Weird social behaviour and baked beans

Some people are so strange.

There was a lady in the local shop who’d rather stare at the baked beans than say good morning. Perhaps it’s just my good mornings make her feel uncomfortable. Or perhaps it was the fact that I used to have kids with me during school time and they said good morning too and she didn’t know what to do.

Some people just don’t know how to respond to a child saying good morning or chatting to them. They tend to smile patronisingly at the kids and say nothing, unable to make an appropriate response.

The thing I find totally bizarre about this is the fact that it’s always an issue that’s raised about home schooling – how do the children become socialised? Bizarre because it appeared at the time that the kids had better social skills than the adults they came into contact with!

I also find it totally bizarre that anyone could think that school was the ideal place for children to learn to be socialised. The social climate in school, where kids mix mostly with lots of other kids who are immature socially anyway, would not be where I’d expect my kids to learn good social skills.

Because that’s what ‘socialisation’ means; learning good social skills. The ability to interact and converse with others, what the appropriate responses are, how to listen, when to listen, when to chat, how to behave in company.

Kids can’t learn that when they are discouraged from talking, when they’re surrounded by less than ideal behaviour, where their social preferences are disregarded and they’re forced into being with people they may not like possibly for years, where confidence is eroded by the shame attached to failure, when the climate is of one-up-man-ship rather than communal care and where some of the adult examples of social behaviour are also questionable!

There’s also the question of discrimination. If you think about it, many schools are discriminative before they even start. They discriminate against the less academically able – those who’ll do nothing for their climb up the league tables, and those who need different learning approaches. Which is total hypocrisy when you think about how schools profess to be all inclusive of race, religion, colour, physical disability, etc. Where does academic ability or learning preference come into that so-called non-discriminative policy?

That’s the beauty of home educating groups – they’re all inclusive – even of those who learn differently. And the social interaction we had in home educating groups was exactly what children needed to develop those social skills.

For children to develop social skills they need to: -

-          Be with people who do have social skills

-          Be with people who support and encourage them whatever stage they’re at

-          Be listened to and encouraged to converse

-          Be respected

-          Feel cared for

-          Have regular conversations and interaction with adults

-          Have appropriate behaviour demonstrated towards them

-          Be encouraged to share opinions and ask questions

-          Be loved

-          Feel their opinions are valued

-          Experience a variety of social settings

-          Mix in the real social world

These are the conditions which encourage and develop good social skills. They are not usually the conditions schools have time to nurture. So actually, ‘socialisation’ would be the last thing I would send my child to school for!

Socialisation is also of course about making connections and friendships with others. Again, school is not the ideal place for caring, committed and loyal friendships to form. The social structure of school, where it’s considered weird to mix with anyone outside your age group and competition is of more importance than care, does not reflect the social climate in real society.  And the other misconception is that it’s not the only place to find friends.

Kids make friends at school because they happen to be at school. Kids will make friends out of school with others they encounter just as easily. If you home educate you have far more time to interact in a social and uncompetitive way, which forms bonds and provides a healthy setting for children to learn and practise social skills, not just from other kids but also from the high proportion of adults home educating groups always have.

For children to have friends they need to understand that it also requires something from them. Friendship is about mutual respect, trust, care, loyalty, support, love. Their understanding of that is built from receiving it, from seeing how the adults around them behave towards friends, by forming relationships with adults themselves, and through confidence. The skills of friend making and keeping are built over time and change rapidly. This is healthy and natural. It doesn’t need to be forced.

So if you’re thinking of home educating and the socialisation issue has been bugging you I hope this helps. If you’re a parent of a child in school you can help them form friendships by being the best friend they ever have. That way they’ll learn how to be a best friend to others and everyone that’s of any worth will be their friend too!

And not be a person who grows up thinking that staring at baked beans is an acceptable response to ‘good morning’!

