The absolute number one comment or question I get when I tell people we are homeschooling is about socialization. No one has ever been concerned that my kids won’t get a good education at home, but I have had lots of comments about kids needing to go to school for the socialization, and many stories about friends of friends who knew someone who was homeschooled and they turned out ‘weird’. Honestly, this was probably the first thing I thought of when considering homeschooling too. But I can say now that, for many reasons, it is not something I am concerned about at all…
Homeschooled kids get a lot of social contact. There is SO much going on for homeschoolers. If we wanted to, we could meet up with other people every day of the week. There is always something being organized somewhere. We attend a homeschool co-op once a week where we learn about different topics and play with other kids. We also usually have at least one other play date with friends during the week. There is also excursions, sports days, camps, and classes to get involved in. Out of school hours homeschoolers socialize with school kids just like they do, whether it be just playing with neighbours, or through extracurricular activities.
Homeschooled kids learn to socialize with people of all ages. One advantage of homeschooling, I think, is that our children are always socializing with mixed age groups. Having friends your own age is important, but there is also a lot to be learnt by spending time with people of all ages. When playing with children younger than them I see my girls being very nurturing, gentle, and taking on a motherly role. When playing with older kids I see them observing, learning, and being inspired by them. They enjoy both being a role model and teacher for younger children, and also learning from the older ones. Being around other homeschoolers means they are often around other adults apart from family as well, and they learn how to interact with them also.
Homeschoolers get a lot of ‘real world’ socialization. I have heard the argument a lot that children need to go to school because they need to learn to deal with the ‘real world’. This makes no sense to me. Homeschooled children are in the ‘real world’ 100% of the time. Is school the real world? At no other time in my life have I been in a situation where I only socialized with my same aged peers for years on end.
Young children need guidance. I think that socialization is very important for children, but I also believe that young children need the guidance of their parents in social situations. Is putting a group of 5 year old’s together and letting them work out social skills on their own a successful way to socialize a child? The problems we have with bullying would suggest it is sometimes not. Playing and working with peers is a great way to test out your social skills, but during the early years I believe children also need guidance from parents in navigating this complex social world.
Kids don’t have to learn to deal with bullying. Unbelievably I have seen this comment many times too, that kids need to learn to deal with bullying. Really? No, I don’t think so. If an adult is bullied in the workplace do they just need to learn to deal with it? No. So why does a child need to? Learning to deal with conflict, yes! And there are many opportunities for this in everyday life. Learning to deal with being bullied, no.
Is school a guarantee of a well socialized child? Well, no. And neither is homeschooling. There are no guarantees with anything, and there is more than one way to learn social skills. Both are valid choices!
Close relationships with family. One reason I loved the idea of homeschooling was the opportunity it would give my kids to develop closer relationships with family members. I love that they have more time available to spend with extended family and the learning that comes about from that. Their family love hearing about what they are learning and are keen to be involved which is amazing! They are also able to develop strong sibling relationships. My girls are very close and I wonder how that would have changed had they been separated during school hours. I am happy that they are able to spend so much time together developing bonds that will last a lifetime.
The research. As with any big decisions I make, I want to know what the research says. And despite the common misconceptions, I was happy to discover that homeschooled kids do equal or better than their schooled peers in all measures, including socialization. This is independent of parental education, income, and teaching style!
You can read more here…
Although it’s the first question people ask when they hear of homeschooling, the issue of socialization is honestly not something I really think about anymore. There are many ways to help develop your children’s social skills. School may be the choice for the majority, but that doesn’t mean it is the only way. I can see my kids thriving through homeschooling, in all areas, and ultimately that’s what it’s all about. So next time you meet a homeschooler, surprise them and ask about what their kids are interested in at the moment, instead of if they’re well socialized. You might make their day!