We’ve all heard the stereotypes about unsocialized homeschoolers — a tired trope that ignores the fact that plenty of public school children are awkward or have weak social skills.
How many of you adults reading this article right now were awkward middle schoolers who grew up to be perfectly healthy adults? Sometimes awkwardness is merely a phase a child passes through on the way to maturity.
Yet as homeschoolers, we are especially sensitive to concerns about socialization. It’s wise to consider how you are guiding your children and teens in social-emotional learning and do check-ins every so often.
What Social Skills Do Homeschoolers Need?
To guide our thinking, it’s helpful to list out the skills kids need to learn. There are five social-emotional learning (SEL) core competencies:
- Responsible decision making
- Social awareness
- Relationship skills
If we can work on these soft skills, our kids will have the emotional intelligence they need to cope in society, thrive as individuals, and put to rest the myth of the unsocialized homeschooler.
Instead of sitting kids down and lecturing them with a basket of shoulds…
- You should not let mistakes paralyze you.
- You should treat everyone with respect.
- You should trust your gut and follow your intuition.
- You should keep trying and not give up.
… it’s far more effective to teach social-emotional competencies through modeling and through discussions.
Teach Social Skills by Listening to and Discussing Podcasts
Instead of preachy character lessons, raise these topics with your kids through an enjoyable avenue — listening to podcasts! Here are two podcasts the fit the bill perfectly:
- Like You, a podcast for children, explores feelings and encourages self-esteem through imagination-based mindfulness exercises.
- Dorktales Storytime is a podcast where feelings and important life lessons are learned through whimsical and wacky retellings of favorite fairy tales.
Combined, these two podcasts can help kids tap into their imaginations, strengthen their self-confidence, and develop a sense of wonder and inner joy.
Here are suggested ways to use them together:
- In every Dorktales Storytime episode, Jonathan tells a story to teach his friend Mr. Redge an important lesson. Talk about how Mr. Redge was acting in the story and what he learned after hearing the story.
- Talk about what happened to the main characters as it relates to the indicated social skill.
- Ask “How would you feel if the same thing happened to you?” or “How would you handle the situation?”
- Follow your discussion by listening to the complementary Like You episode, following along with the breathing exercises and affirmations.
- Ask “How do you feel now?”
- End with a reaffirming message of your own!
Here are 16 podcast episodes from both podcasts, specially selected to inspire family discussions about social skills.
1. Social-Emotional Competency: Self-acceptance
Self-acceptance is an important part of self-awareness, or the ability to recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values. To accept oneself means to have accurate self-perception and confidence in one’s strengths.
“No one understands me. I’ll never fit in,” cries the little duckling when he bumps into the best version of himself. This tale takes the listener on a journey towards self-acceptance.
“1-2-3 I like me.” This guided exercise helps children to think about all the things they like about themselves to affirm their value and be proud of who they are.
2. Social-Emotional Competency: Handling Mistakes
Coping skills are an important part of self-management and kids need to know that making mistakes is a part of life. They need to know that it’s okay to make mistakes and learn how to handle them when they happen.
When one forthright boy blurts out the naked truth, the emperor appreciates his honesty and owns his mistake by laughing along with the townspeople. Everyone makes mistakes, even an emperor, who admits his error and laughs with the crowd when he discovers he’s made an embarrassing error!
While pretending to bake a batch of cookies, this exercise focuses on learning from our mistakes and what we can do when things don’t turn out the way we expected.
3. Social-Emotional Competency: Generosity, Helping Others, Gratitude
Gratitude and generosity support social awareness and relationship skills. They help kids understand others’ feelings, develop empathy, and learn the social power of kindness and appreciation.
A worried shoemaker struggles to make a living when two tiny elves generously use their skills to make him shoes that immediately sell out. When the shoemaker and his wife discover that the elves are going through hard times too, they show their gratitude by creating a miracle that changes the elves’ fortunes forever.
“When you feel grateful, you feel full of thanks.” This breathing exercise helps kids focus on the good things that happen in their lives.
4. Social-Emotional Competency: Patience and Persistence
Patience and persistence are important self-management traits that can lead to better decision-making, goal achieving, and emotional well-being.
Tortoise has the inner strength and confidence to know that patience and persistence are the keys to winning the race with the hare. This story is also a great conversation starter on being true to yourself and following your own unique path.
“Do you ever feel like there’s a hill that you can’t get over, even though you know you want what’s on the other side?” There are voices in our heads that tell us to give up because we are not good enough. This episode features “keep going, keep trying, and believe in yourself” affirmations.
5. Social-Emotional Competency: Trusting Your Own Judgement
Building strong relationship skills can help kids navigate situations with individuals and groups. This includes active listening, social engagement, collaboration, and leadership. It requires positive self-awareness in order to make decisions that are caring and constructive.
This adaptation of an Aesop’s fable is a lesson in what can happen when you follow the crowd instead of listening to yourself and your own inner judgment.
“As you get to know yourself, what you like to do, what you are good at…you may fall in love with something that’s unique to you.” This episode boosts self-acceptance so kids feel more confident and comfortable with themselves—important traits that will keep them from feeling the need to “follow the crowd.”
6. Social-Emotional Competency: Bravery through Empathy
Building great character includes learning about courage, bravery, and not letting your actions be controlled by your fears. Kids can learn how to recognize the impact of their emotions and actions upon others and practice doing the right thing in social situations.
Sometimes simple acts of kindness and showing empathy for others take great bravery. The tiny mouse shows courage when she personally risks her safety to help the lion in his time of great need. Her valor leads to the unlikely pair becoming the best of friends.
“Bravery is feeling afraid but standing up tall and facing your fear anyway.” This episode offers kids bravery practices, including believing in themselves, their own strength, power, and abilities.
7. Social-Emotional Competency: Everyone Matters
Social awareness includes treating everyone and every living thing with respect. This includes showing acceptance, understanding, and sensitivity to others’ perspectives and experiences.
Farm animals are cast out of their homes after their owners say they are useless and have no value. Teaming up together, they save the townspeople from ne’er-do-wells, make a gold-record album, and learn that everyone matters and has a place in this world.
A wishes episode that reinforces the message that everyone matters. Kids are guided through sending out love to someone they love, someone they don’t know very well, for the whole world, and finally, for themselves.
8. Social-Emotional Competency: Handling Anxiety and Fears
Social and emotional learning provides a strong foundation of mental wellness that can help kids recognize and manage their social anxiety, fears, and worries.
When an acorn strikes a blow onto Henny Penny’s head, she mistakenly fears the worst – that the whole sky is falling! This story talks about anxious feelings that can lead to worry, uncertainty, and fear, and the kind of “good worry” where trusting your instincts can keep you safe from dangerous situations.
This episode is about emotional regulation and dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Kids are guided to invite their favorite feelings to stay while sending feelings they don’t like on their way.