SummaryPatricia Purcell considers the array of activities available to homeschoolers and encourages families to answer socialization questions with confidence.
There are certain questions that people love to ask homeschoolers.
How do you do it all? Do you really remember Algebra (or Grammar, or Chemistry, etc.)? Will your kids be able to go to college?
And, the most popular question of all…but what about socialization?
It seems that despite the growing popularity and proven success of homeschooling over the last several decades, some people still seem to imagine that homeschooled children live their lives shut away from the world, never interacting with anyone outside their families.
In reality, families choose to homeschool to give children more, not fewer, opportunities for growth.
Instead of raising lonely, isolated children, we’re raising kids with wide circles of friends and interests, and so many chances for socializing that sometimes tough choices have to be made.
1. Choosing Among Activities
Since much socialization is done through organized activities, my family makes an effort to choose high quality ones based on: affordability, educational value, and interest.
- With two-income families being the norm these days and the subsequent need for organized activities to occupy children after school hours, the cost of children’s activities has skyrocketed. Rather than going broke trying to have our kids do every possible activity, we support a few of our kids’ favorites.
- Educational Value. When we look at a new activity, we find out who is teaching, what kind of experience they have, what will be taught, and what ages or grade levels it is geared toward.Sometimes camps and classes that sound wonderful on paper turn out to be little more than glorified daycare.
- In order for us to spend money on an activity, my kids have to express an interest in doing it and agree to commit the necessary time and effort to reap a benefit. We’ve learned to ask ourselves, “Is this something our child wants to do, or are we dragging him?” It can save a lot of frustration for everyone to establish this first.
2. How Homeschoolers Find Opportunities to Socialize
- General Activities. I’ll let you in on a secret. Homeschooled kids are…just kids. The same sports and activities that interest public schooled kids interest homeschoolers. Take a closer look at your town recreation league sports teams, local dance classes, theatre groups, and enrichment classes. Guess what you’ll find? Homeschoolers! When homeschoolers aren’t getting schoolwork done, they are out in the community doing what kids do.
- Homeschool Activities. The ability to be flexible with scheduling allows homeschoolers to get together at times when other kids are still stuck in school. Some families even arrange their schedules so that all of the school work gets done in four days, leaving one day free for socializing, volunteering, and errands.
- Create Groups. Can’t find an activity that matches your child’s interests? Homeschooling parents have long been solving this problem by starting up a group themselves. Enterprising moms and dads have started everything from co-ops, to science clubs, to drama groups, to park get-togethers. Joining an online support group is a great way to get the word out about your activity. If you plan it, they will come.
3. Family Socializing
- Other Parents. One terrific bonus of socializing with other homeschoolers is that there is usually ample opportunity to get to know other parents.This is good not only to become comfortable with others who might be interacting with your children, but also because it leads to a natural support network. There is no one who understands the joys (and frustrations) of homeschooling like another homeschooling parent.Often it just takes reassurance from someone with slightly older kids who has ‘been there’ to set your mind at ease over a stumbling block.
- Parent/Child Relationship. Homeschooling parents and children spend long hours with each other on a daily basis.Teaching your child leads naturally to talks about serious subjects and fosters an open atmosphere where the child can bring up anything and know he will be taken seriously.Children learn lessons about responsibility through observing their parents. Parents witness daily their children’s slow journey to adulthood.
- Sibling Relationships. A beautiful side effect of homeschooling is the chance it gives for sibling relationships to develop. Sadly, today’s time-pressed children are often separated from their brothers and sisters for most of their waking hours due to school and activities. Homeschooling families find that siblings can actually be friends if given the opportunity. The sibling relationship is a God-given opportunity for children to learn about patience, treating others fairly, negotiation, forgiveness, and love. Such a bond is much more likely to last a lifetime if the siblings have the time in childhood to really know one another.
4. The Dark Side
There are those who for some reason feel that socialization is incomplete without children being exposed to negative situations, such as bullies and cliques.
Homeschooling children (and parents) are not perfect. Gather a large enough group and you’re sure to find some unpleasant people in the crowd.
Homeschooled children have to deal with bossy, bullying kids on the playground, and with being excluded from the ‘in-crowd’ just as their public schooled peers do.
They encounter kids from all backgrounds through sports and activities, and even just being out in the neighborhood. Encountering hostility is never a happy experience.
The key difference is that in homeschool settings, such situations tend to be addressed more quickly, and the child usually doesn’t have to suffer in silence or face a frightening or dangerous situation without the guidance of a trusted adult.
Today’s homeschoolers have a wide range of choices for socializing. You’ll find them participating in sports and clubs with other kids, or sometimes getting together with fellow homeschoolers while their peers are still in the classroom.
What’s more, they benefit greatly from ample time with their own families, forming unbreakable bonds with their siblings.
So the next time someone asks about your family’s socialization, put on a confident smile and reply, “We’re fine, how about you?”
How do you handle homeschool socialization?
Header photo CC: Adobe Stock – Mat Hayward