Socialization is possibly the hottest topic in the homeschool community, especially to those considering the leap to homeschooling. I have to admit, as I considered pulling my daughter from third grade, I worried about whether or not she’d get enough time with peers. A very wise friend pointed out that I was comparing all opportunities for socialization to public school as the gold standard. I began to consider that. Public school: 25+ kids in a class with one teacher, lots of distractions, kids acting out, barely any 1:1 learning time, short bursts of free time during lunch or recess, but fairly little actual leisure interaction during the day. I realized I was okay with deviating from that “norm.” So, for those out there considering homeschooling, where DO we get our socialization? Everywhere!
In the store, my kids get to ask employees for help, make their own purchases, interact with cashiers, calculate their change before receiving it, and participate in real-life economic relationships. The other day, my eight-year-old figured out how much change she’d get back before the cashier did!
On field trips, they get to ask questions of museum docents, tour guides, friends on the trip, and other adults. Everything from participating in a lesson to building a comfort level asking strangers where to find the bathroom happens on field trips.
Activities and Sports
In our extracurricular activities/town sports, they take direction from dance teachers, coaches, music instructors, Girl Scout leaders, as well as constant interaction with classmates and teammates.
Participation in volunteer activities is another luxury of the homeschooled child. There are groups dedicated to just this purpose, with opportunities to help at a soup kitchen, sort and organize food and clothing for those in need, and even design projects for the community. Along with their friends, my kids have had the opportunity to collect and deliver food and supplies to animal shelters, make sandwiches for a food pantry, collect and sort clothing and toiletries to be handed out at a low-income center, and shop for items for kids in a children’s home.
At weekly homeschool classes, kids get to learn in a group setting, learning not only from other parents/instructors, but one another. Opportunities for peer learning occur in a more relaxed, smaller group settings, when kids get paired up and work together. Big kids get a huge boost of confidence when they get to help the little ones grasp a concept, and the younger set can really respect and relate to kids just a little bit older. The enrichment that results from invested parents getting together to passionately teach kids from their area of expertise, and kids jumping in to teach one another, is exciting to witness.
Kids who learn from home may have many more opportunities to spend time with family. Two years ago, my then 93-year-old grandma lived with us for two months. She often joined us at the dining room table while we schooled, and my kids got to hear so, so many stories about the “olden days.” Lots of homeschooled kids learn a subject from a grandparent or other relative who happens to be knowledgeable in that area. And many other homeschooled kids get to participate in the family business, since they’re home to do so. These opportunities are priceless, not to mention memorable!
The richness of social opportunities on our homeschool journey continues to impress me as time goes on. Not only do my kids get to interact with adults in so many community settings, but the breadth of peer interaction is also rich. One unique social dynamic that occurs in the homeschool world is the diversity of ages that come together. Rarely will you find a homogeneous group of same-age kids. Groups of different aged-kids blend together seamlessly, with a beautiful comfort and appreciation developing as friendships are made. Big and little learn from one another, teach one another, and enjoy friendships. The resources in the community are there, and multiplying exponentially as more and more families embrace non-traditional schooling. If you’re considering homeschooling, rest assured that your social calendar will be more than full. In fact, you’ll find you have to turn down invitations to leave enough time to learn!