One of the biggest questions you get when you say your child is not going to a traditional school is "How will he socialise?" this is one of the disadvantages people bring up about homeschooling which I would say is not a disadvantage at all. 

Let's talk about socialising! 

For us to better understand what this is all about let us define socialisation according to the dictionary;

a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.

Based on this definition, this is precisely what homeschooling is about, but we would guess that what people are mostly talking about is the social skills that are required to be learned by kids and individuals. So, what are the social skills that children are required to have;

  • Sharing
  • Cooperating
  • Listening 
  • Following Instructions 
  • Respecting personal space 
  • Making eye contact 
  • Using manners 
  • Taking turns 
  • Helping others 
  • Asking for help 
  • Not interrupting 
  • Waiting Patiently 

Looking at this list if we take time to teach our children these things, how will they not be social? I think one of the concerns for people is that they believe children should have the opportunity to engage with children their age and I do agree with that but there is also a downside to the fact that when the focus is only interaction with their peers, they struggle with adult interactions too which is equally as important. I think the upside to the peer-to-peer interaction to develop social skills is that children have more opportunities (as they never get tired of doing one thing over and over again) to practice these skills on themselves than a parent that has more things to do and won't want to repeat the same things. 

So, how can you help your child improve their social skills? 

  • Be present and be available to engage with them all the time 
  • Have playdates so your child can have those peer-to-peer interactions - I know we can't do a lot of that right now but as much as you can. 
  • Go outdoor, talk to the people walking on the street, talk to the delivery guy, talk to the people who come to work in your house by extension your child will start talking to them too, they will practice their social skills like that. 
  • Enrol in classes outside of your normal routine. This will allow your child to engage with different people outside of their routine.
  • Go everywhere (as possible) with your child. 
What are the strategies to improve the social skills mentioned above with your child at home;

  • Sharing: Share what you have with your child and make the conscious effort to ask your child for something that is for them too. This has to be done deliberately and often too. Say "Thank you" or "It's so nice of you to share your drink with mummy" over time they won't have a problem with sharing. 

  • Cooperating: This is a tricky one because even from taking a bath in the morning, it is always a struggle but you have to continue to demonstrate the appropriate actions you expect and also say it to them. Be sure to give an advance warning before it is time "In 10 mins we would have to take a bath"

  • Listening: Actively listen to your child whenever they call your attention to tell you the same thing for the 100th time, in modelling listening to them they know they should listen to you. Drop down to their level, call their attention and hold it. 

  • Following Instructions: Start from single instructions "Hey baby, please come" then move on the multiple instructions "Hey baby, pick up the toy and bring it" While playing together or doing a craft you can continue to show them how to follow instructions. 

  • Respecting personal space: Once your child can listen to simple instructions you can always tell them on different ways they can respect personal space e.g "Please knock the door" "Mummy is taking a bath right now, please come back later" encourage them to also take their space if they are upset or want to play alone "You can sit over there if you want to calm down" they won't always get it but as you remain consistent with the instructions they will get it. 

  • Making eye contact: You have the opportunity to help them make eye contact with you everyday, while taking a bath, eating, playing. I usually say "Look at me" right before I say anything to ensure that he looks me in the eyes. If your child doesn't want to constantly make eye contact please consult your doctor. 

  • Using manners: Showing and telling in everyday situations is the best way to go about this. If you want your child to say "Thank you" tell them "Thank you" if you want them to be polite, be polite not only to them but to everyone around you. They watch you for what to do and how to act. 

  • Taking turns: Look out for opportunities in your day to take turns e.g taking baths for your child, give them the sponge and ask that they scrub themselves then you ask for your own turn, take turns in brushing their teeth, take turns in preparing for dinner/breakfast etc.   

  • Asking for help; Encourage your child to ask for help but ensure you emphasize the need to try first. Children get frustrated easily as they are getting control of their emotions but you have to get down to their level and let them know they need to try first, use their words to tell you they need help if they can't do it. My son is 3 now and he is trying more before asking for help or throwing a tantrum. There will be a time that they will only throw a tantrum but you have to acknowledge their emotions and guide them on the appropriate approach. 

  • Not interrupting: This one is very tricky around younger children, one approach I have seen around is teaching your child to stand beside you (while you are talking) and holding your hands as a way of indicating that they need your attention and you squeezing their hand to say you hear and will give them the attention they need as soon as you can. They way, they don't feel ignored. This will be hard to achieve with younger children but telling them early will be a sure way to achieve it faster. 

  • Waiting Patiently: Start with something they are interested in and ask them to wait for it; e.g baking, they can practice waiting patiently as they watch the oven of their yummy goodies baking, waiting for water for swimming to fill up, waiting for tv time. Just be creative and see a way you can let them know the joys of delayed gratification. 
I hope these strategies help you to guide your children to develop their social skills. How are you developing your kids social skills?