Homeschooling and Socialization

Any time homeschooling is brought up, there’s always one question in particular that always creeps its way into the conversation. “What about socialization?”  For those who aren’t familiar with homeschooling, this is pretty much the be all-end all as to whether or not homeschooling can work.  While most people asking the question have good intentions, their timing (when they ask the questions) is often so ironic!  It’s not unusual to find yourself answering that question while you’re waiting for your daughter to finish her dance class or you’re at your son’s basketball game.

Why Are Social Activities for Homeschoolers So Important?

If you’re new to homeschooling, you may not have been asked this question yet. Don’t worry; it’ll come!  In fact, it will happen often. So often that you’ll start wondering why this is so important to people in the first place. Our best guess is that people are well-meaning and only want to be sure you’ve thought of homeschool socialization ideas (along with everything else they’ll want to be sure you’ve thought about…).

When it comes to homeschooling, there is an underlying assumption that you’ll stay home all the time and won’t have your children out in “the real world” enough. (Of course, since homeschoolers live in the real world every day, you can see how this question is irrelevant.)

How to Answer The Question “What about homeschooling and socialization?”

how to socialize homeschoolersBefore you can answer the question, always consider the source. This is important because it will help you gauge whether the question is coming from a place of genuine concern or from someone who wants to challenge you. If it’s the latter, remember that you don’t “owe” anyone an explanation about what your family chooses to do.

However, suppose the question comes from true concern. In that case, you can reassure the person asking that your children will have plenty of opportunities for socialization between dance lessons, basketball practice and games, your homeschooling co-op (if you’re a part of one), and more. This would also be a great time to point out that you’d prefer for your children to learn their social skills from people of all ages – not from other same-age children all day every day. That is a bit like the blind leading the blind!

If you’re thinking about homeschooling, that’s great! You’re probably expecting some amount of backlash from naysayers, but what you may not have expected was the number of people who will be concerned with your children’s social skills. For those genuinely concerned, you can explain that you’ve got everything covered and offer some reassurances to that effect. In time, those same individuals questioning you will no doubt sing your praises when they see what lovely members of society your children have become!

Do Homeschooled Kids Get Enough Socialization?

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 classroom social learning imparts a different skill set than what children need as adults. Typical schools group children by age and developmental ability, resulting in large groups of children who all have similar skills — and shared deficiencies.

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 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 to Socialize Homeschoolers

Homeschool socialization happens in any situation. Especially any you can think of where your children are interacting with other people. So many activities.  Like music lessons, art classes, and sports teams. Church groups, scouting, 4-H, wilderness groups, and summer camps. Mission work, and community activism count. Additionally, other activities allow homeschoolers to interact with others and develop interpersonal skills.

If your child needs more social opportunities, they’ll let you know. In addition, you might seek out a homeschool group in your area. Or start one if one doesn’t already exist.

There also may be volunteer opportunities. Try a local nursing home or daycare center. Places 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.

Ideas for homeschooling and socialization

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 a few more specific suggestions.

  • Join a local homeschool support group.
  • Take dance lessons.
  • Join gymnastics.
  • Participate in a basketball team.
  • Become part of a homeschool co-op.
  • Talk with your local public school about homeschoolers joining extracurricular activities.
  • Take music lessons.
  • Encourage high schoolers to dual-enroll in a local community college.
  • And so much more!

How Can I Be Certain My Children Are Getting 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.