More and more homeschoolers are participating in online learning. Although online school presents an opportunity for many homeschoolers to excel academically, parents and educators are concerned about how their homeschoolers develop socially in this environment.
One of the most common myths in online education is that homeschoolers don’t get enough time to interact with each other. Fortunately, we’re deconstructing this narrative by creating many opportunities for homeschoolers to socialize even if they aren’t in a traditional school setting.
If you want to learn more about how to be a positive, involved support system for homeschoolers to safely engage with their online community, you’ve come to the right place. Here are four things you can do to support your homeschoolers in online socialization.
Keep an Open Line of Communication
One of the first things you can do to support homeschoolers in online socialization is to create an environment that encourages honest, transparent communication. The goal is to support your homeschooler’s academic and social development with the same effort and energy. And the best way to do that is to develop strong relationships with them that include an open line of communication.
You want to ensure they are connecting with others regularly. This could be through weekly email check-ins, daily video chats, one-on-one meetings, or appropriate messaging platforms.
For example, many online homeschoolers are likely to experience cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is so widespread that data tells us 36% of online homeschoolers have experienced it, and most victims never report it. So, challenge yourself to ensure your homeschoolers feel safe enough to disclose to you. You can help put a stop to it so children can safely socialize online.
Ensure you’re creating an environment where your homeschoolers feel safe enough to communicate openly. In addition to their interactions with you, you want to support them in socializing with other students just as much.
Implement Team Projects
As stated above, many homeschool educators and parents are concerned with the lack of interaction between students participating in school online. And it’s a valid concern. But one that can be addressed proactively by implementing team projects.
If your homeschool learning environment finds itself in an online landscape, it’s a good idea to implement lots of group work. Unfortunately, it’s even more challenging to get students to work together online than in an in-person setting. But with appropriate digital collaboration and communication tools, you can support homeschoolers in online socialization through team projects.
Experts say, “That group work is valuable for students because it can improve students’ individual achievement and can build their communication and collaborative skills.” Interacting with others successfully is highly dependent on good communication skills and a willingness to work with others. So, students can use Google Docs or Slack to work collaboratively on projects. And host group meetings and discussions through tools like Zoom or Skype.
Ultimately, implement group projects in your lesson plans regularly. You can also encourage homeschoolers in online socialization with a push for participation in online events and activities.
Encourage Attendance at Homeschool Events and Activities
Traditional educational institutions often put on school events and afterschool activities for their students—for example, carnivals, book fairs, open houses, and music concerts including activities like book clubs, tutoring groups, debate, and cooking classes.
Online schooling platforms are just as committed to creating a sense of community. Events and activities like the ones above can and should be carried out on digital platforms. You want to allow your homeschoolers to connect outside of the classroom.
You could host a virtual pizza or dance party for your homeschooler’s online friends. Get together once a week via Zoom for math and debate club. Or host your annual fundraiser online this year and encourage homeschool friends to attend. These are great ways to support online socialization.
This last way to support your homeschoolers emphasizes the importance of social interactions outside of “formal learning.”
Facilitate Virtual Hangouts
In addition to in-classroom online socialization, you’ll want to encourage your students to interact outside their learning environments. Students must regularly participate in activities they’re passionate about and build a supportive online community in this capacity as well.
For example, video games are often deemed unproductive. However, they can actually be quite productive for children, teaching them transferable skills to take with them through the rest of their schooling onto their first job and beyond. So, encourage your homeschoolers to participate in online gaming sessions with friends.
Playing video games in moderation can aid positive online interactions. Gaming sessions can better a child’s ability to socialize because a lot of the time, they’re playing against or with other kids from all over. Headsets, microphones, chat features, and so forth encourage real-time communication and interaction. So, they have an opportunity to have fun together, and in turn, learn more about collaboration and teamwork in the process.
But be mindful of how excessive gaming can negatively affect your children. You don’t want it to become an addiction or make mental health challenges worse. So, ensure that gaming and other virtual hangout activities are monitored closely.
As homeschoolers navigate the online learning environment, do your best to help them excel academically and socially. To help them embrace socializing through different online mediums, keep open lines of communication, implement team projects, encourage attendance at online school activities and events, and facilitate virtual hangouts.
More About the Author:
Sam Bowman is a writer who enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time, he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.