If you’ve ever mentioned the word homeschooling in public, you’ve probably heard at least one person express concern about “socialization”. True, these well-meaning individuals may not use the actual word, but they probably say things like this:
“Don’t they need to be around some other children their own age?”
“They need to get away from Mommy and Daddy and see what it’s really like out there.”
“If you don’t let them to get used to other kids, they’re not going to know how to talk to people.”
“You’re sheltering them from the real world by keeping them at home with you.”
It can be tempting to respond to these concerns with a snarky answer. Maybe something like “You spent time around other children and you clearly don’t know how to talk to people yet.” (Okay, that might be just MY personal fantasy response.) But there’s a hint of truth behind those statements.
All children need socialization, including homeschoolers. Interestingly, the definition of the word “socialize” is “to make social; especially, to fit or train for a social environment”. The difference for homeschooling families is in how we choose to provide training that for them.
Yes, Homeschoolers Need Socialization
I’ve heard some homeschooling parents argue that children don’t need socialization with other children at all. They might say that kids get plenty of socialization by talking to their neighbors and acquaintances through the course of the day. Speaking as a homeschooling graduate, I have to respectfully disagree with that sentiment.
I was taught at home from the age of 11 until graduation and I spent quite a bit of time talking with adults on a regular basis. In fact, I eventually became more comfortable with adults than I was with my peers. That’s fine in itself. The problem came, though, when I attended the first day of college. I took one step into the Student Lounge and nearly had a panic attack. I hadn’t been around a large group of people my own age in years and it was a terrifying experience. So I do believe that homeschooled children need socialization with all kinds of people: adults, older kids, younger kids, and their peers. Talking to the cashier at the grocery store just isn’t going to cut it.
Creating Socialization Opportunities Outside the Home
How do we find ways to get our children out and around during the course of homeschooling? Simple. Make it part of the school day. Check out the activity calendar for any local attractions in your area and make it a point to visit on days that are set aside for children or homeschoolers. We’ve gotten to attend museum days and public storytelling events around our area and our kids have enjoyed being out and around others. We also belong to an active homeschooling group that arranges park days, support meet-ups, and field trips.
During these activities, the kids have learned some valuable things they can’t at home – how to stand in line, how to sit quietly in a group (even when others are talking), how to speak up to ask for assistance when needed, and how to listen despite distractions. These are important skills that they’ll need throughout life.
Encouraging Socialization Inside the Family
Of course, all this time training our children to interact with other people won’t be worth a thing if they can’t interact well with each other. Good socialization habits begin in the home and, as parents, it’s our job to help our kids learn how to treat one another with respect, settle disputes, and show concern. Our two oldest children, Tigger and Pooh, have gotten into several spats over the years. He looks up to her, but doesn’t really want her to know it. She wants his approval, but tries to keep that a secret. It’s a never-ending saga.
Jay caught on to the pattern between the two of them early on and he’s worked with them constantly, trying to help them speak to each other honestly and with kindness. As a result, the daily squabbles have dwindled down to a couple times a week. We’re confident that, with time and training based on Bible principles, their relationship will become stronger. (We fully expect a similar dynamic between Roo and Piglet in the future, though.)
Solving the socialization dilemma doesn’t mean separating our kids from society and it doesn’t mean dropping them off into a group of their peers without preparation. We can do it by making opportunities to train them for social activities. And all that takes is being an involved homeschooling parent.