I have come up with 6 reasons why public schools are one of the worst places to learn social skills. If children come out of public school with social graces, I place most of the credit on their parents, communities, and the parents of their friends. NOT on the public school system. I will post these six reasons separately (because I'm very opinionated about this and need space to vent.)
Reason 1: You only associate with children your same age.
Reason 2: You only have friends the same gender as you.
Reason 3: You are not friends with your siblings.
Reason 4: Teachers, in a broken system, have a hard time making a positive influence socially on the children they teach.
Reason 5: Public school monitors do not teach social skills.
Reason 6: Peers matter more then parents and other caring adults.
I have a friend who is an incredible mom who is very involved and thoughtful in her parenting. She said she would never homeschool because she believed that her children needed socialization for much of the day every day, and where she lived, that would be too hard to do if she homeschooled.
I know many people feel the same as her. Being forced to spend most of the day every day with peers takes away boredom, shyness, boosts self-esteem, takes away awkwardness, and teaches kids how to get along. WRONG!
More and more studies are proving the opposite. Yes children need other children in their lives, but they need parents and caring adults a lot more.
Introducing one of the best books ever:
I recently reread "Hold On to Your Kids" by Gordon Neufeld. This is not a homeschool book at all. It is a child psychology/parenting book. Often in the book he shares the extreme of what happens when peers are more important then parents, but this book still sheds light on parent/child relationships in a very poignant way.
This is basically the premiss of the book: Children today increasingly look to their peers for direction-their values, identity, and codes of behaviour. This "peer orientation" undermines family cohesion, interferes with healthy development, and fosters a hostile and sexualized youth cutler. Children end up becoming overly conformist, desensitized, and alienated, and being "cool" matters more to them than anything else. We need to "reattach" to our sons and daughters.
Here are some quotes from the book:
Parents ask "Aren't our children meant to become independent of us?" Absolutely, but only when our job is done and only in order for them to be themselves. Fitting in with the immature expectations of the peer group is not how the young grow to be independent, self-respecting adults.
The ultimate ethic in the peer culture is "cool"-the complete absence of emotional openness......In such an environment genuine curiosity cannot thrive, questions cannot be freely asked, naive enthusiasm for learning cannot be expressed. Risks are not taken in such an environment, nor can passion for life and creativity find their outlets.
What they learn, however, is not the value of thinking, the importance of individuality, the mysteries of nature, the secrets of science, the themes of human existence...What children learn from their peers is how to talk like their peers, walk like their peers, dress like their peers, act like their peers, look like their peers. In short, what they learn is how to conform and imitate.
Boredom is epidemic among the peer-oriented.
The belief is that socializing-children spending time with one another-begets socialization: the capacity for skillful and mature relating to other human beings. There is no evidence to support such an assumption despite its popularity.
When a child knows her own mind and values the separateness of another's mind, then-and only then-is she ready to hold on to her sense of self, while respecting that of the other person. Once this developmental milestone is achieved, social interaction will hone the child's individuality and hone his relationship skills as well.
It's not that children shouldn't spend time with one another, but we should not expect such play to meet their deepest needs.
Well, maybe that gives you an idea of this book's point. Parents need to matter more then peers, and in the book it does help guide parents on how to make that happen, but it is in the last half of the book, which kind of drove me crazy, but it's still an eyeopener book.
Throughout the book, it seems evident that he is talking primarily to parents with children in public school on how to make sure their children don't get sucked into peer orientation and explains how just because children go to public school doesn't mean they have to be dependent on their peers. And of course I know that many public school parents make sure that they never lose the attachment that they need with their kids. So "Reason 6" is NOT something that I believe happens to all public schoolers by any means.
However, it does happen to many kids in public school because of the nature of the system, and it seems that the parents and caring adults that do "hold on to their kids" do so DESPITE the public school system.
Honestly, because of the community in which I now live, my boys hardly have a day pass that they are not spending time with peers. But it's easy to hold on to them and collect them because we are usually all together, and if we're not together, I am friends with the peer's parents, and know the child and they know me. In the homeschool life style, that's just how it is.
SO! There you have it! My 6 long-winded explanations about why I don't think public school teaches good social skills!
PS-There is one thing that I think the public school system is good at socially. If a child is awkward, eccentric, or different, the public school social scene is a great place to turn these eccentricities into repressed insecurity. Not that I think this is a good thing, but so many people are so scared of awkwardness, that for them it might be worth it.