Preview: Learn about the benefits and challenges of homeschool socialization and ways you can create your social network as a homeschool family.
Worried about homeschool socialization? Here’s what you need to know.
“What about socialization?”
It’s a question almost every homeschool parent hears when they tell friends and family they intend to homeschool their children.
And, it’s a question many parents ask themselves when they consider homeschooling.
My husband and I asked this very question of other homeschool parents when we were researching home education. What we learned about how homeschooled children socialize changed our answer to the question, “What about socialization?”
In this article, you’ll learn what socialization is, how your child will benefit from homeschool socialization, challenges related to finding socialization opportunities, and suggestions for creating your social network as a homeschool family.
- What is socialization?
- How Your Child Will Benefit From Homeschool Socialization
- Challenges Of Homeschool Socialization
- How to Create Your Social Network As A Homeschool Family
- Ways To Socialize As A Homeschool Family
- What about when you can’t get out and about?
What is socialization?
Throughout most of history, children did not live separate lives from their parents. Children lived and worked alongside their parents most of the day.
Our society only recently adopted the view that children need to attend classes and participate in activities with their peers to be socialized.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of “to socialize” is to:
- fit or train for a social environment
- adapt to social needs or uses
- participate actively in a social group
To be socialized means one can interact with people of different ages and backgrounds while observing social customs.
I’ve watched my children learn how to interact with people of all ages and in a variety of social settings, such as:
- Attending business dinners
- Running errands with me
- Serving at a local food pantry
- Delivering a meal to an elderly friend
- Visiting museums
- Attending concerts
- Participating in a nature study co-op
- Enjoying church functions
- Attending playdates with other families
We did have to prepare them for some situations by explaining the behavior we expected. Sometimes, I had to leave an event with my daughters before my husband to avoid staying longer than their attention span (and good behavior) would allow.
Homeschool socialization looks different, but it has provided ample opportunities to ensure that our children are well socialized!
How Your Child Will Benefit From Homeschool Socialization
Homeschooled children are typically comfortable talking to people of all ages.
Homeschooled children have unique socialization opportunities. They often interact with people of varying ages and backgrounds.
We belonged to a nature study co-op for many years. Children ranged in age from babies through teens. The wide age range allowed my children, usually on the older end of the age range, to practice caring for babies and helping younger students.
Because my children came with me to meetings and to run errands, they frequently had conversations with adults. As a result, they are comfortable talking to adults about what is happening in their life. They ask questions and discuss what they are reading and learning.
Homeschooled children learn how to behave in a variety of settings.
I received looks of disbelief when I mentioned where I had taken my children.
- Meetings at church
- Lawyer’s office
- Doctor’s appointment
- Art museums
- Concerts and performances (symphony, theatre, ballet, etc.)
- Business dinners
- Charity events
Children can learn how to behave in situations not customarily considered child-friendly.
Before we entered an event, we discussed appropriate behavior and what they could expect to happen during the event. Most of the time, I provided quiet activities to keep them occupied or a book to read. I was also prepared to leave the event if needed if they were unable to behave appropriately. (They then lost the opportunity to attend future events until they could prove they could behave.)
Not all events are appropriate for all ages. As my children demonstrated that they could behave in one situation, they were allowed to attend other events. Because they wanted to participate, they were motivated to show that they could behave.
Homeschool parents have more control over their children’s influences.
We are influenced by the people with whom we spend time. Hence the advice in the song, “Be careful little eyes what you see. Be careful little ears what you hear. Be careful little feet where you go. Be careful little heart whom you trust.”
When you homeschool, you usually know the families with whom your children spend time because you engage in activities together. You should not micromanage your children’s activities or unnecessarily shelter them. Still, you should provide safe opportunities for them to develop friendships with others who will positively influence their lives.
As they mature, you can discuss how to be a good friend and what to look for in a friend to help them learn how to choose friends and mentors they can trust. As they gain confidence and ability, you can allow them more freedom in their activities.
Challenges Of Homeschool Socialization
Even though there are many benefits of developing socialization skills in a homeschool setting and homeschooled children are generally well-socialized, there are a few challenges you might encounter.
You need to be more intentional to provide opportunities to socialize.
When children attend school or extracurricular events, they are usually grouped according to age, which provides built-in opportunities to meet and hang-out with friends. Because you spend most of your time as a homeschool family at home, you will need to build opportunities for socializing into your weekly schedule. Examples of how to provide opportunities to socialize are listed below.
Homeschooled children may take longer to learn social customs.
Children typically learn how to interact with each other in large groups. They learn what behavior is expected and tolerated. If they do not conform to these social norms, they might be excluded from group activities.
Because homeschooled children do not have as many opportunities to interact with large groups, they may need more time to adapt to some situations. That does not mean it is impossible, but you may need to role-play how to behave and what to expect in circumstances in which your child struggles.
How to Create Your Social Network As A Homeschool Family
As mentioned previously, you will need to be intentional to provide opportunities for everyone in your family to socialize, including the following.
- Time with friends your child’s age
- Activities for the entire family
- Groups of children of multiple ages
- Running errands with you
- Time alone
- Family time at home
It may sound overwhelming to make time in your schedule for all of those activities, but keep in mind that you do not need all of them daily or even weekly.
We’ve become accustomed to expecting daily interaction with others outside of our family. But as our pioneer ancestors demonstrated, we can thrive even when we only have occasional interactions with others.
Begin adding activities to your calendar slowly until you find a schedule that works for you. You may need to adjust your schedule as you learn how much you can leave home and still accomplish school lessons and housework.
Ways To Socialize As A Homeschool Family
The following is a partial list of ways you can socialize with others when you homeschool.
- Look at your daily activities and find opportunities for your children to join you.
- Co-op classes (Learn if a co-op is a good fit for your family.)
- Field trips
- Special interest groups such as nature study co-op or a recitation night
- Parent support group (Learn how to form a Charlotte Mason Discussion Group.)
- Playdates with friends – This could be just for your child or could include parents too.
- Parents Day Out – Arrange to trade child watching duties with one or more friends. The frequency and number of families involved depends on the age of your children and how often you want to get together.
- Service opportunities such as a church or a community organization.
- Church activities
- Mentors for yourself or your older children
- Camps and summer classes
What about when you can’t get out and about?
Just because you are stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t socialize and connect with others.
It does mean you need to get a little creative though!
You won’t need a bunch of supplies or tons of time to prepare. These suggestions are meant to be quick and easy ways you can connect with others from home.
We’ve used these suggestions when
- We had a premie baby at home and needed to stay home to keep her healthy.
- Someone was sick and we couldn’t leave the house.
- We’ve been on an extended trip.
- Bad weather or other circumstances canceled events and gatherings.
Regardless of why you are stuck at home, these suggestions can help you stay connected with those you love.
“What about socialization?”
Homeschooled children have many opportunities to socialize. It looks different than children who attend school in a traditional classroom setting. Even though there are challenges, I prefer the socialization opportunities my children have in a homeschool setting.
I have adopted a phrase from a homeschool dad friend. He, too, once asked the question, “What about socialization?” (In fact, he asked my husband that very question when he and his wife were first considering homeschooling.) Now, when someone asks him that question, he responds, “Exactly!”
Children need a wide array of experiences with people of all ages as they learn how to be respectful members of society. If you worry whether your children will be socialized, I challenge you to think about the definition of socialization and consider broadening it.