Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nurturing Positive Relationships and Socialization Skills – a list of goals, and some rambling…

I was asked to read Homeschooling for the Rest of Us, written by Sonya Haskins because many of my readers are homeschoolers. I’m working my way through it and have found so much great advice that I want to share some of it as I go along.
I am, technically, not a homeschooler. M is only 3, won’t start kindergarten until he is 6, and most likely will go to the private school associated with our church. However, I do place great importance on the fact that as his mother, I’m his primary teacher, his most important teacher at least for now. And, if you read this blog you know we do a lot of preschool learning activities. It comes naturally to me, I love doing it, M loves it even more… and it’s a way for us to spend special time together on a daily basis.
I struggle occasionally with what I should be doing with M. This brief time that he is mine alone… these short years of early childhood innocence… they are such a gift and I love being with him (that’s not to say it’s not a very tough job sometimes). But I feel the pressure of the clock winding down on us. What should my priorities be as his mother and first teacher? Well, love of God, knowledge of our faith, caring for others, manners… things that have to do with relationships. Strong, loving relationships are so much more important than academics at this age (probably this is true of any age). I admit, it’s harder work for me to help him develop a virtuous character, than it is to plan unit studies. (Evidently my own character isn’t quite perfect either – who knew? And still God entrusted this little guy to me; it floors me sometimes!)
What I love about Sonya Haskin’s book is that she stresses “relationships first, academics second”, especially for early childhood. What she writes about this topic is such an encouragement to me, and an affirmation that my instinct is right in this area.
What I particularly am appreciating right now is a list of goals regarding relationship growth (good social skills lend themselves to good relationships, right?) that Ms. Haskins provides early on in the book. For a list-maker, list-reader, and list-needer like me, it’s great to have something that I can refer to once in a while in order to make sure we are on the right track.
Here’s her list of what skills should be learned in early childhood…
“Students should be able to:
  • take turns
  • share with others
  • use appropriate language
  • use appropriate voice tone (yelling outside, quiet talk in side)
  • say “please” and “thank you”
  • praise others and avoid insults
  • ask for help when needed
  • stay on task
  • look at others when spoken to
  • communicate clearly
  • wait patiently for lunch
  • take care of belongings
  • listen attentively
  • resolve conflicts appropriately (no hitting, no biting)
  • follow directions
  • work with a team
  • share ideas coherently
  • understand age-appropriate social concepts
  • help others" (pp. 45-46)
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this! Are there other things you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments!
Have a beautiful day! :)


  1. It sounds very interesting. Socialization was the main reason why we sent Anna to preschool. I think they are doing a great job teaching little ones those important principles of how humans live together. But I also see that my daughter is not going to be a social butterfly, because she likes to be in her own world, even in school. I am hoping that eventually she makes more friends, but I am pleased that she can communicate with adults appropriately and follow the rules rather well.

  2. I'll have to see if the library has this, it looks interesting.
    Sounds like a good list of skills. A book to check out from your library is the Well Trained Mind, see if you like it and if you do decide to homeschool it can be useful.
    Glad to see my kids have a lot of these skills, but there definitely a few we need to work on, in particular taking care of their stuff.

  3. Great post! We cover the basics just by living and meeting our friends regularly. We haven't made a list of skills yet but some I like to encourage is the ability to self-regulate and know how to express needs appropriately. I'm finding that most prosocial behaviors like sharing and taking turns are hard for toddlers but become easier as they approach preschool age. I try to keep in mind that we all are working on this, even as adults because even adults are choosy about whom they want to share with and hang out with. Most of the time I catch myself telling her what she should do and not modeling appropriate behavior. Need to work on that! Parenting is sure tough but rewarding!

  4. Great post! I love reading your thoughts about things like this. (Hmm, is it because I tend to agree with you, so I am sort of saying I like my own thoughts?:)

    I have a letter from a Holocaust survivor written to a teacher back from my teaching days and it is hanging in our playroom now. It says: "my eyes saw what no man should witness...gas chambers built by learned engineers...reading, writing, arithmetic are only important if they serve to make our children more human.".

    I think about this all the time. I don't really care if
    my M can use tongs or identify letters but it really bothers me when he is inconsiderate or disrespectful.

    Well, I might cut myself off now because I have too much to say...but thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

  5. I think the list is a good one and includes many of the skills I taught in my classroom as a public pre-kindergarten teacher for 17 years. However, new brain research has proven that young children can learn more than was previously thought, they are capable of learning anything when it is taught in a fun, developmentally appropriate way. As an early childhood specialist for a large urban school district our students are learning how to read in fun, multi-sensory ways. I'm not sure how this relates to homeschooling but I do want readers to be aware of what their public school peers are doing.

  6. Thank you for your all the comments!

    I know many schools and teachers do make sure to teach small children these basic social skills (which is wonderful), and I've been hearing a lot recently about how schools are taking into account different learning styles when planning lessons.

    However, I still feel strongly that it's the responsibility of parents to make sure their children are developing good characters, as well as learning manners and other social skills. The primary way of doing this, I feel, is by modeling the correct behavior... but that's easier said than done, and that's why I appreciate this list - so I have something to look at to get me back on track at times.

    I'm not sure that even teachers who love their students (and I know many really do) are able to do this as well as a parent. No one loves their child (in general) as much as that child's parents, and it's probably more likely that a mother with one to five (or however many) children is going to be able to correct poor behavior more quickly and more often than a teacher with 20+ students.

    That said, I do realize one pitfall could be that the mother isn't objective and thinks her children are angels regardless of their behavior... again, that's another reason I appreciate having a list like this! Anyway... I guess this is a long enough comment on my own post. :) Thanks again for all the feedback!

  7. Great post, Nicole - thanks so much for this. It's funny to me how often I read my thoughts on your blog - we are SO on the same wavelength!! That list is great, and I'm going to see if I can find this book at the library tomorrow. :)

  8. I think developing empathy for others and impulse control are also very important social skills to be striving to develop from a young age.


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