One of the most common misconceptions about homeschooling is that it negatively impacts a child’s social development. A version of the question “What about socialization?” has been asked of many homeschoolers. In this post, we’re going to dive into homeschooling and socialization – along with tips and advice.
What is Socialization?
Before we can consider homeschooling and socialization – we first need to understand what socialization means.
The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:
a: the process beginning during childhood by which individuals acquire the values, habits, and attitudes of a society
b: social interaction with others
Basically, it’s understanding how people around them work together to be able to fit in and having designated time with others.
From the moment a child is born, they take in information about how the world works, their place in the world, and how they are supposed to behave. As parents, we guide their early years – teaching them not to hit others, to use words like “please” and “thank you,” to share, and how to communicate needs. That teaching doesn’t end when they reach school years. We continue with guidance all the way through their lives. There are lots of development of socialization skills all the way through their childhood, experienced through a plethora of interactions with anyone they meet. Some of these include:
- Understanding body language
- Appropriate word choices for the setting we’re in
- Personal boundaries
- Right vs wrong
- Roles and responsibilities
- Taking turns
- Standing in line
- Paying attention
- Being a good friend / neighbour / citizen
A school system offers these two things built right into their program – a classroom setting with other children to interact with on a daily basis and a teacher to guide them through various experiences and scenarios to understand how to behave acceptably. It’s understandable that being outside this system can lead to valid questions around how these skills can be learned.
What I Think People Really Mean With This Question
I honestly don’t believe that people are curious about how homeschooled kids are ever going to learn how to function in our world if they don’t go to school whenever they ask “What about socialization?” I think what they really want to ask is “what about friends?”
School offers an easy solution for friend-making because it groups kids into smaller communities to interact every day. The difference with homeschooling is that, while it offers plenty of opportunities to socialize outside of the family, it has to be done with intent.
Homeschooling and Socialization
Life affords plenty of opportunity to learn how to interact with each other. It’s literally part of every day. Everything from family to daily errands to group activities to online communities offer a chance to spend time with others.
There’s nothing quite a important as family when it comes down to socialization. This is where the core foundation of understanding values, beliefs, and habits begins for every child. In fact, the website SimplySociology calls family the “First Agent Of Socialization.”
Parents set the decisions about what kinds of influences their children will have and share their values and beliefs. Children role model their parents and older siblings. Families with multiple children get the opportunity to practice patience, turn taking, compromise, and negotiation skills. Even if your child is an only child or your are a single parent, they still learn how to communicate and how to behave in a variety of scenarios.
Homeschooling generally means more time together as a family, which means a lot of socialization skills are developed through interaction with each other at home under the guidance of their parents.
Providing Social Opportunities
In general, homeschooling is not done in isolation. Most are actively involved with others: taking part in homeschooling groups, co-ops, classes, activities, and programs. They join extracurricular activities liks scouting and cadets and sports teams. They play at the playground, have playdates, have online groups, extended family, neighbours, and friends. We go grocery shopping and visit the library. There are plenty of opportunities for us and our children to interact with others and learn about the behaviours expected of them within the world.
Homeschooling groups are typically filled with a children who are a variety of age groups from babies to teens. Kids enjoy playing with and making friends with people of all ages. Many can hold conversations with grown-ups in a respectful and engaging way.
As long as we offer chances for our kids to learn and develop those social skills of behaving in the world, we are doing just fine. Kids are smart: they pick up necessary skills to fit in quickly. It doesn’t take long for a homeschooled kid to realize they need to put their hand up to speak in a group setting or stand in line when needed, for example. It’s not school that teaches them that. It’s the opportunities they have with people in their every day experience.
The Hardest Parts of Homeschooling and Socialization
As a homeschooling mom for the last 15+ years, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three big challenges regarding homeschooling and socialization.
The first is that you have to be intentional. And that can be tiring. Kind of like Newton’s Laws of Motion, some kids are harder to get motivated to get out the door to various things – especially when they are older. It can be comfortable to stay home instead of challenge yourself to get out there and make friends. And if there isn’t a homeschool group near you, you might have to take the initiative to start a co-op or meetup group yourself in order to ensure you have great opportunities for your kids.
The next is that it can be hard when things change. Much like with school – friends move away or change their schooling plans. Groups fall apart and others appear. Activities you love might stop and you have to find new ones. Kids can struggle with those changes, especially when they’ve worked hard to develop friendships.
Lastly, there are too many great options for what you can get involved with that you can be tempted to (or accidentally) sign up for so many things that you all get burnt out trying to go from thing to thing.
The Key Take Away
The most important thing to take away from this post is that homeschooling doesn’t mean that your children are destined to be awkward and anti-social. People are awkward and anti-social based on their personalities – regardless of their education choices. It’s our job as parents to provide our kids with opportunities to meet other people, model appropriate behaviour, and encourage friendships inside and outside of the family, the “What about Socialization” question is completely irrelevent.