:

-So, what year is Isabel in school now?

-She is in kindergarten. Isn’t that crazy?

-Oh, yes, they grow up so fast, don’t they? Is she liking school? Do you have her in a private Christian school?

-No, actually, I homeschool.

-Oh (said with a sad look). My sister/friend/neighbor/aunt/obscure relative homeschooled. My, those poor children had NO social skills!

Screeeeeech. Arrrrghhhh. Hiiiiiisssss. Sigh.

We went to a party not long ago where Isabel did not know many of the children. She knows just what to do, this social butterfly. She quickly approached a little girl and said: “Would you like to play with me? I’m Isabel.” The little girl looked at her, said nothing, and ran away. Isabel tried this a few more times with other little girls, with similar results, before finding a kindred spirit. I watched and thought: My child, the homeschooled one with NO social skills, knows how to approach a stranger and start a friendship.

Later that day there was a situation where a child accidentally pushed Isabel causing her to fall hard on the ground. The child who did the pushing walked away without apologizing or helping Isabel to get up. My tender-hearted child asked me why the little girl did not apologize. In our home this would not be tolerated behavior and she knew it. I tried to explain that in different homes different rules apply. A few minutes later I overheard her go up to the little girl who had pushed her and say: “You didn’t say you were sorry when you pushed me, but I forgive you.” A hug followed and I thought: My child, the homeschooled one with NO social skills, knows that not apologizing is not right and that we forgive nonetheless.

To say that a child has poor social skills BECAUSE they are homeschooled is a misconception. I taught public high school for many years and I met plenty of children who had been in regular schools all their lives and yet lacked the proper social skills to interact with peers and adults. As a former public school teacher and current homeschooling mom I have come to believe that the choice of schooling has no impact in the proper or improper socialization of children.

Honestly, I think that parental example and guidance are much more influential in how children learn to interact with other children and adults. Matt and I work hard not only at teaching Isabel how to develop and foster friendships but also at providing her with plenty of opportunities to be with other children and put her learning to work. School is not the only place where children can meet with other children. A traditional classroom is not the only place where they can be exposed to other adults as authority figures. It does take work and planning but having lots of friends with little children helps. My kids are sociable because I am sociable.   

The thing is, I’ve been thinking about what properly socialized means. I bet if I sent her to public school I will stop hearing stories about “lack of social skills” any time I have the schooling conversation. But will that mean she will then be properly socialized? Is a child properly socialized simply because they attend public school even if they don't know how to respond to a polite greeting or how to apologize to a friend they’ve hurt? Does properly socialized mean my daughter will blend in well with other five year olds having the same mannerisms, dress, and behavior both positive and negative?

I read an article not long ago in which a coach was asked about homeschooled children who want to join the public school teams. Here is what he had to say:

“Those kids are nothing but problems. They’re not socialized. We had one boy who wanted to go out for football because that’s something you really can’t do at home, and when he got to the locker room, the other kids found out he didn’t even know how to snap a towel or give a wedgie. That’s the problem with homeschooling.”

According to that coach properly socialized means learning to be as crude and as mean as the other children in that team. No, thanks. Properly socialized is about respect for others, self-confidence, social graces, and for those of us who call Christ our foundation, it is also about all that Do Unto Others and Love Your Neighbor encompasses. 

So, this momma will keep schooling her children at home, not only on math and language arts, but also on becoming the type of person who makes the world a little better, even if I have to hear a thousand more stories of children with NO social skills


Debbie said...

This is an excellent post, and I love the illustration about the coach because THAT is exactly what I have tried to convey (unsuccessfully mostly) to folks. If by "socialized" one means worldly with a theft of sweetness, than by all means, give me an "unsocialized" child any day.

I didn't homeschool. My girls went to a small Christian school, and we navigated many of the same comments. We also had tons of friends who homeschooled, and I can say without contradiction that they were all unique. There was no stereotypical kid.

But, I preach to the choir. I can say the same thing over and over and folks won't hear it.

So I just usually ignore it.

Debbie said...

Goodness. I didn't mean to write a novel.

Unknown said...

Pretty sure your girl is THE most social 5almost6 year old I've ever met. I know social and nonsocial homeschooled kids. I know social and nonsocial public school kids. Clearly, where they go to school isn't impacting their sociability.

Gaby said...

Ha, Debbie! You did not write a novel. Thank you for commenting :) It seems as if when people meet a child with poor social skills who happens to be homeschooled, they latch on to that.

Heather, you're right. I've been around enough homeschooled kids now to have seen the gamut.

Kathleen T. Jaeger said...

Great illustration of a homeschooler's socialization skills. I do think through a lot of responses from people and what they think and how many of what people say requires educating them on a different way of educating. Hmmm...and that sounds like a familiar theme on your blog -- responding graciously to help others learn about a different way of life.

Thanks for sharing!

Deborah said...

I've really come around in my views of homeschooling. When I was a kid, I thought like those people do, that homeschooled kids were weird (I did know one who was REALLY weird, but she doesn't speak for all homeschooled kids).

As an adult, I've met people who homeschool their kids and am astonished at those kids' social grace, curiosity, and knowledge. I'm envious of the way these kids get to learn so much experientially and of the important lesson these kids learn, that learning doesn't only have to happen in a classroom. I hate to think of J sitting still at a desk all day. Alas, I'm not a teacher and while I love the idea of him getting that kind of education, being the one to impart it doesn't sound appealing to me. I'm hoping I can find a school that meets all my ideals...

Gaby said...

Kathleen, what a sweet comment! I had not really thought about it that way, but I guess I do get to do that a lot simply by the choices we have made with our lives.

Deborah, I hope you can find that kind of school as well but if you don't, I have read enough of your blog to know that you expose J to so many cool experiences that he will grow up very well-rounded just by living with you!

Christy said...

Everything you say is so true! I often think about what "socialized" means and wonder how "natural" it is to be able to run with 30 other kids your own age.

Isn't it more natural to be able to converse and interact appropriately with people of ALL ages? I am always impressed with my homeschool friends' children who can play happily with a baby AND with people 4 years their senior. And I make that a goal for my children as well.

Life requires us to interact with everyone, not just the 30 other kids in our classroom. I have seen many kids who are schooled be unable to speak with adults respectfully or play with someone younger or older.

Katie said...

I also have come around in my views of homeschooling. I knew 1 kid who was home-schooled growing up, and as a public school teacher I felt like families that were involved, supportive, and engaged in their child's learning were pulling them out of the public school. I often wondered how the schools would ever recover if all of the (for lack of a better term) "good" families kept pulling their kids out and putting them in private schools or home-schooling them. The more I see the schools change though, and the more I get closer to being a parent, the more positives I see in home-schooling. What a great opportunity as a parent to disciple your children while also being able to teach them completely individualized curriculum. I dropped by a home-schooling family members' house last year and was refreshed to see one of her kiddos sitting in the sun outside during her work, and another one sitting at the dining room table working on math. It was not the chaotic or rushed, but calm and pleasant. And they have 5 kids! I still don't know where our kids will go to school, but I have certainly become more open-minded the more I consider all of the different options. As always, thanks for sharing your experiences Gaby!

Jennifer said...

Great post, Gaby. Isabel sounds very mature for her age, which obviously reflects Matt and your good parenting.

As a former public school teacher and now the parent of one in private Christian school, I would say parenting is one of the, if not the biggest factor as far as the education kids receive.

Our society in general distrusts or just doesn't understand that which is the 'norm.' Thank goodness for people like you to set us straight! ;)