The number one question you’ll be asked about home education is about socialisation. How will your child be ‘socialised’? I wonder if people think about how that actually comes across? I’ve learned not to take offence from it, as certainly it’s not like our children are being raised by a pack of wild dogs. Seriously, though, in the vast majority of cases, it really isn’t a concern at all – even for introverted parents or children.
Think back to the days when the majority of folk lived on farms miles away from the nearest neighbours. Children may even have had to learn through correspondence classes if there wasn’t a school close enough for them to attend. Yet farmers are some of the most warm, friendly, and personable people I’ve known. Simply surrounding yourself with dozens of other people who happen to be the same age as you doesn’t mean that one is automatically socialised.
How often in school were you told that you were there to learn, not to chat? In fact, I’ve read news articles and read in my online groups during the past month about schools where recess no longer exists (there goes time for both a brain break, physical activity, and socialising), as well as schools where students are not even allowed to talk to each other during lunch! When you homeschool your children are often with you all day long; that means going to the shops, out for walks, the library, and many other places. They are learning how to interact with people of all ages and walks of life in everyday situations. They hear adult language, not ‘simplified’ children’s language, which increases their vocabulary and enables them to conduct themselves confidently (although of course, some children will be shy – but remember, that is also the case in school – a school will not erase shyness). And when our children are with us all day instead of being in a quiet classroom and then off to a daycare, we tend to talk to our children throughout the day about all manner of topics, not just what is prescribed by a textbook.
As for schools being the place to socialise children, it is often where children learn to be anti-social as no matter how ‘good’ a school is, there will always be an element of bullying. And in extreme cases, this can lead to suicide, school shootings, and horrific crimes. And I’m not even going to go into the pressures of social media (it’s much easier to keep children away from these things when they are at home and don’t have as much peer pressure to have the latest technology and be signed up to platforms for which they are too young or not mature enough to handle).
But the question comes up: how can home educated children make friends? I think that really this is the question that people intend to ask rather than suggesting our children are ‘wild.’ Here are a few suggestions:
Join a home ed co-op or other home ed events in your area, if they’re available; if they aren’t you could start your own if it’s something you’d like to pursue.
Hang out at the playground, park, or other places kids congregate after school.
Join some extra-curricular groups such as sports, dancing, art clubs, music ensembles, etc. Your children will be surrounded by other kids who have the same interests, which is a great way to forge friendships.
Libraries often have programs for children and teens; from craft classes to reading clubs. Libraries are relaxed and inclusive places and are much more than just a place to do research.
If you have teens, getting them involved in community service and volunteer organisations. Helping others, the environment, or other causes can be fulfilling, a learning experience, it can possibly be used as credit, and is also a great way to meet people, too.
Giving home educated children the opportunity to socialise with others is no doubt easier for outgoing parents, but for those of us who are more introverted, it can be more of an effort. However, when our children see us stretching our comfort zone, they also learn how to do that themselves.