This week has been full of social commitments (once again, directing the choice of topic for this newsletter). The children have had parties, sleepovers, play dates, and two co-operative learning situations. One day I had children going every which way – it was a skill just to organize it all! I do enjoy the school holidays though as we take the time to catch up with friends, especially those who don’t homeschool and consequently we don’t see quite so often.
Before our social days, we did have a few very productive project days – Pete had the kids outside working on the garden, especially the reticulation for the veggie patch and I took the opportunity to spend 2 days in the office which was really appreciated.
Our week ended with an old friend, who now lives in NZ, arriving a day or so early, and therefore unannounced on the doorstep – the kids were very excited!
Family Life is a Resource for Education
It's a social life I live - use it wisely!
One of our goals for our children is that they are to be people who stand tall in their community, people who are leaders, and who influence others towards godly ways. The concept of the “preciousness of others” is a foundational principle we are raising our children on along with the commandments of Christ, commands us to love one another. When people criticize homeschoolers with the concern of socialization, these are the principles that my mind focuses on. I also try and remember that I am answerable to God, not to men.
We have seasons in our life that seem to be extra busy – extra social commitments, extra co-operative learning opportunities, extra family projects. All of these activities give our children so called social interaction. Every family, whether homeschooling or not, will have many social situations that give opportunity for our children to be trained in manners (social skills).
Unfortunately, when life gets busy training seems to slip by the wayside. Though we kid ourselves in thinking that we don’t have time to train, reality is we don’t have time not to train. Instead of shying away from training our children in these times, we need to grab hold of the opportunities as they arise.
Spending time with other people gives our children the opportunity to practice the following social skills:
Remain true to family ways
Our expectations on our children need to be the same, whether we are in our home or out and about, whether we are with our children or they are visiting solo. It has always been the understanding in our home that if you cannot behave right at home, then chances are you won’t behave right at a friends, so we won’t take the chance. When any of us, parent or child, steps out side our door we become ambassadors for our family, and ambassadors for Christ. Though this has to be balanced with 100% love and acceptance when things go wrong, our children need to know that our choices for life are day in and day out, 24/7, our place or their place type of choices. They need to know what is right and have a desire to live that way before they have the freedom to a social life without the helpful guidance and presence of their family. This all starts though with our attitude when we have our children out in social situations – do we let them get away with things because it is inconvenient to deal with it while we ourselves are visiting – these mixed messages will delay our children from seeing the need to be consistent in their moral choices.
Being a good visitor
There are social rules that dictate how to be a good visitor – we need to greet our host first, we need to ask before we venture to another room or use toys belonging to another, we accept and eat any food offered, we don’t overstay our welcome, we pack away any toys we’ve used and we thank the host as we leave. One of the trickiest things for a child to understand is that when they are the host/hostess they put their visitors first but this does not give them the right to insist on their way when they themselves are the visitor. Be host or visitor, our children always need to be thinking of the other person, not themselves.
Putting siblings first
It is easy, when we have series of social commitments for our children to start seeing their friends as more important than their siblings. In our family, this is just not acceptable. Our children are to see each other as their best friends, and they are to treat each other this way. When this is in doubt (and I see evidence of this in their behaviour) we start to limit their social interaction with other families (regardless of how like-hearted they may be). The understanding in our home is that family comes first and I endorse this by the social commitments that I allow to happen.
Being with friends isn’t all about me – though at times our children may think so. At no time are we released from our calling to bless others and our children need to see that their recreational time comes second to serving others. Serving others can be as simple as helping someone else pick up their toys even if you didn’t play with them, to helping an overwhelmed mum by doing the dishes. Serving others may mean taking a moment to pray together, it may mean delaying a greatly anticipated play date. Once again the needs of others need to be seen as more important than the fun of the moment. Our children need to see this happening in my own social life, and then they need to be guided through the disappointments and selfish thinking in order to be trained to see these opportunities for themselves. It is truly a delight to have your teenage children see the needs of others before their own social wants – it doesn’t just happen though, it needs training.
