Family, friends, and even strangers often ask about the ability for our homeschooled children to be socialized in the community.
It’s a concern that can easily be squashed with just a little thought about what it means for kids, or anyone for that matter, to be socialized.
Let’s start off with a definition. Socialization is basically the act of being social with other people. Another definition might include learning how to act in an acceptable way in society.
If we add these definitions into the question of concern regarding socialization and homeschooling, this is the kind of questions we get.
“How will your child be social with other people?”
“How will your child learn to act in an acceptable way in society.”
These are not the first questions I would think to ask any family. Why would I assume a family is going to isolate their children from society? Also, why would I assume that homeschooled families would have any more trouble teaching their kids how to act in an acceptable way in society than public schooled families?
How will your child be social with other people?
Asking a question like this assumes the kids will never leave the house or be around other people. It is an assumption that the only way kids can be social is through public school, and dismisses the multitude of other social opportunities kids have in their communities.
I won’t deny that there are some families out there who, sadly, do isolate their children, but in reality are there enough of those families like that to warrant a question like this?
Social opportunities are everywhere for homeschooled kids:
- Sports teams
- Dual Enrollment with public school
- Classes at museums and other educational organizations
- Classes or events at the library
- Scouting or similar groups
- Academic clubs or leagues
- Play groups
- Dances or prom
- Church or other community groups
- Summer camps
- Friends made through homeschool meet ups
- Homeschool conferences
- Playing with neighborhood children
- Running errands with parents
- Writing letters to friends, family or even pen pals
- Interviewing experts to learn more about something
- Community college (for the older homeschoolers)
- Volunteering or community service projects
In other words, take school out of the equation and think of all the ways non-homeschooled kids get social. The lists aren’t much different. Public school isn’t even close to the only way kids are social in this world.
How will your child learn to act in an acceptable way in society.
I was a public school kid. Quiet, shy, awkward, and no friends from Kindergarten through high school. Years later I learned I had social anxiety and it had gone untreated for all that time. My girls are both homeschooled and are extremely polite and social. They love to make new friends, have good personal boundary skills for their age, are empathetic toward others, and know how to hold a conversation with people of any age. They are pretty much the opposite of what I was as a kid.
There isn’t a cookie cutter definition on how kids will act in any given situation. Adults don’t even act the same if placed in similar situations. Look at the diverse personalities found in any office in the world. A wide variety of personalities, work ethics, and social styles is what you’ll find. I’m not sure why so many people expect kids will all act the same way when they all have different personalities too.
Kids learn how to act by watching others. The people who children are around the most will be the guides on how the kids build their morals, values, and ethics. It doesn’t matter if they are home schooled or public schooled, they will be influenced by someone.
In homeschool, that influence comes from the parents mostly, but also from every other adult, mentor, coach, teammate, or friend they are around. By asking the parents how the kids will learn to act in society, it’s ultimately a question about the parent’s ability to model appropriate behavior to their kids.
How to Support Homeschooled Families
Rather than asking question about how the kids will get socialized, stop and think about activities you do that are social. Then think about what your kids do, what they did do, or what you’d have them do if you did have kids. Your list is probably similar to the ideas posted above.
With constructive conversation fodder fresh in your mind, offer up one of your ideas to the homeschool family. Ask if they’d like to join you for a picnic in the park, check out a local club you recently discovered, or ask if there is an educational area they are struggling with and offer to help them brainstorm some fun ideas to get the kids learning out in the community.
This method is supportive on many levels. It allows the homeschool family to tell you what they need, if anything, it provides more local resources they might be interested in, and it lets them know you want to be an active part of their life.
After all, actions such as this are the best way to model great social behavior to the kids, and hopefully they’ll take notice.