…mirror neurons in our brains respond as we observe other people, causing us to feel before we think. These mirror neurons are part of our biological hardware for compassion.
What most people mean by “socialization” is simply socializing. And they regard children who are not in school as being deprived of this opportunity. However, studies show that homeschooled children participate in more activities than the average child. They have more free time for both planned and spontaneous play with friends of all ages. As noted previously, some studies have shown homeschooled youth to be more mature and cooperative among their peers than schooled children.
Studies show that insufficient play hinders child development in areas such as emotional health, language, social skills, creativity, confidence, motivation and learning. Our children become more fully themselves as they grow and mature playfully. It’s an essential function of childhood.
Research shows that when children are given the opportunity to take an active role in science they are much more likely to retain what is learned. Involvement and exploration help them assimilate the information and relate it to other areas.
Science isn’t a dead thing consigned to books. Science is an ongoing process. It takes place in the lab and in the field. It’s theoretical. A postulate is commonly accepted until proof is found that another one is better. Science isn’t static. Amateur scientists throughout history have made profound discoveries, many times confounding the erudite and knowledge-bound of their day.
Empathy happens when we “feel” another person’s grief, pain, happiness, anticipation or despair. We tend to react with compassion. By the age of two, most children already demonstrate empathy. This is a cornerstone of ethical development.
Authoritative parents represent a middle ground between these two extremes. They value the child’s autonomy but they use their authority to elicit compliance with a balanced, rational approach. These parents welcome dialogue, explain the reasons behind rules, but maintain the rules. They are positive and warm. As a result, their children are confident, emotionally stable and optimistic. The children are also socially mature.
Interesting problems and exciting risks are life’s calisthenics. They stretch us in directions we need to grow. Children are particularly oriented this way. They think up huge questions and search for the answers. They face fears. They puzzle over inconsistencies in what is said and done around them. They relentlessly challenge themselves to achieve social, physical or intellectual feats that, from a child’s perspective, seem daunting. They struggle for mastery even when dozens of attempts don’t provide them any success. It’s a testament to courage that they continue to try.
When children are working in an area of passionate interest, they often find that a whole range of related topics opens up, each new topic fueling their interests even more. They develop related skills almost unwittingly. These skills are transferable to many other fields.
Children who are nurtured in a healthy, free range learning environment are invigorated by the challenges they seek out. They expand their own frontiers on a comfortable, self-regulating timetable. Perhaps people of all ages define themselves, in part, through the challenges they take on and the way they resolve those challenges.
Children’s experiences may teach what we don’t intend. For example, when a child gets his way by whining, he learns to perpetuate that behavior even if he is chastised for it. Each time a busy, distracted parent gives in, the child is being taught to continue, even though his tactics increasingly annoy his parents. What he is learning with each success is that a parent’s irritated voice is often followed by exactly what he wants. He’s not only learning to act self-centered, he is learning to associate a parent’s negativity with his gratification.
Sometimes childled learning is like a dance. Children ask for help, make their own attempts, then back off. They try later, and this time they are energized by the challenge, pushing themselves until they succeed. They want to be fully engaged as active participants. When their interest wanes, they want the freedom to move on to something that delights them more.