Since we began this socialization argument yesterday…we might as well continue it today.
Let me ask you a question…is every single person in your office or at work the exact same age as you? Are all of you expected to perform the exact same task in the same way?
In the REAL world, we need social skills that will allow us to handle interactions with people across a wide range of ages, cultures and with varying abilities and challenges.
Why then is school…an artificially forced system where human beings are segregated based solely on age…held up as some ideal way of teaching those social skills?
Even school was not always that way…
Once upon a time (at least in my American homeland) there was the one room schoolhouse. Children from six or seven all the way up until their teens taught by a single teacher…and each other. They learned those socialization skills that we all need in the workforce…primarily…
They worked together as a team with each bringing their unique strengths to the table. With an acceptance that not everyone is academically inclined. And that was OK then. Acceptable. If reading or maths did not come easily then their parents were informed and it was suggested that their talents and efforts be directed elsewhere…farming, sewing, or cooking.
No child was left behind then…because schools, teachers, parents and society understood that not everyone was the same. That some people were better suited to working with their hands and back than their minds…not that that made them stupid or retarded or ‘below average’ intelligence. It was just a different kind of smarts.
The children learned to accept those difference…WITHOUT a label even.
Yes, I am not naive enough to think there was not still some bullying…but it was dealt with quickly by teachers and parents. Without a written policy, there was a true ZERO Tolerance.
Today, we went to the weekly home ed group meeting. And I was reminded of those times.
A few dozen children (and it was a light day) all running around the community center. Everything from a babe in arms to teenagers. Some ‘normal’, ‘neurotypical’ or whatever the currently fashionable word is. Some with Downs’ Syndrome. Many, many that fit somewhere along the autistic spectrum. And parent-teachers who saw their children’s strengths as much or even more than their weaknesses.
Bullying? You ask. Yes, it has happened. Once to PanKwake. But not only did she use those social skills I have taught her to explain her autism to the girl, but her best friend, who knew the other child defended her. Then they came to us. I talked with my child and supported her. Another parent knew the little girl’s mother and spoke with her. No, it is not a case of them becoming life-long friends. The other girl pretty much ignores or occasionally stares at PanKwake.
But that quick and simple adult intervention was far more effective than the Zero Tolerance Policy at the school where PanKwake went to Reception. When we complained of bullying we were told…that was life. Your child needs to grow a thicker skin. When we pointed to the policy, we were told that was just ‘political correctness.’
With the local home ed group, there are activities almost every day. Most of them inclusive too. So there is plenty of opportunity for the children to socialize…with adequate adult supervision.
Of course, with the spectre of autism even my extroverted daughter can find such a schedule of ‘socialization’ challenging. Thankfully, home ed also allows us to pick and choose which activities we attend and which we skip.
We regularly attend this Wednesday playgroup and the every other Wednesday gymnastics, which was our first introduction to the group. We are going to add the Friday swim, climb and play thing at the local leisure center soon. We have tried others too…including horse care and science classes. But unlike school, my child is not forced to do activities that do not suit her unique special needs.
Oh, and today they had a man bring hedgehogs for the children to ‘pet’. I have heard half a dozen times now how I must always crush tin cans before putting them in recycling. So the hedgehogs don’t get stuck in them.
How’s that for edu-me-cation?