“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!
- 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.
- 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.
I’m sure there are other ideas not mentioned here! What are your family’s social outlets?
Photo Credit: First, third, and fourth images by Jessica Cole. Second image courtesy of Joel N. Cocker Photography.