What is socializing?
If you’re new to homeschooling, this is an issue that comes up ALL.THE. TIME. Somehow, it’s a generally accepted view that going to school = having a social life /socializing. This is a gross misconception.
In real life, socializing means choosing who you spend your personal time with, and building relationships around common interests, commitment, support, and fun. Social life means having and working on meaningful relationships.
School does not necessarily = a healthy social life
Going to school means you sit in a classroom or on a playground with other children, not by choice. And as we know so well today, many of those children are either not friends with your child, bully your child or ignore your child. The happy few who are friends, will probably be gone as soon as your child graduates school.
How do you help your homeschooler socialize?
Simple. You’re the parent. Think about what you want your child to get out of social life.
What kind of friendships do you wish for them to have?
The kind pushed and manipulated by negative peer pressure, or the kind that uplifts, builds character and lasts?
What would you like your child to learn from other people? Think of different age groups, social contexts, etc.
When I think about this question, these are some of the things I dream about and pray for, for my children:
- An identity rooted in the truth – what God says about them, not what the world says about them.
- Meaningful work that does not define their identity but is rather the fruit of knowing who (and Whose) they are.
- Confidence to look other people in the eye, to greet them and start a conversation.
- Relationships that will be full of honesty, integrity, humility, forgiveness, meaning, commitment, fun, adventure and life-giving joy and love.
- How to put themselves out there in a way that is safe and that contributes something meaningful and joyful to the world.
- The ability to understand and implement healthy boundaries in relationships, work and personal time management.
- Respect for other cultures, beliefs, and families.
- The ability to discern good/bad character in others and avoid those who would exploit them.
- A wholesome dose of good common sense, wisdom and sensible responsibility.
- An understanding that few friendships last forever, people come and go in seasons.
How can you help make this social life vision a reality?
Now that your child is home with you, you may be realizing that unless you and your child plug into a local homeschooling community and find some support, it may be a little more challenging.
This is one of those adventures that make us adults grow a little more. You will have to help your child since you are the one with the driver’s license! On the upside, you will be more involved and aware of exactly who your child is spending time with, why and their environment (whether it’s safe or not).
If you are an introvert, it may seem daunting to have to go out and meet loads of new people. But keep it simple. Start with one or two. Give yourself time. It may take a couple of introductions and social gatherings before you find people you can relate to. The same applies to your child.
Social homeschool gatherings are not the only way!
What is your child interested in? How can you use that to help your child find his/her tribe?
If there are no events or groups, help your child create one.
Not a socializer? Take courage, learn and grow with your child as you go out to meet new people and find new opportunities.
Not everyone you meet will become a friend and you won’t agree with everyone on everything, but you CAN learn from everyone, and maybe connect them to someone else. Connecting people and connecting with people opens doors to many resources for yourself and for others.
Ideas for socializing
- Volunteering at a shelter, animal shelter, old age home, an orphanage (check your local ads for options, or ask on Facebook!)
- Games – some game stores have a games morning where kids can go once a week or two
- Chess club
- Take your child along with you on errands and when you are meeting new people (as appropriate) – you never know who they might take a liking to or someone to them.
- Girl guides/ boy scouts
- Youth groups at churches
- Storytime at your local library
- Community youth groups centers
- Holiday clubs
- Art stores often have a weekly class you could join
- Look on Facebook for interesting events/outings in your area
I hope these ideas give you somewhere to start. If something doesn’t work out, try something else!
Some more thoughts on helping your child socialize
Sometimes, family time is better. Family relationships should come first and homeschooling puts the spotlight on it because you all now spend more time together. This will probably bring up some issues now and then to deal with, at least in the beginning. Remember that the relationship is always more important than the curriculum you are working on.
You are helping your child build a good life; you’re not just helping him/her finish a textbook. As a parent, it’s easy to recognize that a child needs guidance in this area as much as any other. Relationships form part of who a child becomes, the choices they make and even their entire future.
Socializing is more about quality than quantity of friends
Talk to your child about this. If your child is more of a loner, there’s nothing wrong with that. Slow down the pace, don’t push socializing too hard, but don’t give it up either. There are some things children simply need to learn, even when it seems a bit harder. In real life, relationships are tough. They require effort, thoughtfulness, and wisdom, only gained by experience.
Don’t worry, your homeschooler will socialize just fine
Other people often seem to think that homeschooling children will turn out to be awkward wallflowers, unable to make conversation. Rubbish! On the contrary, most homeschoolers often turn out to be far more articulate than their public-school peers and not only that, they may have more meaningful topics to talk about than the latest teenage gossip. As long as you are there to guide your children, they will find their way in the world and do so with much less negative interference than in a public school. If anything, they will be well equipped with a much better understanding of how the real world works and their potential role in it, than a stereotypical teenager.
Take heart, brave parent! You are doing fine, your child will not only survive but thrive.
Do you have any tips for other parents worried about this issue? Comment below.
Tired of dealing with criticism for homeschooling? Check out this post here.