“Homeschoolers are Weird.”
“Homeschoolers are Socially Awkward.”
“Homeschoolers don’t know how to behave in the real world.”
“Homeschoolers are sheltered.”
“Homeschoolers don’t have friends.”
We’ve all heard these statements. Personally, I think there are weird, socially awkward people everywhere- but that doesn’t change the fact that the biggest question often posed to Homeschoolers is, “What about Socialization?”
I took this picture while Bug took a break from playing on the playground to watch the school kids at recess. Sometimes he wonders what he is missing out on being on the other side of the school yard fence. In my opinion, not much.
What is Socialization?
Many critics of homeschooling seem to think “socialization” only happens within the 4 walls of the local school. In School, for 12 years, a child is placed with a group of peers, the exact same age, and they are all taught to do the exact same things.
Kids make wonderful, lifelong friendships with kids who have shared teachers, recesses and afterschool clubs with for years. Kids learn to stand in line, to raise their hands, to only speak when it is their turn, and to live up to the expectations of the teacher. Kids are taught character and differences from books and assemblies and well-meaning teachers. They are taught about respecting authority and following rules and directions. They learn to follow expectations, keep deadlines and read instructions. They learn quickly to “play the game of life;” what to say, and how to say it.
Kids are pressured by their peers to fit in. To not be annoying. To dress “correctly.” To like the same things as the other kids. To know what to say and how to say it. The kids that are “good” at this have wonderful experiences in school. Kids who walk to the beat of their own drums can have good experiences too….. or they can struggle.
Is this the kind of “Socialization” you want?
When in “real life” are you ever put to work for years and years with a group of people the exact same age as you?
When I look around me now, my peer group consists military spouses. Some have kids, some don’t. Some are barely 20, some have children my age. Some make twice as much money as my family does, and others are scraping by. I have friends from diverse cultures, with different religions and political leanings. You could line them up, and no two would be anything alike.
This diversity is what makes the world a beautiful and interesting place. I look at what I wrote above and I see lots of things that are of value. I want my kids to be respectful, and know how to behave, and know how to evaluate expectations and deliver results. I think school teaches a lot of valuable lessons that are much needed in a world full of “workers.”
At the same time, I see many things I don’t want for my kids. I don’t want to shelter them, but I do want them to be unafraid to be their weird little selves. I like my creative little kids. I like thinking outside of the box. I don’t want them to fit into the crowd, I want them to rise above it- with ingenuity, independence, confidence and a strong sense of personal ethics. I want their hearts and minds to set their course, not the wants and needs of the social group.
Learning to stand in line, be a team member and follow directions
The Value in Being Social
This “real world” kids experience at school is an artificial reality; one they won’t meet again in their lives. While these kids are learning to function in school, Homeschooled kids (ones that seek out these social experiences) are learning to function in the world.
I do want the kids to be social. The skills of standing in line, and having respect and raising their hands can be taught anywhere. Personally, we spend a lot of time Homeschooling outside of the home. My kids know how to be respectful not only with people of their culture, but in other cultures too (for example, when we travel to France, Italy or Belgium, the kids know how to say please and thank you in those languages).
I do think it is important for Homeschoolers to seek out opportunities to be around diverse people. Homeschooling is a lifestyle that can be isolating and leave kids (and parents!) with few social outlets. But it doesn’t need to be!
Some of our fantastic Homeschooled friends!
Finding a Social Group for your Homeschooled Kid
Having friends and social experiences is an important part of any child’s upbringing. Homeschoolers need not worry, there are lots of places to meet kids outside of the school yard fence.
- Join a Homeschool Co-Op
- Have Park Days
- Go on Field Trips
- Play team sports
- Join Scouts
- Join 4H or FFA
- See if your local school district has rules allowing homeschoolers to play on sports teams, join clubs, or dual enroll in classes like music, art or drama
- Find a local part and go there each day around the same time
- Join the YMCA summer camps
- Attend Homeschool classes at local museums or zoos
- Get involved in a church group
- Find a local Homeschool community
If none of these things exist, start your own group! In my area, enthusiastic moms have organized summer park days, Lego clubs, art classes, doll socials, ice cream parties, book clubs and so much more. Put feelers out with other families and make your own opportunities.
Bug volunteering at the USO- he handed out teddy bears and drinks, and helped make popcorn. He was very proud of his important job of keeping the coolers stocked with drinks.
Mama needs social time too!
Homeschooling Groups can be a wonderful support system. Google your area for local groups, and don’t forget to check Facebook for groups. Even having one or two other local Homeschool families can be a wonderful blessing. When I am having a down day, it’s wonderful to know I can call another family to meet up at the park and have someone to commiserate with.
If there isn’t a group in your area, you should consider starting one. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated. It’s as easy as creating a Facebook group and inviting anyone you know locally to join. Once you get the group started, conversations naturally follow! I always have people to go with me on field trips because I simply let the group know where I am headed and what time to meet up. It’s easy and informal, but it works!
If you live out in the boondocks, there are social groups online for Homeschoolers. Two of my favorite general Homeschool forums are:
Answering the Critics
Honestly, whatever your stance on socialization, when it comes to other people questioning your motivations the only people you need to answer to is your own family and conscience.
When other people attempt to grill me on my poor unsocialized Homeschool kids, I’ve found the best tactic is to “pass the bean dip” (credit- the fabulous well trained mind forum!).
“We’ve got it covered, thanks. Here, have some bean dip….”
Don’t engage, change the subject, and know you’re doing your best by your kiddo.
This is post 5 of 6 in our Homeschool 101 Series. Read the rest of the Series!
Homeschooling 101: Don’t Stress!
Homeschooling 101: Meet the Teacher (Homeschooling Methods)
Homeschooling 101: Your Child and how They Tick (Learning Styles)
Homeschooling 101: Set a Budget, Save a Buck
Homeschooling 101: The Socialization Question
Homeschooling 101: I Could NEVER Homeschool Because….
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