The question of socialization comes up
often in conversations about homeschooling. Parents who are new to
homeschooling or considering it as a future option may recognize that
school provides more than just academics. They may worry about how they
will recreate those other learning opportunities in their home.
Well-meaning neighbors and family members may ask, "But what about
socialization?" Well, what about it?
What is socialization, anyway?
Societies have an interest in making sure the younger generation has
the social skills and expectations needed to fit in with and be
productive members of the group.
Oxford Learners Dictionary
defines socialization as the process by which somebody, especially a
child, learns to behave in a way that is acceptable in their society.
Many people expect schools to do the job of seeing children through this
process of becoming acceptably behaved citizens who understand the norms
of their society and how to fit in without being a burden to the
community. So they might wonder how homeschoolers will gain these skills
outside of school.
Is this something I need to worry about?
Not at all. If you and your children are involved in activities with
a range of other people, your children will have many opportunities for
healthy social development.
In fact, some people assert that the kinds of social learning situations
that occur in the classroom and on the playground impart a very
different skill set than what children will actually need as adults.
Typical schools group children by age and developmental ability,
resulting in large groups of children who all have similar skills — and
In contrast, homeschoolers tend to interact with more diverse groups and
individuals. So they are able to gain new skills from people who are
much more socially adept and affirm those skills by mentoring those who
are younger or less experienced. The more socially experienced members
of the group provide a model for the others to learn from. This is a
valuable form of socialization that is not usually part of social
learning in a group of same-age children.
How can I meet my child's needs for socialization? How do others
families do this?
Socialization happens in any situation you can think of where your
children are interacting with other people. Music lessons, art classes,
sports teams, church groups, scouting, 4-H, wilderness groups, summer
camps, mission work, community activism, and all sorts of other
activities provide the opportunity for homeschoolers to interact with
others and develop interpersonal skills.
If your child needs more social opportunities, they'll let you know. You
might seek out a homeschool group in your area or start one if one
doesn't already exist. There may be volunteer opportunities at a local
nursing home or daycare center where your child can learn from elders
and/or mentor younger children. Perhaps a neighbor would like someone to
help them side-by-side with yardwork or housework. You might match your
child with a caring teen or adult who has similar interests. If you live
in a very isolated area, you might consider using the Internet or a
pen-pal arrangement as a way for your child to connect with others
socially through the written word. Here are
from readers on Oak Meadow's Facebook page. Can you think of any to add?
There are many "right" ways to foster healthy socialization!
What do I say to family/friends who press the issue?
Well-meaning family and friends may react with concern. Sometimes it
can be helpful to dig a bit deeper to uncover their fears and respond
from there. What exactly are they worried about? What social skills do
they think will be missing from your child's experience? Perhaps a
simple explanation of how you will fill that gap is all they need to
When you choose to homeschool, you may appear to be removing your child
from the community's collective method of raising its children. People
may wonder if this means your family will now become isolated. They may
assume that your child will be at home all day and will not have enough
of a chance to develop and practice social skills. They may know adults
who are unable to function in a socially appropriate way, and although
there is no reason to connect this outcome with homeschooling, they may
wonder if there could be a connection.
They may be concerned about homeschooling simply because they do not
have any experience (yet!) with healthy, well-adjusted, well-socialized
homeschoolers. It's likely that they were indoctrinated with the belief
that schools are the only place where children can learn what they need
to know to succeed socially. Homeschoolers typically prove that wrong,
but it may take some time for the people in your life to see that
It may help to remember that these questions are generally posed out of
love and concern for your child's well-being. Be patient with the
process and assure them that with your attentive care, your children are
How do I make sure my children get what they need?
Decide for yourself what social and behavioral skills you feel are
essential for your child to learn. Consider your child's developmental
level as you set your expectations. Stay tuned in to your child and his
or her needs, and follow your inner compass in figuring out how best to
meet those needs.
Make connections with others in your community and include your children
in those interactions. Model socially appropriate behavior in different
situations and support your children as they practice interacting with
various people. Many homeschoolers find that socialization comes easily
and naturally as part of their everyday interactions with others.
So the next time a well-meaning friend asks, "But what about
socialization?" just smile and invite them to become part of your
child's ever-expanding social network.
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Amanda Witman is a
homeschooling mother of four, musician, urban homesteader, enthusiastic
lifelong learner, and Oak Meadow's Social Media Coordinator.