I read a post today by WifeMomManiac that really resonated with me. Her daughter sounds so very similar to my own and, as she does, I worry sometimes about my daughter’s social development. It would be easy for people to read this and think “well, that’s because they haven’t gone to school”. And in some sense I do believe this is true. Sending my daughter to school would move her along more quickly in terms of learning how to get along with others, but at what price? The school of hard knocks may be effective in the short term, but if it results in years of therapy and relationship issues as an adult than I hardly think it’s worth it. For kids who are naturally easy with socialization that likely won’t be the case, but for kids like mine for whom social interactions do not come so naturally I believe the process would be very damaging to her self-image and in fact the very parts of her that make her so unique (I’ve found that uniqueness is not something that is well-tolerated among the school crowd).
The thing to consider is that children all have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to both academic and social skills. My daughter can read circles around most children her age, but she finds social interactions to be challenging. Her academic prowess does not go unnoticed, but I have met children who are what I consider to be “socially gifted” who are not made such a fuss of (except by parents of children like mine!). I will say that my daughter gets along fabulously with adults – they find her delightful and interesting and she thoroughly enjoys talking with them. So no, I don’t believe that unschooling is at all the cause of her social awkwardness any more than I believe it is the cause of her academic success. Unschooling simply allows a child to be who they are, to be authentic.
Nevertheless, sometimes I worry. The girl has strong leadership abilities, but when this translates into her trying to “run the show” with a group of kids it can cause friction. Her driving need to be in charge and in control will take her far in life, but right now it often leaves her standing on the sidelines when it comes to playing with other kids. The important thing is, however, that it doesn’t seem to bother her. In fact it seems to bother me a lot more. She just doesn’t crave group social interactions; she much prefers one-on-one time with her friends (and their families). We have plenty of opportunities to group socialize (despite the misconceptions about homeschooling), we simply choose not to engage in many of them because my kids just don’t get alot of enjoyment out those kinds of activities (they do much better in small groups doing focussed activities).
WifeMom’s post was a timely reminder that the issues we struggle with the most with our children are usually the issues we struggled with the most as children ourselves. Many times it turns out that what we think is a problem for our children, is really just a problem for us. My daughter is not complaining that she doesn’t have enough friends, that we don’t socialize with crowds enough, or that she has problems relating to people. I have to trust in the process I am committed to, knowing that letting the child go at their own pace is key to self-confidence and achievement. I wouldn’t push her to read or write, so why should I push her to “get along well with others”? She will find her way, she will learn by experience and by having a loving, supportive mother by her side.