Home Schooling and Socialization
For many, the term "homeschooled" conjures up images of children cooped up at home all day, unsociable, awkward, lonely. This is a misconception! In fact, homeschooling families typically have rich social lives, plenty of friends, and are actively involved in their community.
But be cautious! "Socialization" is not a synonym for "social life". Socialization is the process of learning the skills necessary for thriving in the community, for interacting with other people in different circumstances, and for knowing how to act appropriately in different situations. It is best taught by example, by adults who love and care about the child.
Serving as an ExampleChildren become socialized by observing others, and understandably their parents exert a particularly strong influence in their observations. A parent's example of how to behave across a range of settings is one of the most important factors in a child's socialization. This is a gradual, day-by-day process, where even seemingly insignificant interactions can have lasting effects. Guide your actions with love and mindfulness, and your children will do the same.
Not every child learns the same way, however, or at the same pace. Some children easily and naturally pick up on social cues; others struggle and need to be deliberately and kindly taught. Caring, patient parents who are willing to work with their child through thick and thin are the best mentors to teach social skills.
Children develop their social understanding as they interact with other people. Make sure your children have space to try to develop their skills, and opportunities to use them. Lovingly guide them toward appropriate behavior, and correct inappropriate behavior when you need to. Explain to them why certain behavior is acceptable, and be patient as they learn. If your child is having trouble with certain areas of his or her social development, make sure they have opportunities to work on them out in the real world.
The Social Life of HomeschoolersJust like their public school peers, some homeschooled children have a vibrant social life which comes naturally and easily, and some need to exert more effort to stay involved. There are many opportunities for homeschoolers to have a rich social experience:
Connect with other homeschooling families: It's quite common for homeschooling families in the community to connect and arrange field trips, sports days, or coop classes. There are many advantages to this sort of arrangement, and socialization is one of them.
Sports leagues: Homeschoolers can join city sports leagues, homeschool leagues, and even some public school teams.
Youth groups: Scouting, 4-H Club, youth groups, and other such clubs and organizations are great opportunities for homeschoolers to get out into the community.
Friends: You and your child can arrange play dates with friends, who may be fellow homeschoolers, neighbors, scouts, etc.