The “S” Word
A question often asked of those who base the education of their children at home is, “But what about socialization?” This has been asked so often that socialization has humorously become known as “The S Word” to many homeschoolers.
When people ask about socialization they may want to know about socializing or about social teaching. These are two, different issues. It can be helpful to ask people if they are referring to socialization as in socializing/being with people in a friendly way or socialization as regards social skills/teaching children to behave in a way that is acceptable in society.
Getting together to play with friends and/or learn in groups, small or large, has to be arranged, just as educational issues need to be arranged. Because young children aren’t seeing one another in school daily, parents may have to take a greater role in helping children create and maintain social connections. If you live in a neighborhood with a lot of other children, or your children take specialty classes such as dance or martial arts, or are members of organizations such as Boy/Girl Scouts or 4-H, or you have a large family/friends network or religious group, then your children may already have plenty of satisfying friendships. But if the aforementioned are not relevant to your situation or haven’t provided enough social time for your children, then you may need to be more creative.
If you are looking for potential playmates for your child(ren), you might consider children’s classes or activities run during after-school hours and/or weekends. You might want to join a homeschool support or activity group. You might even consider creating your own group or activities to draw other homeschoolers to you. It may take some exploration, but there are increasing numbers of classes, cooperatives and events designed specifically for homeschoolers. Some options can be seen at the Support and Activities Groups page.
If you have a child who doesn’t like groups or doesn’t learn well in them, group attendance can still be useful. Some children will tolerate sitting through programs in order to have the opportunity to meet other children after the structured program is finished. If your child is not suited to any structured group activity, you might contact program organizers to ask if there is a way to meet with just one or two children at a time after their programs but before everyone disbands. Alternatively, you can post a message to an online list, mentioning your child’s interests and your location, asking if there are others who would like to get together one-on-one. Again, the Support and Activities Group page may offer options.
Many home-based educators have found that significant time needs to be spent arranging and experiencing social time. Time, however, is one of the perks of home-based education; homeschoolers have scheduling freedom, and since play is an important component of learning, social and educational time often are one and the same.
Social Skills: Behaving in Group Settings
When folks ask, “But what about socialization?”, more often than not they want to know whether your child will be able to get along with others in a group setting. Will she or he recognize and understand social norms and have a strategy for how to successfully interact with others? The short answer is “yes.” Home-based educators can tailor their approaches to socialization to fit the needs of their children, just as they can tailor all educational needs to best suit their children.
Many homeschoolers and homeschooling advocates have written eloquently on this topic. The following links offer some opinions about socialization and homeschoolers. The links are provided here for informational purposes; NJHA does not endorse external links.
Homeschooled Kids: But What About Socialization? by Laura Osborne
Socialization: A Great Reason Not to Go to School by Karl M. Bunday
What About Socialization from Homeschool.com
The Socialization Myth from Educate Yourself on the Issues
Social Skills and Homeschooling: Myths and Facts by Isabel Shaw
Are Homeschooled Kids Really Lacking in Socialization by Naomi de la Torre
Do Homeschoolers Experience True Socialization and Academics, a discussion on The Pioneer Woman Homeschooling
Socialization Myth and Homeschooling by Tamara Orr
Socialization: A Primary Reason to Homeschool by Rebecca Livermore
Yes, My Grown Homeschooled Children Are Odd–And Yours Will Be Too by Diane Flynn Keith