SummarySocialization is a challenge for homeschoolers: There are too many opportunities! What to choose? Suzanne Tombs lists her family’s top 10 social activities.
“But what about socialization?”
It is almost inevitably the first question that comes up when people ask me about homeschooling my children.
It is usually voiced as an objection, as though homeschooling prevents you from interaction with the rest of the world.
Friends, strangers, and even families who are considering homeschooling their own children but are nervous about “taking the plunge” all ask this question.
I always hope my reply will take them by surprise. With a huge smile I respond, “I know! There are so many opportunities for socialization, we really have to pick and choose carefully. We could be busy every day of the week and not leave enough time for academics!”
You see, I have found that there are myriad possibilities of social activities (not including the typical lineup of afterschool sports, music lessons, etc.) for socialization, and the biggest challenge can be limiting ourselves to a reasonable number.
Generally speaking, all it takes is a little homework, some careful planning, and an e-mail list of friends to be out and about interacting with others.
Here are the top ten favorites from our eight years of homeschooling plus a few helpful hints if you are inspired to try some yourself.
Keeping it Catholic
1. Attend First Friday Mass.
On the First Friday of every month, we meet with a group of 5 – 10 other homeschooling families to assist at Mass at one of our local parishes.
Following Mass, we gather in the parish’s meeting room for snacks, boardgames and chatter.
Hint: Don’t limit your invitation to homeschoolers. Invite neighbors, grandparents, and preschool families, too. The more, the merrier!
2. Throw a party.
We love to pick a reason to celebrate our faith and invite some friends to join in. Valentine’s Day is perfect for an arts and crafts gathering to make cheery cards for local nursing home residents.
One October we hosted a Rosary Party: guests brought their favorite Rosary beads for show and tell, and later searched for clues in the scavenger hunt to solve a puzzle about the Luminous Mysteries.
3. Form a co-op.
Ours meets once a week with five Catholic families for 2.5 hours. We begin with the Rosary, then the moms take turns leading the kids in gym, art, music, drama and a closing prayer.
Much of the fall semester is dedicated to practicing a Christmas pageant, which we perform for the parish’s senior citizen group.
Fun and Free
Our regular volunteer destinations include the local food pantry for meal preparation and a nursing home for visiting. Try your local library, hospital, pet groomer, or veterinarian’s office for varied opportunities.
Hint: Have one mom stay home with the youngest children if volunteers are required to be over a certain age.
5. Enjoy a park day.
Who wouldn’t love to spend a few hours in the park on a beautiful day? My sons certainly accelerate their academic efforts when park day is the incentive. Check the weather forecast, pick the best day of the week, and send an email to all your homeschooling friends.
Hint: Highlight park facilities for newcomers. Are there basketball courts? Restrooms? A shaded area? Is it pet friendly?
6. Make the most of the library.
Not just for checking out books, the library offers book discussions, classes, and assorted activities. One of our libraries even has a Lego playgroup for the younger children while the older group has book discussion.
What a bonus for big families!
Hint: Don’t be shy about suggesting topics for the book discussion.
A helpful librarian may be able to tie the topic to something in the curriculum or of particular interest to your group of children.
Explore Your Local Resources
7. Patronize local sports and performing arts facilities.
We have two gyms within easy driving distance that offer weekly group sports/fitness classes for homeschoolers at reasonable prices.
The local pool has “open swim” during the day, too. Our community theater offers daytime shows and concerts every month at very reasonable prices.
8. Organize field trips.
Once a month, we plan a field trip with our homeschool friends. The possibilities are tremendous. One of our favorite destinations was a shrine with a replica of the Shroud of Turin; another was a museum of vintage pinball machines and video games.
Hint: Designate the same day of the month (i.e. the third Thursday), so that your homeschool clan knows to plan around that day for field trips.
9. Hire a helper.
Could you find one or two other families who would like to share a music teacher, foreign language tutor, art instructor, chef, or knitting expert for a one-time lesson or on an on-going basis?
Splitting the cost might make this an affordable venture.
An Amazing Adventure
10. Raise a service puppy.
Not for the faint of heart, this requires an enormous year-long commitment, but it is one of the most rewarding projects we have taken on as a family.
By raising a puppy for the Seeing Eye, we have enjoyed a year of incredible adventures, along with about 20 other local families and their puppies. Raising a dog might not be possible for every family, but dream big.
Have you thought of taking a long trip, writing and directing your own movie, or planting a garden?
Homeschoolers have an incredible advantage in the adventure department because of the freedom of schedule in the schooling year.
Make the most of it!
So when it comes to that ever-popular question of homeschool socialization, remember to smile when you share your ideas and leave a little time to get your schoolwork done!