Sunday, September 7, 2008

Musings on Socialization

Did you ever wonder how children survived before the invention of nursery schools? I mean, honestly, how could they have possibly developed properly without being around nineteen other kids their exact same age for six hours a day, five days a week?

Were children of the past who were deprived of institutional-socialization isolated, lonely, poorly stimulated, and aggressive? Certainly, without institutional-socialization, a child won't know how to share, won't know how to work with others, won't know how to make friends, and in general be a social misfit and outcast, right?

Yesterday we were sitting on the lawn at the popcorn fest, relaxing for a bit. It was just Hunter and I at the moment, and we started to play frisbee, until Hunter saw a brother and sister running around nearby. He told me he wanted to "play with the kids", and gave me a glancing smile as he ran off to join them in their game of tag.

The kids were probably two and four years older than him, but none of them had any reservations to their newly selected playmates. They quickly had fun in their game before ever learning each others' names, before ever sharing any information other than smiles and laughs. They soon switched their game to hide and seek, carefully discussing the rules at a nearby tree. No adult intervention, training, or hours a week of "learning how to play with each other", they made up their own rules, made their own friends. Hunter's never been to daycare, nursery school, and doesn't even attend Sunday School. Nor do I spend all my time trying to sign him up for as many play dates, sports leagues, or classes as will fit into my day. But he's socially competent, well-adjusted, and generally charming to people of any age. Yet he spends most of his life with me, his mom, not with two dozen other three-year-olds.

Watching him run around, laugh, giggle, and converse with perfect strangers (as he often does) made me laugh about how ignorant we have become in regards to the realm of socialization. Hunter defies all of the current folk wisdom about preschoolers and socialization.

How did mothers of the past schedule socialization? Well, they didn't, really. And you know what? All of our great leaders of the past didn't suffer from being social misfits. They played with other children at parks, gatherings, when families came to visit. They had siblings, neighbors, relatives. Do you really think that children who don't spend all their time locked up in an institution have no contact with other people and are going to turn into little hermits?

"And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof."
Zechariah 8:5

Hunter is 3 years, 5 months old

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