My “Unsocialised” Teen

Hervey Bay Pier

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! 🙂

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Karen Lee

FAMILY: Married since 1989 (does that make me old?), a full-time Mum since 1993, and unschooling my kids since 2005. On a journey of learning to live free and fully loved as God intended, following Jesus rather than an institution or "religion". Caring for the world and its people as best as I can.

4 thoughts on “My “Unsocialised” Teen”

  1. You are absolutely right! As long as a person has had enough social interactions within a diverse community (which it sounds like your son has had) than public school is not a necessary path:) Your son sounds like a very mature for his age, which may be in-part due to the fact that he was not subjected to all of the experiences that public school has to offer, (such as the way children bicker, tease, gossip, focus on trends that they feel will promote their social acceptance into a group atmosphere, etc). Also, self-schooling allows the ability to focus on a curriculum that meets and challenges a child’s specific intellectual level, helping enforce interest within the education instead of boredom. I myself had a job at the age of fifteen as a dishwasher in a small local cafe for two years, and I highly credit that experience with exposing me to a diverse demographic of people to whom I had limited prior experience with. Throughout those two years, I myself developed abilities to read into the actions of others, and communicate with them effectively on their level. Kudos to your son for making the most of his experiences and developing into an efffective communicator! Having diverse interactions is a key to development, so while parents may consider not sending their child into the school system, I still recommend submersing them into weekly interactions with peers their age as well as adults, whether that be through joining sports, a youth club, or just making sure they interact enough with their friends outside of the home-area. Thank you for posting your story!

  2. Without a doubt, THE most common response I get from people when I say our kids are Homeschooled (I don’t say Unschooled because that just opens up a whole other can of worms) is, “What about their socialisation?” Now, I get it, because I used to think the same thing. Now I respond with:

    “So you think putting kids in a class room with 20-30 other kids their exact same age, making them wear the exact same clothes, making them learn the exact same thing at the exact same time regardless of what their individual passions and desires are let alone where they are at emotionally and academically is normal socialisation?”

    The response is usually silence, followed by comments such as, “Yeah, good point. I’d never thought of it that way before.”

  3. Thanks for sharing your story 🙂
    I find the whole ‘socialisation’ questioning quite humorous. The times I’ve been asked about it has often been in a ‘social’ setting….at a park, church, picnic, dance class or party. It amuses me as I look around at all the people at those places and wonder how someone could possibly ask about my kids and socialization as they run past with a pack of kids.
    Yesterday I spent the day with my three kids at the local handmade market. We were visiting our old neighborhood. My ten year old daughter had won a $50 gift voucher to spend on presents for me for Mother’s Day. After we walked around chatting about what we both liked, she then went off with her friend and decided what to buy. At each stall she wanted to get something from she needed to introduce herself as the winner and organize what she was getting. As her entry had been very personal about why she loves me, and all the stallholders had read it, she got into conversations with each stallholder about it….and me. She had a wonderful time talking with all these different people and being encouraged. Meanwhile my younger two ran around the surrounding gardens with friends we hadn’t seen in a while……some schooled, some not……..having a ball. I watch the way my kids generally relate to other people and I love it. They are mostly kind, considerate & inclusive. Like all of us though they have moments of being angry and mean. They also are great at following their instincts about people. After our morning we then went out for
    lunch and finished the day at the local fire
    brigade’s open day where the kids went for
    thrilling rides on the firetruck…….sirens and all.
    Over the last few years my thoughts on ‘socialization’ have changed a lot. Honestly, if your kids go anywhere with you where there are other people, they are learning social skills. We’re all so differen socially, there is no ‘right’ way to be social 🙂

    Over the years I’ve

  4. As a wishful unschooler, I love reading these stories. I say wishful because we’ve only just started learning at home, nearly 3 months ago and although I’m pretty relaxed, I’m too afraid to unschool. There are so many great stories out there about how socialization is better with home educators, esp. if they get out and about in their community. It’s less easy to do that in Bahrain, we’re I’m doing it, but I’m looking!

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