Homeschool 101: Those Poor, Unsocialized Homeschool Kids
“Homeschoolers are Weird.”
“Homeschoolers are Socially Awkward.”
“Homeschoolers don’t know how to behave in the real world.”
“Homeschoolers are sheltered.”
“Homeschoolers don’t have friends.”
We’ve all heard these statements. Personally, I think there are weird, socially awkward people everywhere- but that doesn’t change the fact that the biggest question often posed to Homeschoolers is, “What about Socialization?”
I took this picture while Bug took a break from playing on the playground to watch the school kids at recess. Sometimes he wonders what he is missing out on being on the other side of the school yard fence. In my opinion, not much.
What is Socialization?
Many critics of homeschooling seem to think “socialization” only happens within the 4 walls of the local school. In School, for 12 years, a child is placed with a group of peers, the exact same age, and they are all taught to do the exact same things.
Kids make wonderful, lifelong friendships with kids who have shared teachers, recesses and afterschool clubs with for years. Kids learn to stand in line, to raise their hands, to only speak when it is their turn, and to live up to the expectations of the teacher. Kids are taught character and differences from books and assemblies and well-meaning teachers. They are taught about respecting authority and following rules and directions. They learn to follow expectations, keep deadlines and read instructions. They learn quickly to “play the game of life;” what to say, and how to say it.
Kids are pressured by their peers to fit in. To not be annoying. To dress “correctly.” To like the same things as the other kids. To know what to say and how to say it. The kids that are “good” at this have wonderful experiences in school. Kids who walk to the beat of their own drums can have good experiences too….. or they can struggle.
Is this the kind of “Socialization” you want?
When in “real life” are you ever put to work for years and years with a group of people the exact same age as you?
When I look around me now, my peer group consists military spouses. Some have kids, some don’t. Some are barely 20, some have children my age. Some make twice as much money as my family does, and others are scraping by. I have friends from diverse cultures, with different religions and political leanings. You could line them up, and no two would be anything alike.
This diversity is what makes the world a beautiful and interesting place. I look at what I wrote above and I see lots of things that are of value. I want my kids to be respectful, and know how to behave, and know how to evaluate expectations and deliver results. I think school teaches a lot of valuable lessons that are much needed in a world full of “workers.”
At the same time, I see many things I don’t want for my kids. I don’t want to shelter them, but I do want them to be unafraid to be their weird little selves. I like my creative little kids. I like thinking outside of the box. I don’t want them to fit into the crowd, I want them to rise above it- with ingenuity, independence, confidence and a strong sense of personal ethics. I want their hearts and minds to set their course, not the wants and needs of the social group.
Learning to stand in line, be a team member and follow directions
The Value in Being Social
This “real world” kids experience at school is an artificial reality; one they won’t meet again in their lives. While these kids are learning to function in school, Homeschooled kids (ones that seek out these social experiences) are learning to function in the world.
I do want the kids to be social. The skills of standing in line, and having respect and raising their hands can be taught anywhere. Personally, we spend a lot of time Homeschooling outside of the home. My kids know how to be respectful not only with people of their culture, but in other cultures too (for example, when we travel to France, Italy or Belgium, the kids know how to say please and thank you in those languages).
I do think it is important for Homeschoolers to seek out opportunities to be around diverse people. Homeschooling is a lifestyle that can be isolating and leave kids (and parents!) with few social outlets. But it doesn’t need to be!
Some of our fantastic Homeschooled friends!
Finding a Social Group for your Homeschooled Kid
Having friends and social experiences is an important part of any child’s upbringing. Homeschoolers need not worry, there are lots of places to meet kids outside of the school yard fence.
- Join a Homeschool Co-Op
- Have Park Days
- Go on Field Trips
- Play team sports
- Join Scouts
- Join 4H or FFA
- See if your local school district has rules allowing homeschoolers to play on sports teams, join clubs, or dual enroll in classes like music, art or drama
- Find a local part and go there each day around the same time
- Join the YMCA summer camps
- Attend Homeschool classes at local museums or zoos
- Get involved in a church group
- Find a local Homeschool community
If none of these things exist, start your own group! In my area, enthusiastic moms have organized summer park days, Lego clubs, art classes, doll socials, ice cream parties, book clubs and so much more. Put feelers out with other families and make your own opportunities.
Bug volunteering at the USO- he handed out teddy bears and drinks, and helped make popcorn. He was very proud of his important job of keeping the coolers stocked with drinks.
Mama needs social time too!
Homeschooling Groups can be a wonderful support system. Google your area for local groups, and don’t forget to check Facebook for groups. Even having one or two other local Homeschool families can be a wonderful blessing. When I am having a down day, it’s wonderful to know I can call another family to meet up at the park and have someone to commiserate with.
If there isn’t a group in your area, you should consider starting one. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated. It’s as easy as creating a Facebook group and inviting anyone you know locally to join. Once you get the group started, conversations naturally follow! I always have people to go with me on field trips because I simply let the group know where I am headed and what time to meet up. It’s easy and informal, but it works!
If you live out in the boondocks, there are social groups online for Homeschoolers. Two of my favorite general Homeschool forums are:
The Well Trained Mind Forum
Homeschool Moms’ Hangout (Facebook)
Answering the Critics
Honestly, whatever your stance on socialization, when it comes to other people questioning your motivations the only people you need to answer to is your own family and conscience.
When other people attempt to grill me on my poor unsocialized Homeschool kids, I’ve found the best tactic is to “pass the bean dip” (credit- the fabulous well trained mind forum!).
“We’ve got it covered, thanks. Here, have some bean dip….”
