Friday, January 20, 2006

Learning to socialize

Daisy left this comment under my Pros and Cons of Homeschooling post. Her concern echos many that I have met so I thought it merited a post and not just left in the comments. She wrote,

As a less than outgoing future homeschooler, I am concerned that my son won't meet enough people outside our small social circle. It is (or seems to me to be) important for a child to learn to socialize with many different kinds of people. Socialization concerns are actually the only con on that list that worries me at all.
The myth that children who are homeschooled are not going to learn to socialize has been largely dismissed. It is necessary for our children to learn to get along with many different kinds of people. However, I don't think you need a large social circle, or a classroom, to learn proper social skills. In fact, I actually believe that can be a hinderance. How many of us interact with 20-25 people who are all the same age everyday for six hours? A classroom is a manufactured environment with little resemblance to the "real world".

Proper social skills are learned in a variety of formats. When a child learns to respect others, he can apply that to any age group. When a child learns to listen to another's opinion without getting angry, he can apply that to any age group. When a child learns to stand alone for what is right in the face of opposition, it can be applied to any age group.

My encouragement to you is to decide what you want your child to become and teach it to him. Let him learn and practice these skills in the home. As he masters the skill he will begin to apply it in the various situations he encounters. Don't look for the encounters without first teaching the skills. It is then that your child will learn the proper social skills. This is proactive parenting not reactive punishment. There is a place for correction but it should not be our only tool for teaching our children.

Our schools have it all backwards. We throw our children into a classroom and say sit still. Without ever teaching them how. We say be quiet when the teacher is talking without ever teaching them self control. Our cafeterias are filled with unruly children because in many cases no one took the time to teach them proper etiquette. We assume that they will just know it. The chaos in the cafeteria shows that they don't.

We would never think of expecting a surgeon to operate on a live human right after reading a book on human anatomy. First, we train him on a few cadavers to make sure he's got it down. Even someone in a less risky situation like a waitress receives some training before we throw her in front of hungry customers. Yet, somehow with our children we expect that they should "just know" what is expected of them.

The time to teach self control is not at a wedding buffet line. When your children spy the desserts but you want them to eat the meatballs. A battle erupts and no one ends up enjoying the meal. Teach and train them at home about what is expected of them. Let them practice and make their mistakes there. Don't let the situation do the teaching. Public situations are a blessing and a direct result of proper instruction before you leave the house.

Define for your family what it means to have a well socialized and disciplined child. Then begin to teach those disciplines (and more) first and then your child will be graceful in any social situation.

Previous related posts: Who's Missing Out

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