I have no business teaching any kid social skills. I have terrible social skills, and my younger son, the one who does not have Asperger’s Syndrome, just amazes me when he can make conversation with anyone. My younger son should be giving us all lessons in social skills. But the truth is that I’m not even sure someone with Asperger’s will learn, because we don’t care. We are fine just not talking.

So I know my son is not going to learn anything about being socially competent at home with me all school year. But I wonder, why does everyone talk so much about social skills in homeschooling?

Maybe really all we need our kids to have is self-knowledge. I understand that my social skills suck and that everyone else wants friends but I am not like that. I understand that I have to be careful what I say to peoples’ faces because people feel uncomfortable around me.

But what about all the people who have careers they hate? How come we are not panicking about that? Are you teaching your kid to deal with having to earn money? Are you teaching your kid that someone is going to tell them what to do every day at work? Because only about ten percent of adults can support a family working for themselves.

Adult life is full of tradeoffs and disappointments, and the people who do the best are those who are forced to learn what they are great at and focus on that, because adults who have the most flexibility in their lives and control over their lives are people who do that. This is the real opportunity for a homeschooling parent.

19 replies
  1. karelys
    karelys says:

    I think that social skills are oh so important because they are necessary to live well in society. I was watching Game of Thrones one day and was intrigued (first time watching). This really buff guy that looked like he could rip the head off the other dude (who happened to be the leader of a tribe full of skilled weapon makers) was doing the whole politically correct dance and being nice and asking politely more than twice.

    I thought “he could just rip his head off and demand the weapons are made for his tribe stat!”

    But the truth is that other people have things we want. That’s what social skills are for. So they’ll give you what you want and trade for something, or nothing. A pending favor.

    However, this is a most important skill for those who are going into the workforce or want/NEEEED friends to be sane and feel healthy.

    If you work for yourself and don’t feel the need for everyone to like you and approve of youself then why bother? it takes too much emotional energy.

    Some people have amazing social skills and find themselves in the situation where they need very little from other people so they don’t bother.

    If your kid is ready to make it on his own then I doubt he’ll need much social skills.

    This is not to say he shouldn’t have any or you shouldn’t worry about it. I just mean that it won’t set him back like it would someone who expects a paycheck from someone that will tell them what to do for the rest of their life.

  2. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I agree that it is very important for kids to have self-knowledge. I also believe they should engage in peer group activities and know how their skills ‘rate’ relative to their peer group. Of course, these activities can be done while also being home schooled.

  3. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    The fear about social skills in homeschooling is largely a non-issue. It comes from 1) people who have met a few weirdos or 2) people who never homeschooled but accept school as a normal social structure. They can’t imagine what it would be like not to go through 12 years of being with large numbers of same-age peers. If everyone in a society has done it, the prospect of someone not going through school seems untested and frightening.

    For “regular kids” this is a theoretical issue. For a kid with Asperger’s, he’s going to have challenges wherever he is. Families have to figure out how to handle that.

  4. Liobov
    Liobov says:

    I have no statistics on it, but it seems that the people that worry the most about social skills in home schooling are the ones who are against home schooling to begin with. I think that they do that because “social skills” is the only argument that sounds reasonable to defend why you leaving your kid 8 hours a day in an environment that is awful for their learning. People who are happy about their kids school never talk about what great social skills they are getting. They talk about the great teachers, the fantastic new pedagogical methods and how much their kids are learning.

    Social skills are important, but you are not putting your kids in a dungeon. Having a sibling, living with animals, going to camps, engaging in fairs, all those thing are teaching your kids important social skills. Hanging around with a large group of people all day is not a foolproof way to become a social savant. There are tons of people who spent 12 years in a public school and still can’t interact with others. Look around, every workplace has at least one of “them”. They are not autistic or on a spectrum. They are not shy or introverts. They just socially illiterate and always rub others the wrong way.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      I think you’re on the right track but I would go a bit further. It’s true that people who worry most about socialization are just generally opposed to homeschooling. They are also most likely to be people who themselves enjoyed public school because they were the popular kids who had tons of friends there. They have no concept that for a lot of other people, school was 12 years of torment, bullying and social rejection.

      • Gabriella
        Gabriella says:

        @ Karen – thanks for opening my eyes!
        I never understood the home-schooling phenomenon, but it may be because of my wonderful memories from school.
        It was also an all-girl Catholic school, so I don’t know if that’s a factor for our experience, but you can ask my friends from elementary to high school (we have a FB group) and we all agree of the great time we had.
        Thanks, for real. It helps me see this with a different perspective.

    • Lori
      Lori says:

      People who worry about this also lack knowledge about what kind of social skills are learned in school.

      My son’s best friend goes to public school. In his school, recess is phased out early (second grade) and kids are not allowed to talk at lunch. (Seems crazy, but it’s true.) They work silently at desks — no group work. They have gym a couple times a week.

      The only time he talks with and interacts with other kids is *outside* of school.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This was a big homschooler moment for me: I realized, reading this comment, that homeschoolers don’t bother worrying about the social skills thing. Given all there is to worry about in the education world, social skills seems like the red herring.

      Penelope

      • Lori
        Lori says:

        Socialization is the issue that every non-hs’ing, anti-hs’ing parent beats like a drum. The other thing I hear constantly is “My kid needs to get used to dealing with jerks.”

