Anyone who has been considering homeschooling has probably encountered the same age old question: How are you going to socialize your homeschooler?
When Ana Willis of They Call Me Blessed hosted a free online Homeschool Retreat, I had the opportunity to go live and share with other moms. I love an opportunity to chat and share my experiences and provide support and encouragement. My topic was how to socialize your homeschooler. This post came out of that online video and discussion.
So, what about homeschoolers and socialization? What is the best way to go about making sure your child’s social needs are being met?
If you google the definition of socialization, you get 2 major meanings:
- the activity of mixing socially with others
- the process of learning how to behave in a way that is socially acceptable
When we first started homeschooling, our family and close friends had some major concerns…
Now, I know. What I do with my child is my business as long as I am doing what is in their best interest. But the thing is, I care about what members of our family think. To my greatest strength and my greatest weakness.
So, I needed to do some research. When we first started homeschooling, we pulled my oldest son (T) out of school on his first day of fourth grade! It had a been a disaster of a day (you can read about that here) and it was a pretty rash decision, though one we had tossed around before.
T had never had trouble making friends. He was super friendly and outgoing, but he struggled to keep friendships. So, their concerns about us removing him completely from a daily system of socialization were understandable.
So into the research I jumped….
The Britannica Encyclopedia states that socialization is basically a process that occurs throughout our whole lives. It is the central influence on the formation of our behaviour, beliefs and actions as children and adults.
So what does this mean?
Socialization is important in forming us!
It also shows that socialization is a process, not something that happens at a given time or in a given place. It doesn’t only happen for children while they are in school.
Has anyone ever asked you what you are going to do about socializing your homeschooled child?
I was shocked in the beginning how many people actually DO ask this! I expected it from family and friends. But from random strangers in restaurants and at the grocery store? I was not prepared for them!
One thing I have found when people ask about our children’s social lives, they ask as if they are referring to having friends, but there is often that subtle silent look accompanying that says…
How do you know you aren’t causing damage and raising a socially awkward child who will struggle as an adult?
I don’t think the majority of the people who have approached us about this topic are ill intentioned. But I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about homeschooling and about socialization.
In the past, when homeschooling wasn’t as big of a movement, you sometimes encountered homeschooled kids and adults who for whatever reason (whether it was lack of social interaction or just personality) were socially awkward. This for some reason became seen as the “norm” for a homeschooled child.
However, especially in today’s culture, there is a huge homeschooling movement with lot of opportunities to be around other children, join in clubs and generally be social. That’s not to say you won’t ever encounter a socially awkward child (or sometimes a shy mislabeled homeschooler). Personality has a lot to do with who we are.
I was raised in a loving home with 2 parents and attended public education – and yet I’m still quite shy and socially awkward at times.
And you know what? I’m okay with it! Because that’s who I am!
But back to the topic at hand. There are 2 major things that you need to do to make sure your child is getting their social needs met:
- Provide opportunities for them to play with other children (of varied ages)
- Role model appropriate social behaviour for them
Now, before you start picturing me acting out some crazy scenes to show my children how to respond in every possible social situation…. seriously, i’ve only done it a few times….
Whether we realize it or not (or like it or not) we are constantly role modelling for our children. They are observing and taking in everything that we do and say. It often drives us crazy because even when you whisper the tiniest private thing they can somehow hear it from the other end of the house. And yet stare at you blankly from 2 feet away as though you’ve mouthed silent words to pick up their toys and they just don’t understand.
But, the great thing about role modelling is that we don’t lack opportunities for teaching our children! As homeschool parents, especially when the kids are younger, we often have them with us 24 hours a day. This means they see every interaction you have.
How you talk to the cashier at the grocery store teaches them. When you pass a stranger on the street and look up and smile at them, you are modelling your behaviour. When you are having a playdate and spending time with another parent, you are giving them examples of your social interactions.
But the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate…..
While we can be satisfied knowing that our children are receiving this learning, others in our society demand evidence. And guess what, I have it for you!
Richard Medlin, a professor of psychology who has conducted studies on the cognitive and social development of homeschoolers since 1993, did a study. It was called Homeschooling and the Question of Socialization. This study was updated in 2013 and relabelled Homeschooling and the Question of Socialization Revisisted.
Professor Medlin found that when compared with publically educated kids, homeschooled children:
- had higher quality friendships
- better relationships with their parents
- better relationships with other adults
- were happy, optimistic and satisfied with their lives
- had moral reasoning at least as advanced as their peers
- were more likely to act unselfishly
- had a stronger sense of social responsibility as adolescents
- during their teen years exhibited less emotion turmoil and behaviour problems
And he isn’t the only one! Have you ever heard of John Taylor Gatto?
If not, don’t worry, I stumbled across him during my first year of homeschooling from a fellow homeschooling friend who had his book.
Mr. Gatto was the New York school teacher of the Year in 1991. He resigned as a school teacher shortly after accepting his award and began speaking out about the need for educational reform. Then in 1992 he published his book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. I love this book and refer to several quotes from it quite regularly.
Two of my favourite quotes are:
The homeschooling movement has quietly grown to a size where one and a half million young people are being educated entirely by their own parents; last month the education press reported the amazing news that, in their ability to think, children schooled at home seem to be five or even yen years ahead of their formally trained peers.
What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.
Why do I love these quotes?
They show that our kids are developing normally and that just because we do things differently doesn’t mean it’s wrong or bad. Homeschooling is working for millions of kids worldwide!
So be encouraged! Homeschooling is safe for your child’s development!
Homeschooling is hard work, and parenting is a never ending job at times, but your children are reaping the rewards of your perseverance.
Provide your kids with play dates where they can get together with other kids of varied ages to just be kids. Let your kids watch how you interact with the everyone around you. Just do those two things and you don’t need to worry about how to socialize your homeschooler.
When people ask you about socialization – you can be confident knowing that you are making a choice that statistically and researched empirically has higher success rates.
You can let go of the worry that you’re not enough, that your kids are missing out, or that you’re not providing them with the best that you can.
Take heart and be encouraged. You are doing a good job! Homeschooling is not easy but our kids are so worth it!
Want to save this post for later? Here’s a pin to help you do that!
If you found this article helpful and encouraging, you can sign up to join my community and receive more encouragement and information on homeschooling directly in your inbox!