I have to admit that this fear takes me by surprise because I’m not just a homeschool mom: I’m also a homeschool graduate (K-12). I have friends and acquaintances from all over the world. I know from personal experience that socialization is more than just spending time with twenty or thirty kids the same age.
When I was growing up in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, there were plenty of kids in the neighborhood to play with. Even though we didn’t all go to the same schools – we were an eclectic bunch that included homeschooling, public, & Christian schools – we saw each other nearly every evening and weekend.
In the area where my family lives now a common question when you meet someone is, “Where did you go to school?” They’re not asking where you went to college; they want to know where you went to high school. The high school question will sort you out in their minds: Catholic or secular; who your relatives or mutual friends might be; and generally where you fit in the community. High School identity remains important in adulthood.
I realize that time spent in school (public or private) isn’t really for socializing, but I also know that a sense of belonging and community is often fostered in local schools. I mean, we’ve all seen grown men who hated school but still cheer for their high school football team, right?
Some other reasons socialization worries me:
- We’re the only homeschooling family in our church.
- My oldest children don’t have similar age cousins.
- The children in our neighborhood live highly scheduled lives. And even when they’re home, they have several hours of homework to finish.
Homeschooling works for us, so we’re not willing to give that up just so our kids can say they graduated from the local high school. When our kids were younger the socialization question didn’t bother me as much, since it didn’t bother them.
But as my kids started getting older, I became more aware that my kids often find themselves on the fringes. They’re confident, smart, and funny kids, but they don’t have many similar age peers.
So how do I deal with this fear?
- We’ve joined a homeschool co-op. At co-op my children aren’t strange because they love to read, are curious about a lot of things, have no idea what was on TV last night, or haven’t learned to line up in a single file line.
- We attend nearly all the relevant activities at our local library. Our oldest daughter also volunteers once a week at the library. The librarians love kids who are curious and participate in programs.
- We keep our children active in church activities and events, even if they’re sometimes left out of school based discussions. A week at church camp each summer gives our kids a chance to bond with other kids from our church (and other participating churches).
- We’re purposeful about opportunities to meet up with other families. I try to make plans with fellow homeschoolers who don’t necessarily live close to us. We meet up for Children’s Theater, the symphony, or a visit to the zoo.
- We treat our children as individuals and encourage them to pursue their passions so that as they grow they can connect (whether online or in real life) with other people who share similar interests.
- We encourage them to be close to each other. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that my kids get to spend so much time with each other, and that, for the most part, they like each other.
So, yes, sometimes I still worry. It bothers me when I see a child left out. It’s sad when my kids go outside and all the neighborhood kids seem to be busy. It annoys me when people suggest we should enroll our kids in school or join some school sponsored activity because “They’d do so well” or “Your kids are smart so they’d be fine”. (And yes, those are two actual quotes.) Homeschooling is really not optional for us. It’s how we live.
I just want my homeschooled kids to have friends and be part of a community, too.
Karen duBarry is a homeschool graduate and a homeschool mom of 5 (4 girls, 1 boy, from an almost teenager down to a 1 year old). She’s been married to Philip for 15+ years. Karen’s an anglophile who’s always planning her next trip to England, and her “to read” stack is usually taller than she is. You can find her blogging at Living Unabridged, or on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.
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