What About Socialization? (Part 1)
Time to tackle the big one. Homeschoolers hate this question, by the way. Homeschoolers roll their eyes about this question. Yet, non-homeschoolers continue to ask it. Do you know what that tells me? They need an answer! How can you possibly know if you don't homeschool and especially if you don't have any friends who homeschool?
So I'll tell you. And my answer might not be what you usually hear. I may be the only homeschooler on the planet to tell you this: Usually socialization is no big deal, but sometimes you have to work at it.
There, I said it. Now here's the problem. Non-homeschoolers are picturing these poor kids sitting around in their houses day after day with no friends, doing their school work and having no one to talk to, play with, or interact with except their mom. And that is a sad scene to imagine.
But the truth, usually, is that school work only takes a few hours a day. Beyond that, homeschoolers are at the pools, the museums, the parks, the libraries, the stores, play dates, gym days, co-op classes (the academic ones AND the fun ones like cooking, guitar, and Legos). They are at Robotics club, field trips, Scouts, American Heritage Girls, Trail Life, sports practices, game days, their grandparent's houses, in RVs travelling across America, overseas visiting historical sites instead of just reading about them, working part-time, starting their own businesses, play practices, and sometimes just playing at home.
And the truth is, most homeschool moms are fun and love being around their kids. They can be found dancing around the house with them, siblings playing together, doing science experiments at the dining room table, watching movies together for school, reading on the couch snuggled up with their pets, and interacting a lot. Like, really a lot. Oh don't worry, homeschool moms get frustrated too. Kids get punished. Chores get handed out. Life isn't all fun and games, but there is so much interaction.
Homeschool kids are not sad, friendless, or lonely. For the most part. In fact, most homeschool moms I know have to work to stay at home long enough to get the schoolwork done. There are just SO MANY things to do in this world and the opportunities for homeschoolers are greater than they have ever been.
Having said all that, some homeschoolers have to put more effort into socialization. Some families live way out in the country and have to drive a good way to get to activities or meet up with other homeschool families. It's totally doable, they just have to plan more. They aren't just going to run into other folks going about their day. Those of us who live nearer to big cities have more activities to choose from. Even we found that we needed to be willing to travel to meet up with certain groups.
There have also been times when some of my children have had good friends within a group we were involved in, and another child didn't really connect with anyone. Isn't that just like life, though? We just had to be mindful of that and be sure to get them involved with other activities. No parent likes to see their child missing friends who have moved away, or not having friends to do things with. Learning how to be friendly with people is important, even if they don't consider them to be "friends". And the busier school gets as they get older, the less time they have for hanging out. If your family lives near cousins, those can be a great source of friends as well as church. Not everyone lives in a neighborhood with lots of kiddos.
And that brings me to another point. Your children don't always have to have people who are just their age. My oldest daughter was invited over by a 90 year old lady from our church one time and she taught her how to crochet and they hung out that afternoon. She was the sweetest lady! That daughter also was a "grandparents helper" when a couple from church had their little grandson over. These are things she would have missed out on if she had been sitting in school with 21 other kids her age all day. My kids got to spend extra time with their own grandparents growing up because of our flexible school schedule. There is a lot to be said for children spending time with various ages of people.
In part 2, we will cover how homeschooling socialization differs from public school.