Why and How Should Homeschool Kids Be ‘Socialized’?

Jessica Cole_Sports

“But how will they be socialized??”

Most homeschoolers have probably heard this question at some point in their homeschool journey. And if you’re like me, you may have met it with a bit of an eye roll. It’s funny to me that this is often the first question out of people’s mouths—as if homeschooling means we will never leave the house!

The answers I hear to this question, however, can sometimes be more of a dismissal than an answer. For example, “They’ll learn social skills from their siblings!” Or, “I’m giving them lots of parental attention so they learn how to communicate with adults.” Or, “Why would I want them to be exposed to all those negative influences?”

While these may represent valid points, I think it’s important to realize that there are good reasons to find social outlets for our children. Here are a few.

1. Social activities help our extroverts! As an introvert married to an introvert, this point doesn’t really speak to me, but it certainly speaks to one or two of our children! I am usually asked multiple times a day whether we are “going anywhere today,” just because they like to get out of the house, do new things, and see new people. They tend to go a little stir crazy when they don’t get some social time!

2. Socializing broadens their horizons. Getting our children into more social situations can help push them outside of the little bubble from which they view the world. Socializing with children who are different from them can help them realize that their experience is not the only experience. It can help them glimpse from a young age that the world is both vast and tiny: we are all unique enough to teach each other something new, but at heart we are all very much the same.

3. Social skills will help them relate to their peers in adulthood. I think teaching children to communicate with adults is great, but I also think it’s helpful for each of us to be able to relate to our own generation. I have heard accounts from some former homeschoolers who say they struggle with social awkwardness as adults because of the cultural gap between them and their peers. Certainly our kids will inherently look a bit different coming from a homeschool background, and that’s fine—even good, in some ways. But I think there is a point at which they can become so different and so removed from their peers that they feel completely out of place. This could be damaging to relationships they may desire to build in their workplaces, communities, churches, etc.

4. Kids need practice, not just preparation. Many of us (myself included) may be nervous about putting our kids in social situations because of all the nasty, negative influences out there. We must realize, however, that one day they will no longer have our oversight. If we were to keep them completely unexposed to these negative influences until adulthood, either a) they might experience a very rude awakening upon leaving the nest, or b) we might feel unable to release the reins and allow them to become independent adults. As they grow, we must prepare and train them to navigate the world with confidence and self-control. And while instruction at home is essential, I think it’s also important to let them practice outside the home. Putting the things they’ve been taught into action can bring up important questions and highlight problem areas in a way that “book learning” could never do.

5. It’s not all about us. Giving our children more social exposure can benefit not only them, but also those around them. We may worry about our children being negatively influenced, but how often do we consider the fact that they could be a positive influence in another child’s life? Our kids could share not only their unique experiences, personality, and gifts with other children, but could also have the opportunity to spread the love of Christ.

Maybe you already have plenty of good reason to find social outlets for your kids, but you just don’t know the best way to do it! Here are a few ideas:

  • Homeschool co-ops / meet-up groups. We have not done a lot of this type of thing ourselves, but I’m hoping to change that soon! I think it’s good to get out of the homeschool bubble, but it’s also great to fellowship with other homeschoolers. 
  • Church activities. Our kids participate in a number of church activities beyond Sunday morning services, such as AWANA and children’s dramas. There are not a lot of other homeschoolers at our church, but we have always felt welcomed and comfortable and have made some great friends!

    Jessica Cole_Church-2

    Our middle daughter singing in our children’s Christmas drama at church.

  • MOPS or library story time. These really only work for younger kids, but mine enjoyed both of these when they were little. (Also a nice social outlet for mom!)
  • Local sports teams. Growing up, my church mostly consisted of homeschoolers, so this iswhere I spent the most time with non-homeschooled kids. I played soccer and softball for many years and got to know plenty of kids from different backgrounds. My girls are just starting to follow this path and are enjoying it so far! (The first picture in this post is of my oldest daughter—middle row, far right—with her first softball team!
  • Group lessons, such as dance or gymnastics. One of these could be a good option if your child is interested in something other than recreational sports.

    Jessica Cole_Neighbors & Library

    With our neighbor friends (and Jack Sparrow) at a pirate-themed library event.

  • Neighbors / neighborhood activities. We have not traditionally been great about connecting with our neighbors, but certain neighbor kids liked to play with ours on occasion. In the last year, though, we discovered a great family that lives just down the road, and they now play together several times a week! Though our school choices may be different, our families have a lot in common. We all enjoy spending time together
  • Camps. I went to an overnight Christian camp several times as a kid, and it made a big impact in my life. I still keep up with several of the friends I made, and I have many fond memories of the things we did together.

    Jessica Cole_Camp

    Me (holding the baby girl who is now 7) at a reunion with several camp friends.

I’m sure there are other ideas not mentioned here! What are your family’s social outlets?

—Jessica

Photo Credit: First, third, and fourth images by Jessica Cole. Second image courtesy of Joel N. Cocker Photography. 

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20 Comments on “Why and How Should Homeschool Kids Be ‘Socialized’?”