Being a good conversationalist
Whether you have a shy child or an outgoing child they both need to learn how to talk to others. There are two parts to being a good conversationalist; a good listener and a clear speaker. Those talkative ones, particularly, need to learn to be a good listener, to be interested in what the other person has to say, and even to draw out a quiet person so they too get a chance to talk. We have some talkers (actually 4 out of 4 like to talk!!) so we created a little signal to represent 50-50. When we saw our child taking the floor for too long we would signal 50-50, meaning they were to talk for 50% of the time and listen 50% of the time. It was never a signal used to encourage them to talk – but always that it was time for them to listen!! The quiet ones in your family though they need to learn to be brave, express an opinion, share something of their life. When our children go into situations where they are nervous (and not so confident about talking) I encourage them to think of 3-5 questions that they can ask the other person – not yes or no questions, but questions that will draw out a conversation. To be honest, this is a technique that I often do myself when I go into situations where I don’t feel conversation will flow – be prepared!
Being content to stay at home
To be away from people, to be quietly at home, how can that be a social skill? It is. To be content to be at home will help us say goodbyes graciously and it will help us accept the times we don’t have a place to go, but most importantly it will recharge our batteries so that when we do visit we are others focused not self absorbed.
The three parenting tools that I find most helpful in these situations are
When an army trains they aren’t told just to run around the paddock and get it right, they are shown how, they are taken through step by step. This is what training has to be like for our children; before they are set in a social situation they need to be instructed how to behave, they need to be shown, and they need to have a practice. This all happens at home, before you set a foot in someone else’s home. Have a practice of shaking hands, have a practice of asking the host a question (and accepting her ‘no’), practice saying goodbyes (this can often be a time of conflict, especially for pre-schoolers). Instruct, give the moral reason why, model it (act it out) – and do all this, not just once, but many times so the children know what to do. And then on your return home praise them for doing well! (or take a mental note that you’ve got more training to do!)
When we place boundaries on our children we keep them living in a place where they are going to be successful morally. For example if we know that when they get together with a certain child they are going to play inappropriately, but we want our child to play successfully, so we tell our child and their friend that they have to play in the lounge room (or any place where you will be able to directly supervise). The idea is, as you are in close range (the boundary) you are able to help and direct some of the moral decisions your child will be making. You can step in before that inappropriate behaviour starts, and by the time you go home your child has had a successful play. What can you do to help your child be successful in their social situations?
Self discipline is a parenting tool in as much as we are parents and we need self discipline!! It is so tempting to leave our parenting responsibilities in the car when we go visiting and simply enjoy our visit, but we must have the self-discipline to remain on the alert, and to keep our children behaving as is normal for your family. So often we are enjoying our visit so much we stay for that extra 15 minutes – we know we should be going, we can read our children, but for the sake of finishing a conversation we stay, and then our child crumbles on our friends doorstep, we get embarrassed, frustrated and sometimes, even angry – and yet if we had the self-discipline to leave when we knew we needed to this would have been avoided. The third time for self discipline is in the accepting of invitations, or rather in the declining of invitations – sometimes we just need to say no. We must be disciplined to never put our desire for a social life, or even our children’s enthusiasm for a play date ahead of the right balance of life in our home as when we have an imbalance the cracks will begin to show in all our relationships. We need self-discipline to keep our family and the atmosphere in our home peaceful.
Our children’s social behaviour can be guided by 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
Love is patient, love is kind,
it is not jealous and not proud,
love is not rude and does not seek its own,
it is not provoked, thinks no evil,
and does not rejoice in iniquity
but rejoices in the truth,
bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things and endures all things.
If our children can take hold of these expressions of love as they spend their days mixing with other people they will indeed have manners and be well socialized!
This week Maggie from Special Hearts gave a reply to Ronelle at the Mum's Support Corner on her special needs kids question. Thank you Maggie for your encouragement. Read Maggie's reply here.
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Living life with her kids in Australia!
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About Live Life with your kids Newsletter
Knowing that homeschool mums are busy with lots to read, this newsletter comes out in small portions – one portion every week.
- Being a Deliberate Parent – Encouragement to continue in purposeful and intentional parenting.
- Using Life resources – Spotlight on a particular resource and notes on how to use this in your life (not in a school room)
- Character Education – Each month we focus on a different character trait – The newsletter will include application for Mums, as well as seeing character training opportunities in everyday life.
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