Don’t engage, change the subject, and know you’re doing your best by your kiddo.
This is post 5 of 6 in our Homeschool 101 Series. Read the rest of the Series!
Homeschooling 101: Don’t Stress!
Homeschooling 101: Meet the Teacher (Homeschooling Methods)
Homeschooling 101: Your Child and how They Tick (Learning Styles)
Homeschooling 101: Set a Budget, Save a Buck
Homeschooling 101: The Socialization Question
Homeschooling 101: I Could NEVER Homeschool Because….
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Sometimes I find I need to ask “What do you mean by socialization?” ( I mean this genuinely, not sarcastically). Many times I realize people have very different definitions of socialization. Sometimes they’re just wondering if my children have friends. Sometimes they want to know if they can fit in and participate in public situations. Sometimes they have no idea what they mean by the question! It seems like only then I can answer the question sincerely. And sometimes people don’t have an answer to my question and it quickly ends the conversation! ?
Great Article! We always hear one of the most persistent criticisms of home-schooling that home-schoolers will not be able to fully participate in society because they lack “socialization.” As a employee of online homeschool, I always answered the socialization question with “No problem. If for no other reason than the lack of negative socialization kids receive in the public schools, home education is far and away the better choice. Great article, definitely sharing.
I wrote a bit about socialization on my blog today 🙂 I’m going to share this with my Facebook followers to add to it. Thanks for sharing! (I found this post after checking out your blog because you are the weekly spotlight on Blogging Homeschoolers.)
With regards to the guffaw comment, I did not mean for that to come out with sarcasm, or a mocking tone, I am honestly shocked that the main thought, which seems to be still kicking strong, is that the homeschool child will inevitably be unsocialized.
Interesting, I am also a military spouse who tends to get the socialization question all the time. I use to find it offensive, but now days I find it difficult to not guffaw right out loud. Quite frankly, my kido’s seem to be more vocal and outgoing then then most. I am usually embarrassed by their behavior /comments in public, (to me, it seems as if they are not afraid to hold back) until someone comments on how well behaved, well spoken, or how genuinely kind they are.
I am learning to be more grateful that each of my children are allowed to become their own person, rather then being rounded up into social groups, only being allowed to show behavior that is deemed acceptable to their peers. I do not allow my children to run wild. there are consequences for their actions, both positive and neg. However, I think it is perfectly acceptable to reason that children and adults can learn to be social outside of school walls. Just a thought.
Actually, seeing how well homeschooled children related well to various age groups was one of the main reasons I decided to homeschool! It was inspiring to see how they could speak politely about topics that would interest adults and seniors while also treating younger children with patience and consideration. You don’t often see that kind of behavior in adolescence these days!
I absolutely agree with you on this Dayna.
Growing up homeschooled (before anyone had ever heard of it) I was asked, and answered the socialization question many times. It followed right after ‘Where do you go to school?’. Nowadays, many people have heard of homeschooling and most have heard good things. If someone is sincerely asking you about it, I would advise you to be an ambassador and answer them honestly and not brush them off. But yes, there will be some who are just starting an argument, and those you don’t need to engage.
I completely agree! Many people ask me about homeschooling; what I do, and how I do it. I am happy to answer them and show them. Rarely does socialization come up in these conversations, because they see my kids and it’s clear that we are doing our best.
When I discussed the “Pass the Bean Dip” tactic, I was referring to people who come at it with the attitude of “I’m right and you’re wrong”- the ones that really “grill” me and are not sincerely asking me. I don’t want my readers to feel like they need to engage in a situation where they are being pushed- because I am terrible myself at this. I let people get under my skin sometimes and wonder if I am doing the the right things.
Thank you for taking time time to comment! 🙂
When people ask me the question, “What about socialization,” I usually respond with something like, “yes, we try to avoid that as much as possible.” After they get past the shock, I’m able to explain the pitfalls of allowing your children unlimited (and often unsupervised) access to 30 kids the same age for 12 years. We can usually have a meaningful conversation then. Oh, and then they meet Ben and realize how silly they’re concerns were. Great article. I’m pinning it.
Lord of the Flies comes to mind for me. I think of all the stupid things I did at recess or on lunch (I would list them, but I am pretty sure self-incrimination in comments isn’t the best thing to do….) and I was a GOOD kid. Good grades, nice friends, no drugs or alcohol. And still, I have stories that would make any parent cringe. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why I did some of it- teenage brains not being mature and all that.
It’s funny Heather because like you, I was a good kid with good grade and nice friends (a “teacher’s pet” if you will haha) and I too have some stories that would make my parents’ chins hit the floor! But, those times are also some of my most treasured memories of my youth! While I want my children to grow to be safe, responsible people, I kind of hope they DO have a few memorable “Lord of the flies” moments with their friends as well 🙂
Haha! I suppose in my heart, I know it’s good for my kids to have a couple moments like that to fondly remember…. but, Um, as their mom can I just stick my fingers in my ears and go “la la la”??
Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time comment!
Our only problem as homeschoolers is figuring out which socialization opportunities to skip – Classes, Park Days, Co-ops, Lessons, Field Trips, Clubs … It is enough to make a mom’s head spin.
So true! I really need to cut back for this up coming school year!
Thank you ! It is really encouragement for us here in Indonesia 🙂
Thank you thank you for perfectly wording it!!
My mom asked me yesterday “What about socialization?” And I listed off the things we’ll do, but I hate that it is the most common question. I don’t want my kids to be molded to fit into a box, I want them to just be themselves! Just like I want to teach them in ways that fit their learning styles and interests.
There was a discussion on this page a few days back where someone believed that homeschooled children could never… http://t.co/XAserOFTBz