Well, I must admit, people did warn me. They knew that keeping my children out of school would be a disaster, socially. That they would be totally inept in social settings, and unable to relate to people.
But you know what?
They were so very wrong. 🙂
Take tonight, for example. I picked up my fifteen year old son from the cafe where he is currently working as a barista. In the car driving home, we had a very typical conversation, centred around his insights into human personality, behaviour, and interactions. Tonight it was about the cafe manager. Nobody particularly likes him, and since he has been managing the cafe, he has fired at least one person a week, for hard to understand reasons. My son commented (not rudely) that he is “Like a robot. He treats everybody the same. He talks to people, but he interacts the same way with each person. He doesn’t respond differently based on who he is talking to. He doesn’t connect with them or respond to them as individuals.” This is with both staff and customers.
My son then went on to talk about how differently he interacts with the customers. If a family is there with children, he speaks directly to the children and asks them what they’d like. He commented that “So many people just don’t treat children like real people”. When he noticed a child eye balling the jar of marshmallows recently, he quietly checked with the parent if is was ok for the child to have one, and he brought it over to the child specially. He talked about how important it is for both parents and children to feel comfortable at the cafe.
He even said (don’t be too shocked!) that sometimes swearing a little bit helps people to feel more comfortable, if the person themselves is swearing. The example he gave was of a customer who was swearing a bit in talking to his cafe friends, and also when interacting with the staff. He wasn’t angry; it was just the way he spoke. He asked my son how his night was going, and my son responded with a mild swear word in his answer, believing that it would make the customer feel a bit more comfortable, which it seemed to do. He realises that this isn’t appropriate with lots of people, particularly children and older people, or just people who aren’t swearing themselves.
He just seems to understand that it is helpful to interact differently with different people, and that it is important to respond appropriately to particular situations.
He reads people so well, often making insightful comments about someone’s body language or tone of voice, and accurately interprets what that means. He understands the social intricacies of a variety of relationships and human interactions. He contemplated being a counsellor for awhile, although he is currently thinking he won’t do that after all. I know, however, that his “people skills” will come in handy no matter what long term career path he chooses, and the steps he takes along the way.
These social skills were obviously honed in the school setting. Oh, that’s right. He hasn’t been to school since he was 7 years old. 🙂
I’d love to hear some comments from people who are unschooling or home educating their children, with examples of their social skills. Let’s show the world that our kids are ok, and that they don’t need to go to school to “be socialised”. In fact, they’re socialised more fully by living in the real world rather than being sequestered at school. Unschooling rocks! 🙂