One of the top questions I get asked about homeschooling is, “But what about socialization?” Or, “How do your kids socialize?” The concern about the social structure of homeschooling is a valid one. But there also can be some assumptions about homeschool kids that I don’t think are always fair.
1. Homeschoolers seldom leave their houses.
While that may be true of some families that homeschool, I’ve actually found that not to be true of most homeschool families. When Covid started shutting down things down in March, homeschool families were affected, too. Obviously in different ways than others, but we still had to shift and adjust our social and outing plans. Homeschool families may spend more time at home than a public school family, but they don’t spend 100% of their time alone at home.
2. The socialization at public school is the only way those students socialize.
Students who attend a public or private school are naturally are around others in their classrooms. While the time they have with their class may be significant, it’s not the only way they interact with other people. Kids socialize in a number of ways outside the school environment.
I’m going to share some of the typical ways in which my kids are social under normal circumstances. These are really things that can be applied to any family, no matter what schooling format you use.
Okay, maybe this seems like a silly place to start. But I think having to interact as a family unit counts for something. I expect my kids to be able to communicate with each other, my husband, and myself. I expect my kids to be able to interact, play, and problem solve amongst themselves. This is where they learn and practice some of the most basic skills like communication, sharing, patience, etc. We go beyond this level of socialization of course, but this is a great place to start. And for our family, since we are together most of the day, we have plenty of opportunity to practice!
I like having people over, and my kids enjoy it, too. Throughout the school year and summer we have playdates with all kinds of friends. Playing with other families (whose kids can be any variety of ages) provides socialization in a laid back way. Even though these times aren’t usually structured, there is so much for kids to learn. They are used to playing with each other, but adding even one kid to the mix changes the dynamics a lot!
Playdates are a great way for my kids to play with some of their peers, but also kids of varying ages as well. All of my kids have friends their ages, but also friends that are older or younger. It’s a great way for them to observe other kids interests and needs and help as needed. For example, when we have younger kids over my girls love finding age appropriate toys and engaging with the toddler or baby. And when there is an older child over my kids also adapt and find creative ways to play.
Participating in a co-op group is not necessary for homeschooling, but it can provide some nice perks. For our family, we participate in a co-op with 3 other families whose kids are around the same age levels. Our time together is generally spent having the kids play physical games or activities together (that work better in larger groups), socializing, and doing simple activities like show & tell or simple craft projects.
There really is a wide range of co-ops out there! Small groups, big groups, structured, laid back, and on and on. A great way to get plugged in to a co-op is either ask around to see what options are available, or if you are ambitious, start one yourself! It doesn’t need to be big or fancy for it to be a social benefit for you and your kids.
This category can be pretty broad. Extra activities can include regular things like classes, lessons, or sports. But it can also include special events like camps, church events, parties, etc. My 6 year old went to day camp this summer for a week, and she loved it. We’ve done things in the past like ballet lessons, ECFE, story times, open gym events, Vacation Bible School, Awana, MOPS, church events, or other community things.
I like being involved in things in the community and at our church, so naturally that will provide social opportunities for my kids. There are opportunities in the community, but if you are not sure what some of those are, check out our Community & Conversation page on Facebook to get some ideas!
A big part of how my kids stay social is in the everyday moments. These moments include going to the grocery store, post office, library, playing at the park, talking to our neighbors, having people over for dinner, eating at a restaurant etc. All of these include other people and having to interact or socialize to a certain degree. I don’t expect my kids to act perfectly polite in all of these situations, but I do expect them to practice how they speak and interact with others.
That is a long answer to how we socialize as a homeschool family. I’m sure how my kids socialize will change and evolve over the years as their interests and needs change. Or like this year, we’ve had to adapt how we socialize during a pandemic.
If you homeschool, feel free to add any of your own thoughts to how you socialize.