Read all about our other social activities during our home educating years – funny and otherwise – in ‘A Funny Kind Of Education’! (See the Books page)

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30 thoughts on “Weird social behaviour and baked beans

  1. Pingback: Being Socialised and Being Sociable | Educating Sausages

  2. Well lets take the point of somebody who claims not to do ‘social niceties’ – for whatever reason. I still think we stand a much better chance to teach our children how to politely engage (or politely ignore) somebody like that when home educating. In school they would probably see how those would soon be a victim of bullying or nasty comments. I don’t think classroom dynamics are helpful in teaching to pick up on subtleties of behaviour and then act constructively, showing respect for those who don’t want to join in certain interactions. So saying all of that I hope my son would just smile at the baked beans lady and move on if there is no engagement, maybe hoping it created a bit of warmth and connection anyway. My little boy likes to wave at people and whilst most of the time what he gets back is smiles and waves and it’s obvious that he brightens somebody’s day there are also occasions when he gets no reaction or a grumpy one. He initially was very confused, and a bit hurt, but he has now learned that it’s nothing personal.

    • Thank you for your valuable comment Monika. I do appreciate people taking time to leave their views and I think it’s really interesting what you say about classroom dynamics where it’s such an abnormal illustration of social interaction from all involved!

  3. We have been home educating a year now. Why do people think that school offers children the right socialisation above and beyond home education ? You are right, children need respect, and they will learn how to be respectful and how to show respect. Children learn this from spending time with respectful people (young and old) Home education is our respectful real world, where our little one is now very happy.

  4. Pingback: the shards : Socialization and home education

  5. Good point, Lynn ;-) Ross! I want to share this – widely! This is the best argument for natural social development that I’ve heard. Makes me want to print it out in leaflet form in answer to that OH so common question. Your comment about being shy as a child resonated as I was too. But I am so NOT shy now -lol. But I do need some alone time to replenish energy reserves. It really makes me wonder about kids who do need that space and never get it in school – that time alone to re-charge. Perhaps that leads them naturally to shyness?

  6. Well put Ross.

    I used to feel really pleased, that my children weren’t afraid to engage in conversation with their elders. My neighbour, who is 78 btw, always paid complements to how my children greeted her, when they saw her. They always asked if it was convenient, before asking to speak with her about a project that needed input from someone who had experience of (the war for example).I know for sure, that they would not be the polite and articulate teens that they are now, if they had remained in school, even if I do say so myself!!

    Sorry that the baked bean lady doesn’t appreciate social niceties :-)

    • Thanks Lynn! Actually, I think my social skills were pretty zilch when I was younger, but I think it was mostly chronic shyness. Having kids certainly makes you sort out the bits of you that need improvement! :)

  7. The thing is, I don’t think they actually mean ‘socialisation’. I think they mean something closer to ‘How will they learn to not be weird and blend in like I learnt to do in school?’. Or maybe ‘How will they learn to just put up with things and get along with people who bully and demean them and just make nice in return’ – like you HAVE to do in school to get by. So the conversation is really ‘Do we want a society where our kids learn these things or not?’ and ‘what might a world without fearful people-pleasers be like?’

  8. Great post Ross ! Personally I think that there are far worse ways to start the day than with a cheery ‘good morning’ and a smile, whatever your age or position in society. Beans are over rated :) x

  9. Pingback: Weird social behaviour and baked beans | Poppelmann Family Adventures

  10. Yes, I know what you mean. I think it is also overlooked that we all have different levels of comfort when it comes to socialising, no matter how we long we go to school. I love being social and friendly but I also need a lot of time just with the family. Constant socialising exhausts me and I need to recharge my socialising batteries. My son is the same and this was one of the things which both of us found difficult about school.

    • You are so right. The opposite of all the socialising is that we also need quiet, lone time, especially off the net! And to understand that not everyone is a social animal – as the lady below points out! ;) I even have to force myself sometimes. But we do need to give our kids the tools to cope when they’re required to interact. Thanks for commenting. x

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