  1. WarmSocks
    February 20, 2018 at 10:31 am #

    Aside from church, our first activity was violin lessons. My kids’ Suzuki teacher had weekly private lessons, plus monthly group lessons.

    Royal Rangers/Rangerettes is a scouting program through churches.

    I’ll always remember my daughter reporting that her college dorm had getting-to-know-you activities, and when she told her group that she’d been homeschooled, one girl gasped, “You were homeschooled?! But you’re not socially awkward!” People have such funny misconceptions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. neonjenna
    February 21, 2018 at 6:17 pm #

    It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

    Like

  3. RA Orlowski
    February 21, 2018 at 6:33 pm #

    I wrote an article on my homeschool journey, addressing the socialization question that many homeschoolers get.

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/homeschooling-college-word-rebecca-stuart-orlowski/

    Like

  4. eschenfam
    February 21, 2018 at 7:34 pm #

    Speech and debate group

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dorothy
    February 21, 2018 at 8:38 pm #

    I love this article. We are a long time homeschool family.

    Having our children out there visible and involved in safe activities is a positive all the way around. Not only to for the kids but that others can see our children are healthy, happy, and that not all homeschool families are a negative situation.

    Keep up the wonderful articles.

    Please forgive any errors as I am writing from my smart phone.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Patricia D’Ambrosio
    February 21, 2018 at 8:53 pm #

    Socialization is a key to successful homeschooling. Our child’s friends ask lots of questions about HS, as we call homeschooling. We are considering having some of the most curious kids over to experience a few hours of our child’s day so that they are more comfortable with it. So we have lots of play dates and yes, most are at our house or we are running kids to sledding, a math show, a library program… but it’s ok. We want our extrovert to have lots of friends.

    We are v involved in our church and value this community, as we do numerous other activities that include regular religious ed classes, math classes, swim team, and do on. Current research shows that children who feel that they are part of a larger community where they belong and which provides adults and other children who care for and value them are less likely to do drugs, drink, and so on.

    These communities and people of faith in particular let our child grow in communities that offer our child protection, encourage responsibility, and the evidence the values of discipleship. They also give us the opportunity to witness to our faith and to be faithful to living out the Gospel.

    We also feel blessed that these outside activities help us with curriculum and expertise enriching and expanding our abilities to teach and disciple.

    I would like to close by saying that community service is something that our child also participated in because he is both homeschooled and a participant in several larger communities.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sarah
    February 21, 2018 at 9:37 pm #

    Besides church on Sundays, we do:
    AWANAS
    Trail Life USA (Christian scouting group)
    Classical Conversations each week
    Swim lessons at our local pool periodically
    Hanging out with the cousins who don’t homeschool
    Church family camp
    A yearly festival camp-out with military vehicles and people we know.

    I’m considering ballroom dance lessons since my husband and I know how and can help teach that at our local ballroom. We’re just waiting for our 3 boys to be old enough.

    It’s been hit-and-miss connecting with neighbor kids. They are public schooled and aren’t around much. Sports keep them very busy during the summer too.

    We’re not into sports generally.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. homeschooling911
    February 22, 2018 at 3:07 am #

    I’ve been homeschooling my children for 28 years (I have four ranging in age from 33 to 15). My children have participated in many activities outside the home (too many activities to even mention!) but the primary reason I did that was so that they could pursue passions and dreams that they had that could not be met inside the home. I didn’t do it to satisfy the naysayers who believe our homeschooled children cannot possibly be “socialized.” And I didn’t do it because I was afraid that homeschooling my children would keep them in a “bubble” (a word you used to describe homeschooling as, not once, but twice.) I sincerely hope that your use of the word “bubble” was simply a poor choice of words. I don’t want to sound harsh (or God forbid too sensitive – as if being sensitive is a crime – but that’s a topic for another time) but describing homeschooling as a “bubble” could be construed as very offensive to those of us who have spent our entire adult lives giving our children, not life lived in a bubble, but the godly, wonderful, amazing journey that homeschooling truly is. Just a thought!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jessica Cole
      February 23, 2018 at 5:18 pm #

      Hello, thanks for your comment! I can understand how the word “bubble” could be controversial, but I did not intend to imply that all homeschoolers live within an exclusive bubble, and non-homeschoolers don’t. My first use of the word there could be applied to any child, regardless of how they are educated. We all tend to have a limited view of the world until we get out of range of the things with which we are most familiar!

