Is homeschooling better for Social Skills development?
Yes, it is better for social skills development.
For us at least, I think it is so much better.
At first, the decision to homeschool was hard for us. I mostly worried about whether my son would get enough practice with his social skills and whether I was good enough to teach well. Having had low social skills development was his biggest problem, so I didn’t make any sense to me to keep him home.
When my son started taking a turn for the worse in public school, it really became the only option for us. I was terrified, however, of him blaming me someday for making him a “weird unsocialized homeschooler”.
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The chicken or the egg?
The more I met other homeschoolers, the more I realized that the former homeschoolers I met in public school were likely special needs children who were mainstreaming at an older age. They probably were homeschooling in the first place because of their special needs. Back in the day, I didn’t know anything about autism, or any other disorder for that matter. I don’t think most young teens in the 90’s did. I don’t even know if they do now… This was comforting to me. I realized that it probably wasn’t homeschool that made them that way, they already were that way.
OK, so how is homeschooling better for social skills development?
After a few years of homeschooling, here are my thoughts on this… My son was in public school for about as long as we’ve now been homeschooling. During that time a public school, he experienced an extreme regression In his social skills. He was falling apart and couldn’t manage nearly any social exchange in an even remotely appropriate manner. Now in the same amount of time of homeschooling, he doesn’t have perfect social skills, but he has made an enormous improvement.
We get to practice our social skills as part of our daily homeschooling. We use social skills worksheets and games and books about emotions and behavior. In his regular-ed mainstream classes, he didn’t have that additional learning. My son is also in an environment where he is less stressed, less often, which leads to less regression. We still have plenty of opportunities to practice social skills when we go to church, co-op, or any other sort of events where other children are present. I would say there are at least three times a week that we get to practice being with other children.
Having these fewer, shorter, more controlled opportunities to practice social skills has worked out much better for us. I don’t expect that he should have this limited of an experience forever. However, while he is still building and strengthing his foundational social skills, having less frequent and lower pressure opportunities are proving to be more successful.
Social skills for a child with autism can be compared to building the foundation of a house
If you start trying to build his or her “social house” on top of a foundation that isn’t solid, it won’t matter how many opportunities there are. The foundation is it ready. Homeschooling is our opportunity for a strong and solid foundation, regardless of how long it takes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we focus on quality social interaction rather than quantity of social interaction.
Here’s what some of my friends have to say about socialization and homeschooling:
(Click their names to read their full posts)
You can arrange play dates with typical children and other children on the autism spectrum. Start small. It is always better to end on a happy note than to experience a meltdown because you went too long. – Jenny Herman
These skills can be taught by example and as lessons for everyday life. And yes, as homeschoolers we often get asked how we “socialize” our kids. And the answer is … just like any other family, especially in the summer. –Tea Doyle
We only made it to March of Logan’s second grade year before we pulled him out to regroup. So much damage had been done to his little psyche that we would need to take two years off from academics in order to rectify the damage. –Penny Woodin Rogers
Your turn: have I missed any of your favorite articles about homeschooling and socialization?
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