“What about socialization?”
If you homeschool for long enough, you are bound to hear the question, “What about socialization?”. In fact, as soon as you announce to friends and family that you are even considering homeschooling, this question is probably among the first you’ll hear!
Since this is such a common question, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the issue from my observations, research and my thirteen years of homeschooling our 7 kids.
Here’s the big homeschool secret that perhaps no one in the non-homeschooling world knows…shhh…
Homeschoolers are socialized.
That’s it. That’s the big secret.
In fact, they are socialized in a more natural way than is typically found in a classroom. After graduation, nowhere else in life will you find a setting in which people are lumped together based solely on geographical location combined with their age. Even in universities, you will find people of all ages and backgrounds who are there because of common interests and strengths. As an adult, your friends will likely be chosen based on common values, interests and goals, not on your birth year.
Homeschoolers get together for learning co-ops, field trips, playdates, park days, library days, track meets, science fairs, science centre or museum homeschool days, lessons, classes, holidays, and just to hang out. They are also involved in community programs, sports teams, Sunday school, youth group, summer camps and family functions. Research confirms that socialization is not a problem for homeschoolers.
“But I met this one homeschooled kid once and he was weird…”
I’ve heard this argument many times. It seems to be the catch-all argument about homeschool socialization. A rising number of parents are choosing to homeschool their special needs children so there’s a fairly decent chance that this homeschooled child had special needs and would have had similar behaviours or perhaps even more pronounced had that particular child been schooled at a brick and mortar location.
“Will your kids have any friends?”
My kids are a friendly lot, especially my younger five. They meet new friends at the playground, swimming lessons, art class, gymnastics drop-in days, track meets, drama class, field trips, camps, in the neighbourhood, and in Sunday School. I find myself turning away more outings and social opportunities than I can accept because otherwise, we’d never be home while we are homeschooling!
Our oldest daughter is being baptized this Sunday and when we were discussing the upcoming ceremony at our church, a man said to her, “it’s really too bad that you’re not in school because then you would have friends that you could invite to come”. I was a bit dumbfounded for a second as I realized that he really didn’t think she had any friends because she’s homeschooled! He will sure be surprised this Sunday when the pews of our small church fill up with her neighbours, homeschool friends and cousins!
How have you handled the socialization question in regards to your homeschooling?
I am joining some great iHomeschool Network Bloggers to talk about Homeschooling and the S-word (Socialization). Check out their thoughts and responses to this.
I believe there are some social ‘cues’ that homeschoolers don’t get because they aren’t spending time with their peer groups in a traditional school environment. My teen who was in traditional school and now homeschooled pointed those things out to me. However, to be honest, 3 of my 4 kids were on the lower pecking order in those social enviroments and either became ‘invisible’ having a small group of friends and fighting to fit in, or were clearly in the ‘nerd’ group. My oldest was in the ‘jock’ set and all kids are awkward 😀 that’s the secret.
What a great “secret”. We are so socialized! I am sometimes trying to find less opportunities, so I can stay home more. LOL!
When people say they know a weird homeschooler, I always want to ask if they’ve never met a weird public school kid. lol.
Amen! One thing that I love about homeschool socialization is that so often you see the older kids playing with or helping younger kids and vice versa. My son is 12 and his BEST friend is 8. I think it’s so much healthier because you are learning to relate to all ages, not just your own (like you mentioned). My 12 yr old is often sharing pieces of wisdom gleaned from “years” of experience with his younger sibs. Sibs are together all the time and really get to know each other instead of being separated according to their age groups. I love that you did this post and we are totally there on Sunday! With bells on 😉
When confronted with the question of my kids’ socialization, I usually have only one thing to say: “have you MET my children?!!”
The other thing I often ask people is what they mean by the word ‘socialization’ so that I can answer their concern more appropriately – I’ve asked this many, many times and I’m always amazed by the answers b/c I don’t think people truly know what it actually means. One person stammered and stuttered and then said in a bit of a huff, “well, your children need to learn how to stand in lines!” Hmm…yes, THAT’s the reason my kids should go to school…ok, I’m convinced. LOL.
Great post Sharla.
Michelle C. says
Well now you’ve gone and told our secret!! What the heck?! 😉
Amy B says
In regards to the ” I met a weird homeschooled kid once”, I want to reply, “So you have never met a weird kid from school?” So lame.
Amy B says
oops, I see that someone already said that. Great minds!