      My second use of the word was mostly describing social circles, and there again, I think it’s possible that anyone could end up in a sort of “bubble” that only includes those who are very similar to oneself. This is not to say that I have my kids participate in church or community activities solely (or even primarily) for the purpose of having them spend time with those who are different, but it is a nice side benefit. I think it’s great for kids of all school backgrounds to be able to participate in activities together, so that they can ALL learn more about each other. And I think the comments on this post can demonstrate that there are plenty of homeschoolers like you who do this just as a way of life, which is awesome! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Katina
    February 22, 2018 at 9:11 am #

    My children love being a part of American Heritage Girls and Trail Life, which are faith-based scouting organizations.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jane
    February 22, 2018 at 9:34 am #

    Be very careful about assuming that your kiddo will influence the others. That seldom happens, especially in a group situation. More than likely, your young one will end up being the one influenced – for the worse. Jesus sent his disciples out two by two, not alone! And they were adults! We all need the support of the like-minded and like-hearted to stand firm in the faith. Sending your little lamb into the pack of goats will not turn the tide. I agree that small doses of interaction with others is helpful. Homeschool choirs, debate clubs, etc. can be a way to achieve that But too much outside influence, even in ‘good’ activities, can wreck a seemingly solid ‘Christian’ family. I’ve seen it happen. (Too many activities for individuals, pulling them away from the family – even parents can have this problem.) Remember YOU as parent are accountable to God for how you raise your child, and what values you instill. It is God’s approval that you must work for…..not the world’s. Wait till they are a little older to send them out. ~ Mom of 6 (now adult) children.

    Like

  11. Nashawn Headley
    February 22, 2018 at 4:38 pm #

    Hello,
    I would like to know where in my area I can have my daughter home schooled.

    Like

  12. Nashawn Headley
    February 22, 2018 at 5:02 pm #

    Please retract prior comment:
    Correction to the statement of home schooling I meant to say being my daughter is being home schooled what atlethic activity are available for her in our area?

    Like

  13. Elissa Kroeger
    February 23, 2018 at 8:53 am #

    My oldest daughter used to tell people she would never want to go to public school because it would cramp her social life 😎. She was a Mother’s Helper for another family, took singing lessons, participated in church events and service projects, fixed her own car, did civil war reenacting, regency dancing and whatever else her hands found to do. She made friends with everyone she met and stayed friends for life. Now she is married and homeschooling her 4 children.
    My next 3 were boys, two of them are introverted. People used to say “They are just like that because they are homeschooled.” That is so silly. They just have different personalities. They had the same opportunities as their sister. I had my boys in Boy Scouts; two are Eagle Scouts;and a public speaking class. I am confident they will find their places in life but it will look different than the place their sister found.

    It seems to me that the world wants everyone to be the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Brianne Ogg
    February 23, 2018 at 11:50 am #

    Scouts would be a good social interaction! Especially for the more outdoorsy kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sarah
    February 23, 2018 at 1:33 pm #

    I just wanted to add that ‘socialization’ is not just a home-schooler’s concern. I was public-schooled and wasn’t as involved in our community as I should have been. We lived in a rural area and it was difficult to just walk over to the neighbor’s house to play. We didn’t help out with our church. Aside from once per year community services with 4-H, we didn’t serve regularly anywhere. The school settings I was in were forced socialization which I wasn’t very comfortable in. I’m an introvert and introverts need encouragement in public school and in home-school. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Gritty Momma
    February 24, 2018 at 12:19 am #

    Yes, yes, and YES! Thank you for writing this post. It very gently but clearly articulates pretty much all that I have felt about homeschooling and socialization for years.

    Both my husband and I were homeschooled K-12, and we intend to homeschool our children. However, my family was intensely reclusive. We barely went to church or co-op. I did have the opportunity to take dance and piano and choir lessons in high school, but I was never coached on how to develop friendships, introduce myself, strike up conversations, work through conflict with those different than me, etc. I was an introvert, and shy–but also extremely lonely. Then I went to college, and I hurt and/or alienated plenty of people thanks to my lack of social skills.

    I got an EXCELLENT education from homeschooling. I had six siblings, so it’s not like I had no company at all. I could have all kinds of interesting conversations with adults and was often complimented for my apparent maturity, intelligence, what have you.

    But the lack of socialization created so many hairline cracks in my development that it has taken me over a decade to do the growing and learning that I missed the opportunity to do while at home. I don’t think it *had* to be that difficult.

    Now I make a very pointed effort to introduce my boys to the idea of interacting with all kinds of other people on a regular basis–friends, strangers, Christians, non-believers, family, foreigners, whatever. Always safely, always with lots of guidance and oversight (they are very young). One child is an introvert; the other is an extrovert. But both of them get lots of chances to say “please” and “thank you” and “bye-bye” and answer simple questions like “Do you want a sticker?” with people outside of our home. And it’s astonishing to me how simple repetition of basic manners skills put into practice is allowing my firstborn, who isn’t even 4 yet, to look people in the eye and carry on a conversation with them–even while he hides behind my legs!–which is something I could not do at age 12.

    Teaching your children how to respond confidently, respectfully, and wisely to the world that they *will* encounter on many levels as adults is *not* throwing them to the wolves. It is equipping them to be as gentle as doves and as wise as serpents. It is nurturing them into effective maturity as the hands and feet of Christ.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jessica Cole
      February 26, 2018 at 4:41 pm #

      I totally agree! Thanks for your comment!

      Like

  17. mamahen2017
    March 6, 2018 at 1:04 pm #

    Yes! All the things I’ve been telling people everytime they raise this concern.

    Like

  18. C. S. Hammond
    April 30, 2018 at 9:08 pm #

    Thank you for posting! 🙂 https://caramelandchocolatehomeschool.wordpress.com/blog/

    Like

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