Homeschooling and socialization can seem non-compatible when you’re on the outside, looking in. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be true.
It was about 2 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon. I was in the hallway, sending my kids into their respective bathrooms at our local grocery store.
An older woman came into the hallway just as my eldest child came out of the bathroom. She took a look at him and asked the predictable question:
“No school today?”
“We homeschool,” I replied, “And they already got all their work done for the day.”
“Ohhh, good for you,” she smiled. “But they do have friends still, don’t they?”
I suffocated the urge to give a snarky reply, and turned to my son smiling. “What do you say, buddy, do you still have friends even though you’re homeschooled?” (Maybe I shouldn’t have put him on the spot, but I don’t like when people talk over my children when they’re standing right there.)
“Yeah,” he said with a grin and a chuckle.
“Just oodles of friends,” she offered.
I was about to take a moment to try to politely inform her that homeschooled kids still have plenty of opportunity for socialization, provided that the parent makes an effort. However, it was at that moment that my younger one declared herself in need of help in the bathroom, so I excused myself.
Not 5 minutes later, at the store’s childcare center, the woman looking after my kids asked the same question. “No school for them today?” My son told me later that she also asked whether or not he had friends.
Homeschooling and Socialization
For some reason, people outside homeschool circles just seem to think that homeschooling and socialization are like water and oil: incompatible. There are so many underlying assumptions here-
- Homeschooled kids will be backwards or socially inept
- Homeschoolers will be unable to interact with the real word
- Homeschoolers don’t see other kids their own age
- Homeschool parents want to shelter their kids
- School is the only way kids get a socialization
Of course, I think most folks who worry about homeschooling and socialization aren’t usually thinking through these exact statements. However, it seems like people can’t think of what childhood friendship would look like without school, and the mystery of it keeps them asking the perpetual question: what about socialization?
What socialization looks like for a homeschooler
Homeschooled kids can meet and spend time with friends in a variety of ways. They can join a homeschool co-op or attend community classes for regular outings with friends.
They can join ballet, soccer, or gymnastics. Or they can try their hand at a competitive sport like BMX, where they race against other kids and every mother sits holding her breath and waiting for a broken bone.
They can get together with family, or just have a good old fashioned play date.
Homeschoolers can join the local orchestra or band, invite the neighbors over, visit an elderly friend at the nursing home, be part of an after-school club, attend school part-time, go to summer camp, join girl or boy scouts, dual enroll in college classrooms, start a study group at the library…. The social possibilities are endless.
Our kids may not be in a school building, but they can certainly see people outside of one. Just like adults manage to have friendships without being in classrooms, homeschoolers too can have plenty of opportunity to develop relationships.
Parents do need to put in the effort
All that being said, it’s important to note that homeschool parents do need to put in the effort to carve out time for their children’s friendships. A child in public school can get away without many after-school activities, because they at least see their friends in class. However, if a homeschool parent didn’t take their kids out, then those kids are out of luck.
No one has to be an extrovert or a social butterfly to make homeschooling and socialization work, nor do you have to sign up for every activity imaginable. Simply prioritizing the effort it takes to drive to a friend’s house, or opening the doors of your own home can go a long way towards nurturing your child’s social life.
Dear lady at the grocery store
All of this brings me full circle.
“They do still have friends, don’t they?”
Yes, ma’am. They do. We do math, language arts, and a lot of learning at home, but the world is full of opportunities for exploring and making friends.
Week after week, I swallow my desire to stay home, where it’s nice and quiet, to say yes to outings where they will see their friends. I scramble to stay on top of my daily routines so I can say yes to the friend who just wants to stop by. I say yes to meeting up at the park whenever I can.
No, they don’t sit in a class with 25 other students their same age. But we see family members, co-op members, coaches, sports friends, or close buddies every single week.
Yes, ma’am. They do have friends. Thank you for asking, and I hope your day is beautiful. <3
I love this and completely agree. I guess, like you said, people just can’t fathom how one would make friends without school. I love how our kids, being educated at home, have the opportunity to have friends of all ages! 🙂
I agree! Thanks so much, Rebecca. 🙂
I think this is such an important point to make. I completely understand the question. Most times it is coming from people who have no experience with homeschooling or even people who just think anything out of the “norm” is wrong. I have a few friends of my own that were homeschooled. I always remember thinking – wow, I wish I was homeschooled. I observed that the differences between my school friends, and my friends that were homeschooled, are that they have better communicative skills, are great listeners, have more patience, take their time to do things the right way, and you can tell all of their work and words seem to be more genuine. The one that shocked me the most about my friend is her communicative skills. She always knew how to carry herself and speak to strangers. I also love the idea of homeschooling because of the opportunities for natural learning. Learning through experience is so much more beneficial in my opinion. I am a lead teacher in a toddler classroom and I strive to teach that way (Reggio- Emilia Approach). I find that if parents are dedicated to homeschooling, there is no worry for no socialization skills. I feel homeschooled children grow to be better communicators who are LESS judgmental.
Angelika, thank you SO MUCH for your thoughts! I was public schooled myself and had very little experience with homeschoolers until having kids of my own. I love hearing your perspective and insights. It’s so important to think about the quality of the socialization over the quantity of kids they do it with.