Homeschooling and Teaching Social Skills

October 27, 2009
Written by:
Guest Author

Yesterday, we discussed the difference between socialization and social skills. As parents, we are concerned about and aim to have our children learn appropriate social skills. The question becomes how do we do that, especially within the realm of homeschooling?

The first thing to consider is how do children learn social skills? Let’s take a scenario involving a preschooler. A preschooler watches his dad hit his thumb with a hammer and he sees his dad say some colorful choice words out of frustration. The next time the preschooler stubs his toe or smashes his hand, often the child will “repeat” what the father said when he was hurt. The preschooler is imitating what he saw. It is the same with all social skills, it is a skill learned by first observing, then imitating. As they are exposed to more and more situations, while either observing or by demonstrating, their repertoire grows in appropriate (or inappropriate) behavior.

So, as homeschoolers, how can we demonstrate and then promote these skills? First, take the children with you when you do errands. Let them see how you handle interacting with a variety of individuals in different situations and surroundings. Show your children the appropriate way to ask for help at the library, buy stamps at the post office, and order food at McDonalds. After they have observed you for a few times, you can even have them order food at McDonalds while you stand beside them and “assist” where needed.

Some other activities that homeschool parents can do to help teach these skills:

1. You can get together with other homeschoolers: Many homeschool families participate in homeschool group activities such as field trips, park days, co-op or enrichment classes.

2. Your child can participate in sports programs: Students can participate in city sports, homeschool sports programs, and some public schools homeschool friendly states open up their sports programs to homeschooled students.

3. Your child can participate in youth groups: Many homeschool students join clubs and programs like 4-H, scouts, youth groups at their church, etc.

4. Your child can play with their friends: Play dates are often arranged with friends, during the day with fellow homeschoolers or after school for public/private school friends.

5. You and your child can do volunteer work: Some homeschool families volunteer at nursing homes, a soup kitchen and other community opportunities. Other opportunities to volunteer include museums, aquariums and zoos. The best part is you and your child can volunteer during the hours children are at school, when they have less helpers. As the years go on, your child can volunteer in an area of interest to them. An added benefit of volunteering, is it looks very good on an application for college, even work.

As you can see, our children have ample opportunity to see, learn, and practice social skills, not only with same-aged peers but with all ages. This is a far better example of what it is like in real life as an adult and in the end, are we not preparing them for life as an adult without us around?

Tomorrow, I will continue with social skills by addressing how to help those children that do not seem to catch onto them very easily. In particular, will be our unique learners like those on the Autism Spectrum.