One of the well-known issues of homeschooling is socialization. For many parents of homeschooled children, the lack of socialization is often the source of their worry.
First, though, it is important to know and understand what the term “socialization” means. It is broadly defined as social interaction, but the term also refers to the process of understanding and learning to behave in a manner that is acceptable to society.
Most scholars believe that interaction which is generally received from school is the most critical factor for socialization. But many homeschool advocates disagree with such views, believing that the best kind of socialization children should achieve is through life experiences that center around the family and closest peers, and that should include interactions with members of several age groups. Homeschool advocates feel that socialization in school is unnatural, and even detrimental, for the children.
Whether from scientific research or unverified accounts, homeschooled children can be well-socialized, not just in terms of interacting with others and integrating themselves into groups, but also in terms of understanding and learning social norms. Parents of homeschooled children know for a fact that their kids cannot have that kind of interaction that kids who study in conventional schools typically have. That’s why they fill their children’s calendars with plenty of activities that will foster their social skills, including educational tours, ballet or gymnastics classes, sports lessons, music lessons, acting classes, volunteer work, etc. Some homeschoolers have even gotten into community college courses in local public schools which will eventually help them in getting into more prestigious universities without any problems. Many homeschooled children also have a large social network that will positively contribute to their social development and well-being.
However, not all homeschooled children are involved in such a wide range of social activities, and their opportunities for social interaction are often quite limited. As a result, they yearn for a greater degree of interaction and would end up being socially awkward or worse, developing social phobias and total withdrawal from the “outside world.”
There are other reasons why children are being homeschooled. They may have been bullied at school in the past, so they find homeschooling a positive and even enriching social experience. But for other children who are homeschooled by their parents who strictly control their activities and opportunities for social interaction, these kids may find homeschooling a sort of social prison.
In a similar manner, introverted children can benefit well from homeschooling and even see it as a perfect venue for social development, while extroverted homeschooled children may feel bored, lonely and restless. So as you can see, every homeschooling family (and child) is different.
If you are new to homeschooling your kids and you fear that they may not be properly exposed to proper socialization, you may find the following tips helpful:
1. If your child does not feel like “social” today, it doesn’t mean that he will never be able to socialize well in the future. All kids go through these stages. So just relax, do not panic and be patient with them.
2. If your child isn’t quite sociable, then start slowly. Don’t put him into a situation that he is unprepared for or unfamiliar with, such as throwing him at a big homeschooling group you can find. This might overwhelm your kid. Instead, invite a couple of other kids to join him.
As implied before, every homeschooling child is different. While some children do well in big groups, some do not. It’s just the way people are. Do not pressure your kid to be something he isn’t.
3. One of the good ways to help your child to become sociable is to encourage him to do hobbies. If he can find other children (and adults) who do the same things he is also interested in, he can interact with them by starting to share his own ideas with them – and he’s off to a good start.
4. Children see their parents as their role model. As a parent, you really need to be sociable yourself, mingling with people, joining common interest groups, etc., and that effect will rub off on your kids. Join a club you’re particularly interested in and take your children along.
5. Instill a sense of adventure to your child. Get him exposed to activities that will help him gain contact with other people, such as hiking, going to plays, visiting a museum, playing different sports, etc.
6. As a parent, it’s also your duty to build confidence in your homeschooled child. Introducing him to public speaking or to debating society groups is a great start to build his confidence in real-life social situations. They will also help him hone his analytical and critical skills, improve his ability to form well-balanced, informed arguments and make use of reasoning and evidence. These activities will also encourage teamwork.
Introducing socialization to your homeschooled kids doesn’t have to be systematic and forced. Instead, you should be doing it in a more natural and even fun way, and that’s even a better means to help your child to overcome the social anxieties as a result of being homeschooled. It takes a lot of practice and patience before your child is finally able to socialize more easily now than ever, whether he’s in or outside his home.