My homeschooled daughter (who is 12yo) knows so many people in the town we live in that her two closest friends (one is 9yo and one is 12yo and both in ps) who go places with us are shocked! She knows business people from the community, adults from church, our neighborhood, piano, dance, etc, children from all walks of life, elderly folks that my Mom has introduced her to, parents of other homeschoolers, graduated homeschoolers, and many, many more. She readily speaks and has interaction with these people. I love that this is preparing her for adulthood….so much better than only knowing and speaking to and spending time with someone that’s just your own age. She is so socialized, much better than I was when I was a ps kid.
All that to say, one of my homeschool friends remarked something along these lines to someone who asked her about socialization of her hs children – walk down the halls of the local junior high school and then let me know which social skills you see there that you think my children should have. LOVE IT!
A homeschooling friend told me of a conversation she had w/ a nonhomeschooling mom (this mom didn’t know my friend homeschooled). The woman made a comment about “all those socially retarded homeschoolers” and my friend replied ” we prefer socially awkward”. I thought it was a nice reply 🙂
Love the “socially awkward” comment!
Yes when you walk through the halls of most PS’s you will see cursing, bullying, disrespect… I don’t often see things there I want my children to emulate. My kids get along quite well with others. In fact having to get along with the same four people day in and day out probably requires much more skill than having 30 kids to choose from. You don’t get along with one of your ps classmates, you have several more to choose from- the easiest route. You’re stuck with your homeschool classmates from K to 12 and there are so many more social skills you learn when trying to get along :). Patience, acceptance, kindness, gentleness, encouragement… sounds like the fruit of the Spirit to me. My kids help the younger kids at MOPS, they serve meals at Senior Citizen luncheons, hand out color pages to strangers at the grocery store (their faces light up!!!!), occasionally they stand in line at the grocery store too 🙂 or at Awanas. If standing in line is a requirement for being “socialized”, I’d say we’re over achievers. I can’t think of a better social setting I’d rather be in, than HOME. You leave your classmates behind and often don’t ever see them again, You’ve gotta keep your family :).
We are on our second year of homeschooling, my oldest is starting 1st grade. I am a bit worried about socialization, not for most homeschoolers, but us in particular. We live in a very small community (I’m talking a population less then 200) very far away from everything. There is a homeschool group about 45 minutes away that we do try to do things with, but it is very difficult with 4 kids 6 and under, and a husband who works away from home 2 weeks out of the month ( which always happens to be when the group is doing something). To add to that we do not attend church, the closest one that is our religion is again 45 minutes away, and my husband is only home one Sunday a month, which would leave me attending with our 4 kids all by myself, which terrifies me! We only know a handful of people in our town, the only ones we are close with are my sister and law and her kids, whom we see about once a week. I feel guilty that we don’t have more socialization for our kids. I did tell my husband that if we don’t manage to be more active in the homeschool group this year that it may be time to reconsider our homeschool choice. Which I really don’t want to do because we really enjoy it otherwise, and I don’t believe that all day with kids her age is the best way to socialize either. My daughter is a very social person and loves anytime she meets someone new of any age, but I can’t help but worry that this is going to have an effect in the future, or that she will resent us for not being given the opportunity to make friends. I do worry that we will become one of those few families that actually do fit that stereotype.
Sarah – that is a tough situation. On the one hand, your kids have each other and being that there are 4 of them, that is socialization right there but on the other hand, it doesn’t sound like your situation provides a lot of opportunities to meet with other kids outside your home. I suspect that as your kids get older, it will get easier and easier for you to attend some of the functions. I remember not going to very many activities or field trips when my oldest was about 6 and I had so many little ones to watch…it was so much work to pack them all up! Now that they’re older, it’s easy to just pile them in the van and head out. I don’t have to pack diaper bags and snacks and strollers and make sure everyone has gone to the bathroom and help them get their coats and shoes on. It makes a world of difference. Don’t be too hard on yourself right now for not being able to attend those events. This season in your life is a short one. Your kids will grow older and be able to help more and you will find it easier to pack them all up and go out. Hang in there! It sounds like you’re doing a great job!
Bonnie Way says
GREAT answers!!! THANK YOU!!! I grew up homeschooled (grades 1-12) and we got this question a LOT. Of course everyone knows that one weird homeschooler… but forgets about the few weird school kids that they know too. There are weird kids everywhere (and that’s okay!!!). I totally agree with you that homeschooled kids are better socialized than other kids because we learn to interact with people of every age group. I remember one time my brothers and I were at the beach and we got busy playing with this four or five-year-old kid (we were teens at the time). I thought my brothers were being too rough with him, but he was having a blast and afterward his mom walked up and thanked us for playing with him, because most teens wouldn’t have spent a few hours running around the beach with a preschooler.