Saturday, February 13, 2010

NurtureShock chapter "Plays Well With Others"

Last night I finished reading a fascinating book, NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It discusses several assumptions and ideas currently in vogue in child rearing and how research disproves them. One chapter, "Plays Well With Others", discusses how we try to instill good social skills in our children. Especially interesting to homeschoolers, who have to field questions about whether their children are missing out on socialization, is the following paragraph (p. 194):
We thought that aggressiveness was the reaction to peer rejection, so we have painstakingly attempted to eliminate peer rejection from the childhood experience. In its place is elaborately orchestrated peer interaction. We've created the play date phenomenon, while ladening older kids' schedules with after-school activities. We've segregated children by age--building separate playgrounds for the youngest children, and stratifying classes and teams. Unwittingly, we've put children into an echo chamber. Today's average middle schooler has a phenomenal 299 peer interactions a day. The average teen spends sixty hours a week surrounded by a peer groups (and only sixteen hours a week surrounded by adults). This has created the perfect atmosphere for a different strain of aggression-virus to breed--one fed not by peer rejection, but fed by the need for peer status and social ranking. The more time peers spend together, the stronger this compulsion is to rank high, resulting in the hostility of one-upmanship. All those lessons about sharing and consideration can hardly compete. We wonder why it takes twenty years to teach a child how to conduct himself in polite society--overlooking the fact that we've essentially left our children to socialize themselves.

I describe myself sometimes as a part-time homeschooler because I take my child to a public school enrichment program (art, music, and PE with other homeschooled children) for seven hours each week. From what I read and see around me, most homeschooled children do get out and spend time in group learning environments on a regular basis. It seems then that these homeschooled children are getting socialization. They're just not getting too much socialization. This seems to be another one of those issues where going to extremes is a bad thing--zero hours a week with peers prevents development of peer social skills needed for current happiness and later interaction in the adult world, but 60 hours a week with peers sabotages parental efforts to teach, among other things, consideration and kindness.


  1. Excellent post. Thanks for submitting to the carnival of homeschooling.

  2. Thank you for that intersting post. I had not heard of that book but it sounds like something I would be interested in reading.


  3. Interesting. And another one of those things that seems rather intuitive. I don't understand how the same people having difficulty with their children and peers at school wonder "what about socialization" when presented with homeschoolers. Sounds like an interesting book.