        Obviously, homeschooled kids have more opportunities to build their social skills. (How do people not see this?) They have more opportunities to work with other kids in a meaningful way (face to face, not silently at desks in rows). But they also have *plenty* of opportunities to learn to deal with jerks. Jerks are everywhere. You can’t avoid them. If only we could!

  5. Laura
    Laura says:

    I have terrible social skills, too, and while it’s not the whole story, I mostly blame school. Now I’m a homeschooling (unschooling) mom.

    I read a study somewhere (sorry I can’t recall where) about homeschoolers and socialization. It was done at a camp where there were a lot of homeschoolers and also schooled kids. They had counselors who didn’t know the kids’ histories rate their social skills, and IIRC there was no statistical significance to whether they were homeschooled or not in terms of the results.

    I just discovered your blog today, but I’m happy about this development because I love reading about homeschooling.

  6. Liobov
    Liobov says:

    Since you like reading and links here are some facts about homeschooling and socialization.

    · Studying actual observed behavior, Dr. Shyers (1992) found the home educated have significantly lower problem behavior scores than do their conventional school agemates.

    · Multiple studies show that the home educated have positive self-concepts.

    · Homeschool students are regularly engaged in field trips, scouting, 4-H, and community volunteer work, and their parents (i.e., their main role models) are significantly more civically involved than are public school parents.

    http://www.nheri.org/content/view/174/62/

    There is a book written about the homeschooling socialization issue. It’s called “But What About Socialization? Answering the Perpetual Home Schooling Question: A Review of the Literature” by Susan A. McDowell

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0974407801/?tag=ptrunk-20

    She asks weather homeschooling kids participate in the daily routines of their community, acquiring proper behavior rules and can function effectively as member of society. And her answer for all these questions is “yes”.

    I think the study Laura is referring to is an article written by Patricia M. Lines and published in The Public Interest, No. 140 (Summer 2000), pp. 74-85. (copyright by National Affairs, Inc.) It was later quoted by homeschooling advocates all over the internet.

    She writes

    “In another controlled study,
    a researcher videotaped 70 homeschooled children and 70 school
    children at play. Trained counselors viewed the videotapes and
    rated individual children without knowing the child’s school status: They found the homeschooled children to have fewer behavioral problems.”

    But in the online-version of the original article I found no references for that particular study.

    http://www.nationalaffairs.com/doclib/20080709_20001406homeschoolingcomesofagepatriciamlines.pdf

    http://www.nationalaffairs.com/archive/public_interest/default.asp

  7. Lori
    Lori says:

    Kids need social skills. School attendance does not equal having great social skills. If it did, there would be no hierarchy of geeks, losers, etc.

    Social skills are developed by working with other kids. Most homeschooled kids have *more* time to have meaningful collaborative experiences with other kids (preferably mixed-age groups and not just same-age peers). This is a hard fact for anti-homeschoolers to swallow, to say the least.

    You might be interested in this article —

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/08/12/139583385/preschool-the-best-job-training-program-out-there?sc=tw&cc=share

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hm. This begs the question: Are geeks and losers actually learning social skills at school or are those kids learning skills to stay out of the way of those with social skills?

      I feel that school was instructive to me in letting me know I was never going to be a popular girl. Though I’m not sure I would have known there were popular girls if I had not gone to school.

      Penelope

      • Lori
        Lori says:

        Everyone has a different aptitude for acquiring social skills. You find your own level, I suppose. Not enough natural talent in that area to avoid being labeled a loser, but enough hard work and you can figure out not to pass by the jock’s table in the cafeteria while you’re balancing a tray full of tapioca.

        Many people act like social skills are automatically granted through public school attendance; obviously this is not true. Anyone who has taught, worked at a school, volunteered at a school, or attended a school knows that the social skills are allotted at least on a Bell curve.

        Whatever your natural talent/ability in that area (remember “E.Q.”?) and however hard you apply yourself, you are going to end up somewhere on the curve — you have some social skills, but you might not be a savant.

        Homeschooled kids have even more opportunities to socialize and collaborate with other kids, thus a better chance to develop their skills. Some kids are hermits and don’t develop their skills, but plenty of public school kids don’t either. It’s a non-issue.

  8. Lori
    Lori says:

    Socialization, or the transformation of a human organism into a person who functions successfully within a particular social system, cannot be avoided. The essence of socialization is to make people dependent on social controls, to have them respond predictably to rewards and punishments. And the most effective form of socialization is achieved when people identify so thoroughly with the social order that they no longer can imagine themselves breaking any of its rules. — Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

  9. Carol Ziogas
    Carol Ziogas says:

    Call me weird, but I believe Asperger’s is a beautiful gift. Not many people can see it, but living with it has given me an appreciation of how it works in my mind and in the minds of those I can understand.

    It’s the “normal” people I don’t get.
    ————-
    “School attendance does not equal having great social skills.”

    Lori, AMEN TO THAT!

  10. Tony
    Tony says:

    Penelope, despite your ‘terrible social skills’ you have built a fantastic network of people who can help you through your working life. Maybe that’s what you should focus on giving to your son, not worrying too much about those social skills you haven’t got to give, expose him to others more gifted in that department.

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