Teaching Social Skills in Homeschool

If we had a dollar for every time a question about social skills came up with regards to homeschooling, we’d be able to afford all the curriculum we ever wanted, am I right? So many of the world’s assumptions about homeschoolers seem to revolve around the belief that homeschooling takes place in a cave, under a rock, removed and isolated from absolutely everyone.

Teaching Social Skills in Homeschool

Of course, we know better as homeschoolers. We know about co-ops and field trips, teams and enrichment classes, park days, play days, and all the other events we have to turn down so we can actually fit in some schooling. We know that our kids aren’t hiding from anyone and are actually given more opportunities to socialize and build relationships than their traditionally-schooled counterparts.

Sometimes, though, there really are struggles with social issues. Not because of homeschooling, but because of underlying issues that affect a child’s ability to relate or thrive in social situations. An autistic child, kids with social anxiety, learning differences, and many other diagnoses can put a child in a social skills deficit, no matter what school setting they’re in. Whether from an organic issue or just plain awkwardness, helping your child build and strengthen their social skills isn’t something that has to wait for weekly appointments – it can become a part of your homeschool.

Social Skills Curriculum

Just as you shop around for math and writing curricula, you can search for the right social skills curriculum for your homeschool. With the rise in special needs homeschoolers, there has been an increase in available resources for kiddos who don’t quite follow the normal trajectory of development. There are even social skills programs used by public school intervention specialists that can be purchased and added to your daily schedule. Numerous games have also been developed in recent years that put teaching social skills into the context of fun, which is great for sneaking in those skills when your child might feel singled out by focusing so much on their differences.

Social Skills Role Play

A favorite tool of mine, role play is invaluable and unbeatable when it comes to teaching social skills in our homeschool. Creating hypothetical scenarios and working through appropriate responses is real, practical practice that prepares your child for a number of situations.

Utilizing social stories is also incredibly helpful, essentially helping your child come up with a plan beforehand so that when they’re faced with uncomfortable or untested situations, they’ve got, in essence, a script to rely upon. We even go so far as to practice general ice-breaker questions and go over the various options and responses for small talk.

My son has a difficult time relating to kids his age, so he needs to be reminded, often, that what he might say may not be what the group of tweens he’s approaching speaks, or that sometimes words have double meanings, opposite meanings, or empty meanings. As a bonus, this role play we perform leads to wonderful discussions with my boy.

Social Skills Practice

It’s the most intimidating option, but practicing social skills is one of the reasons homeschool is such a perfect setting for kiddos who struggle socially. Rather than being grouped by age and told to keep quiet for 8 hours a day, homeschoolers have the freedom and flexibility to meet and engage with people of all ages and walks of life throughout the day.

The postman, the cashier, the librarian, the kids of all ages at co-op or the park, museum docents, servers, mechanics, farmers… just about anyone you encounter in a day is potential practice for your child to work on their social skills.

Approaching, introducing, discussing, listening (don’t forget to take the time to listen!), all are important parts of interaction that can be exercised in almost any setting. Taking just one afternoon a week to include social skills practice while you’re out running errands is easy and effective, and completely beneficial.

Whatever your child’s social skills deficits stem from, you don’t have to feel pressured or guilty that homeschooling is making them worse. In fact, whenever the question comes up, you can answer, confidently, that homeschooling is actually giving your child the chance to make his skills even stronger.

Jennifer Vail

About the author

Jennifer Vail is the wife of a very handsome man and the mom of 3 very hilarious kiddos. She is a contributing writer at Raising Lifelong Learners where she writes about the struggles - and triumphs! - of raising gifted and twice-exceptional children. She holds degrees in counseling and general ministries, but for now her time is spent raising really loud kids, homeschooling, writing, and binging on Netflix, but definitely not folding laundry.

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