Soft skills: Just as important as academics

You can trust teachers to provide the right amount of academic work for the average child.

Second comment!

“I am particularly thankful for the sentence, ‘schoolwork takes a lot less time than you think it should.’ As this has been a major source of disagreement in our house. My son agrees with you! 🙂”

Thanks, Judith! For me, this was the biggest surprise that came with home schooling.

It’s particularly noticeable, I think, in middle school. The average middle schooler is working on a lot of non-academic or “soft” skills during middle school, and needs the chance to do this at a time they’re most interested, most ready, and most supervised. So skills like social interaction, back-and-forth chat, conflict, young love, ups and downs of friendships, staying organized, trying new things, coping with disappointment…. As you can see, I could go on and on.

These “soft” skills are just as important as academic skills.

Notice I referred above to “the average middle schooler.” By definition, there will be people past all this, and people not yet ready for it. In my professional and personal experience, people with Autism Spectrum Disorders are rarely ready for these non-academic skills at the same time as most of their peers.

A digression: I’m also one of those people who wasn’t ready for “soft” skills when most kids were. I was acing all my classes, but I struggled with managing anxiety, making idle chit chat, coping with crushes, and dealing with mean kids. I ended up working on these skills later in life, when I was ready and motivated to do so.

So, the takeaway:

You can trust teachers to provide the right amount of academic work for the average child. That’s what schools are meant to do. Some schools supplement on either end of average, with enrichment activities on one end and academic support on the other. That’s too much to expect of teachers right now.

What can you do? You can supplement. But that doesn’t look like you spending a lot of your own time expanding your child’s universe. It looks like, in my case, giving one of my children time to yammer with her friends on FaceTime and veg out on Tik Tok videos. And giving the other child time to decompress by shooting baskets ad nauseam and playing on his x-box way too much. But, bonus, he’s talking to his friends on the microphone and on FaceTime at the same time.

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Juli Burger
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Juli Burger

Lynn, I applaud you as the anti-Insta-mom. You know where their homes are home-tour ready, their kids are well-heeled, and they’re making Pinterest-worthy cupcakes? Your post relieves a lot of pressure to make sure that our kids can change the oil in the car, cook an entire meal, and learn a new instrument before the quarantine is over.