When ever some one learns that our kid is being unschooled, this is one of those questions that I invariably get asked. Are unschooled or home schooled kids missing out on social skills. I am certainly not an expert on the subject, but how does one assess whether a kid has developed social skills. Is shyness an indication of under development? Does participating in debates and winning them mean good development? I am really not sure. As far as I am concerned, if a kid can socialize with other kids, they have enough skills. Or may be I am being naive in thinking that way.
Schools certainly help social development skills in some ways. For example, children get to see different kinds of kids. Some may be shy, some bullies, some kind, some arrogant. Then they have to figure out how to fit in that colorful human social setting. They may learn not to go against the bully, or may be they become the bigger bully. What ever choice they make, they will learn something. However, assuming that the kids will not learn social skills without school is what I have trouble coming to terms with.
School is more uniform than outside world
While you can find diverse characters at school, you find even more variety outside of school. As a child growing up, I had some social life at school. But what I enjoyed most was the life after school when I go to the playground with neighbor kids. You see, school is more uniform than you think. Most of the kids are around the same age. They have the same uniform masking away the differences in social status. They look about the same, with about the same height, well groomed hair and nails. You get the drift right?
Outside of school, you get to meet children of different age groups. They will come with their brothers and sisters who may be younger or older than your kid. Now all of them have to play together. The kids have to find a dynamic that makes the group work together. Of course a smaller kid cannot run faster than bigger kids, they cannot bowl or bat as well (in cricket), lack the maturity etc. And yet, the small ones learn how to adapt and learn from the elder kids. The elder ones learn to take care of the younger ones. Because at the end of the day every kid is a brother or sister or neighbor of some one.
Home schooling does not mean no social activity
Contrary to what people think, home school does not mean the kids are always with the parents. Sure the children are not spending as much time with other kids who go to school. But as I mentioned before, very little social activity happens at a traditional school because they are mostly just sitting and learning from a teacher and not actively talking to each other. Perhaps in the music class or physical training class there is some interaction.
The home schooled kids spend almost the same amount of time socializing with other kids after school. In fact I would argue that home schoolers have more free time since they don’t have homework and they can play any time without restrictions. My belief is that most of the learning happens after school. That is how I learned when I was a kid. I barely learned any social skills at school. I was this awkward kid with very few close knit friends. But in the playground I have adult kids and younger kids to contend with. There used to be a lot of differences and fights. But that is how we learn to adapt.
Outside school, you get to see kids with different socio-economic backgrounds. At schools there are boundaries and rules. On a playground, there are no rules and you are all by yourself. I feel that you learn more that way. Do you agree?