How Can Homeschooling Provide Social Interaction?
For a long time, there has been a misguided social stigma about homeschooled kids. When I first announced that I was going to homeschool (before Covid-19 normalized the decision to homeschool), some of my extended family members immediately asked, “What about socialization?” The question always made me chuckle. For one thing, my relatives seemed to have forgotten that I was homeschooled from Kindergarten to 8th grade, and I am a very social person. For another thing, they clearly expected that my idea of homeschooling was to hole up in my home and only venture out for groceries. Little did they know that everyone would soon be doing just that when everything shut down for the pandemic! They were right about one thing though: socialization is vital for school-aged children. They were simply wrong with their assumption that homeschooling could not offer as much socialization as a public school.
My kids are homeschooled, but they are far from unsocialized. They make friends easily. They are quite at ease talking with kids of any age, and they have an easy rapport with adults as well. In fact, my husband and I recently decided that we should probably do a better job of teaching our kids “stranger danger” because they all seemed ready and willing to talk with just about anyone.
We are involved in a homeschool co-op, and that is an excellent way to make sure your kids can socialize with other kids throughout the week, but it certainly is not the only way. Many homeschooling parents enroll their kids in a sport or another weekly activity. Some parents organize regular playdates, while others have their children in Sunday School. There are so many ways to allow kids to have the social interaction they need while also homeschooling.
In fact, the flexibility of a homeschool schedule opens even more opportunities to get out at any point in the day to interact with others. Homeschooling offers some wonderful opportunities for socialization including homeschool co-ops, group field trips, more time for sports and extracurricular activities, and more time for playdates.
One of the things I love most about my homeschool community is that we meet once a week and do a day of school together. Every week, we do our memory work, sing educational songs, conduct a science experiment, and do an art project. My kids have classes and teachers each year. They love having a class and meeting new friends. I love this because they get the excitement of finding out who is in their class, meeting new people, and learning alongside other kids. But they also get the benefit of four days a week of one on one learning and instruction at home with me. To me, a homeschool co-op feels like the best of both worlds. Co-ops are searchable on Anything Academic to help you find the best community support near you.
Group Field Trips
We love going on group field trips! Kids learn so much from hands-on experience and getting to do that with friends makes it so much more exciting. Every year, we go with our homeschool community to a local house that has been preserved for its historical value. There are tour guides that walk us through the house, teaching us all about the history of our city and life in the 1700s. We also go to museums and zoos together. This year, we went to a fascinating presentation about birds of prey. My kids loved learning alongside their peers from our community group. You can find field trips near you when you search Anything Academic!
More time for sports and extra-curricular activities
When I was teaching in the public schools, I was not overly excited about having my kids in sports and extra-curricular activities. Life was just too fast-paced for me. I felt like the soccer mom I never wanted to be. I didn’t want to parent from the minivan. I wanted real, engaging time with my kids. I felt like I was not getting it because my kids were in school or at day-care for the bulk of the day, and then many evenings a week I was running them to and from different activities. I felt like life was passing me by. We took our kids out of some activities so we could slow down our pace of life a little bit. But it was not until I started homeschooling that we felt like we had ample time for education and extra-curricular. My daughter started ballet the first year we homeschooled. She loved it, and I felt good about her being able to learn a skill and have a little bit of independence where she was away from us and with other kids, under the instruction of a different adult. Homeschooling allows families to have enough time to have a lot of time with their kids and allow them to pursue their passions.
More time for play dates
We have hosted and attended so many more playdates than we ever could have before we started homeschooling now that I am not so busy with teaching outside of our homeschool setting.
In my opinion, homeschooling allows for more opportunities for socialization than traditional schools. Yes, I know that kids are with other kids all day when they are in school, but the freedom that homeschooling gives allows kids a lot more time for play dates and extracurricular activities. Most homeschooling parents will tell you that the first thing they notice about homeschooling is that it takes a lot less time than the length of a normal public-school day. Many homeschoolers, including me, can recall wondering whether they were doing enough teaching because the lessons were completed so quickly. This leaves a lot of time for socialization in other ways.
The Importance of age-integrated socialization
One thing that surprised me when I joined my homeschool co-op was how much I appreciated the age-integrated socialization my kids were experiencing. As a former public-school teacher, I was quite used to having kids separated according to age. At our homeschool group, the kids were separated into classes by age group for a portion of the day, but for another part of the day, they were all together doing review games, experiments, or art projects. It was fascinating to watch as my little ones looked up to the older kids, admired their work, and learned from them. The older kids in the group also benefitted from teaching what they knew to the younger ones. They also have a group recess every week where all the kids are together. I believe my kids have benefitted from this interaction with the older kids in the group. Likewise, I think they will benefit from caring for and teaching the younger kids when they are the older ones. Another reason this age-integrated socialization is important is that kids are not always developmentally equal to peers of the same age. Some kids mature later, and others earlier. Age integrated socialization allows kids to play with other kids who are similar in cognitive development, even if they are not the same age. Age integrated socialization also allows kids to learn from those who are older and learn patience and kindness toward those who are younger. Homeschool groups offer this unique opportunity for kids to interact with other kids of all ages.
Many ways to socialize
The bottom line is that there is no one right way to make sure your kids are socialized. It can happen in a school setting, it can happen on sports teams, and it can happen in homeschool settings. Yes, you will read the occasional story about someone who was homeschooled and kept hidden away from society, but those cases are rare-so rare that when they do happen, they make the news. Most homeschooled kids are every bit as socialized as kids who attend public or private schools. Whether you join a homeschool group, sign your kids up for extracurricular activities, or simply plan regular play dates, you can socialize with your homeschooled kids. The fact that you’re concerned about it is evidence enough that you will make an effort to get your kids involved with other kids. There are so many wonderful opportunities for socialization when you homeschool.