March 22, 2022

How Do You Socialize Your Children? The Biggest Homeschool Question

How Do You Socialize Your Children? The Biggest Homeschool Question
As a homeschool mom in my 14th year and a homeschool group organizer for over a decade, the questions and comments I have heard most often have been regarding socialization. "Will my kid make friends? Will they miss out on all the 'normal' stuff? I'm worried about socialization. I've only known one homeschooler and they were weird." I've heard it all more times than I can count.
First, let's talk about school. School is not for socialization. I remember my public school teachers stating repeatedly that we were not there to socialize. Hmmmmm... So parents are concerned about not sending their kids to public school to socialize, but their kids aren't supposed to socialize at public school?
What does socializing at public school mean? Does it mean sitting in a classroom of kids the same age, doing schoolwork, not socializing, for roughly seven hours a day, five days a week?
What if I told you that socializing while homeschooling could mean playing at the park with kids of all ages on Monday? That it could mean attending theatre classes on Tuesday with homeschool friends? That on Wednesday it could mean going to the homeschool skate session, to lunch with friends, and then off to parkour class. That on Thursday it could mean having friends over to play and learn and create together? And that on Friday it could mean going to the hands-on science museum with friends then playing at the park afterward? Or that it could mean doing a co-op in your home once a week with friends so the kids can all have fun together while they learn about science or life skills or the fifty states or have a holiday party with fun activities and crafts and games?
When you're homeschooling, you don't have to spend seven hours a day doing bookwork and then doing homework in the evening five days a week. There aren't thirty kids to manage in the class, nor thirty different levels of understanding. Homeschool kids can complete their work in a shorter amount of time and spend their time at the park or at classes or pursuing their passions - whether that's sculpting animals out of clay, researching their favorite animals, playing guitar, or building Legos for hours on end with their siblings.
Homeschool kids are often around kids and adults of all ages throughout their week, and they learn to socialize outside of their grade level. They also chat with people in the community at the store, the library, church, homeschool classes, scouts, sports, music lessons, etc.
If a child goes to school for seven hours a day and does homework for an hour, how much time do they have to socialize? Now imagine that all of their schoolwork was done in two or three hours and they were free to roam the world and interact with others and build relationships? Maybe they do the bulk of their schoolwork in the evenings, or on weekends, or over the summer, or whatever works best for your family. And guess what? You get to figure that out as their homeschool teacher! There is significant value in building relationships, in spending time pursuing passions, in being "bored" enough to be creative, in learning how to deal with people of all ages, and in playing. Unstructured playtime is important for kids of all ages.
Homeschool parents look for ways for their kids to get together with other homeschoolers. As a homeschool parent, you have to be intentional in this pursuit since your kids are not in a school setting with the same kids five days a week. Instead, many homeschoolers get together at homeschool co-ops, learning centers, and social groups for holiday parties, field trips, themed educational days, classes, activities, and park days. Homeschool park day has been a highlight of the week for my kids for most of their lives. At a typical homeschool park day, you may see kids from preschool to high school playing tag together. You may see older kids pushing younger kids in the swing. You may see typical kids and kids with special needs building a fort together. You may see a gaggle of kids at a table playing a game or doing a craft or just chatting. Regardless of what is going on that week in terms of who brought a scooter or a game or whether the weather was perfect for throwing a frisbee, you will see a community of kids of all ages forging friendships, learning how to work out differences and communicate effectively since their parents are there to help them navigate any issues that arise, and learning to live in a world of people of all ages and abilities and without being lumped into groups of only those kids born within a year of them.
So, in answer to all those questions, I say that the socialization issue is not an issue for homeschoolers. Does it take effort on the part of the parent to find their people, to keep showing up, to learn to communicate effectively, to contribute to their community in some way? Absolutely. Is it worth it for the sake of our kids who can socialize with people of all ages, who can talk to babies and old people, who can learn from older kids and learn to mentor younger ones? Yes, yes, and, oh my goodness, yes.