It seems like the first question everyone asks me when they hear that I’m homeschooling is about my son’s socialization. Not his academic rigor, not his learning aptitude, not his skills, not his imagination, not his ability to apply for a job- not even my teaching abilities- but his socialization.
News flash: my kid has a social life. I’d like to propose that a homeschooler’s socialization doesn’t have to be quite the problem that everyone thinks it is.
There are some common misconceptions and stereotypes that inform the idea that homeschooled children are social atrocities. They can be summed up as follows:
- Homeschoolers don’t get to spend time with other children.
- Homeschoolers’ social experiences aren’t well-rounded.
- Homeschoolers are sheltered from people with alternate worldviews.
Sometimes these statements can be true. However, to assume that they are true of all homeschoolers is an unfair generalization. I can’t speak for everyone, but most homeschooling families that I know are working hard to counter these possibilities. Here’s how our family handles them:
1) My kids spend time with other kids at least five days a week, and sometimes more. As I detailed in a previous post, we attend gym class, homeschool co-op, library activities, art class, and a church with many young families. I also teach a few private music lessons out of my house, which regularly brings other families into our space. Unless you’re a homeschooling family that has no local activities or resources, chances are, your kids get to see other kids.
“There are actually way more opportunities to socialize as a homeschooler than I could have imagined ten years ago when I started… I’ve had to say no to a lot of activities that would have been great just to keep the value of “home” in homeschooling.”- Tessa, Homestead Lady
2) My kids get a variety of social experiences. Not only do my kids see other kids their own age, they also see people of other ages. Cross-generational interactions- and friendships- are normal to them. My kids come with me to visit an elderly friend each week. They hang out with twelve year-olds and toddlers. They see children and adults from different walks of life in various real-life situations- the grocery store, the bank, my concert rehearsals, play-dates, and- oh- classrooms too!
3) We want our children to engage with alternate worldviews, not run from them.
While some parents may want to homeschool their children in order to shelter them from differences in opinion, many of us want our children to be capable of thinking clearly about perspectives that differ from our own. We want our kids to get to know, engage with, and be friends with different types of people. After all, a person’s a person, and a person is worth our time and attention, even if we disagree.
But won’t homeschooling at least make your kid socially awkward? Kelly from Simple Life Mom retorts, “People think homeschoolers will be “geeks…” Geeks? Have you seen your local high schools? It’s not your education method that determines that, because you get all kinds in every method.” I couldn’t agree more. I went to public school all the way through, and was always considered a nerdy social outcast. Apparently government schooling didn’t do the trick for me.
Honestly, with a Kindergartener, a lot of these issues don’t really concern us too much yet. But I feel that we are setting the stage for a healthy social life as our son grows older. If anything, I think we will need to be careful not to take on too many extracurricular activities.
One caveat that I must admit is that not everyone is as lucky as we are to have so many opportunities for kids to get together. In our area, we are blessed with multiple co-ops that encompass as many families as some area small schools. We also have a LOT of free or inexpensive resources for homeschoolers here, so it’s easy for our kids to get out and see other kids. Not all parents have that luxury.
Regardless, I think that every homeschooling family I’ve ever met has worked to make sure their children have good friends and opportunities to see other people besides family. Does that mean sitting with 30 other kids the same age for 6 hours a day every day? No- but who’s to say that’s the type of socialization kids need? (But that’s for another post.)
For now, all you need to know is that school isn’t necessary for socialization. “Obviously adults manage to have social lives without school. It’s not some big mystery,” says Kathryn of Farming My Backyard. There are many homeschoolers who have a healthy social life- maybe more than you think.
Do you homeschool? How do you handle your child’s socialization?