You always hear about socialisation not being an issue for homeschoolers; like it’s some terrible cliche – the weird, socially awkward homeschool kid – that we are always trying to shake off. But here’s the thing, socialisation is an issue for homeschoolers; a BIG issue.
When a child enters school, they are joining a community. Schools work very hard to build this community; to foster a sense of belonging and pride among its students, staff, parents and the wider community. They take this aspect of their job very seriously.
When new students come in, they are often buddied with a new friend and given lots of support until they find their feet.
Some schools have a history and community dating back a hundred years or more; these are very strong communities.
Now say what you will about the positives and negatives of such a community but they are there none the less. School children have the opportunity every day to interact with other children, play sport alongside them, problem-solve together, negotiate with teachers and argue and disagree with other students.
Now for homeschoolers, this instant community doesn’t necessarily exist. I know this is why many people choose to homeschool but the issue of socialisation is still a big one.
I know for us, when we started homeschooling, I was very concerned about how Jack and Sarah would have the opportunity to engage with other children and adults in a way which would help them learn to negotiate, express their ideas, work to solve a problem, compromise and collaborate.
Socialisation for homeschoolers is something that we need to work at consistently and purposefully. We are responsible for creating a network of people and friends for our children. Yes, this means we have freedom to choose but it is also a big responsibility to choose.
This is our third year homeschooling and in that time people have ebbed and flowed through our lives as we searched for a community where we felt we fit. And it has been an active search; it needs to be. I am responsible for ensuring Jack and Sarah have plenty of opportunities to not only meet and play with other children, but allow them enough opportunity to build a relationship with those children and adults.
Over those three years, here’s a few things I have learnt:
Some advice for those starting out
- Do a Google/Facebook/Yahoo group search for your local homeschool network or association and send them an email introducing yourself
- Ask about their next meeting and make sure you get along
- Be realistic. Don’t raise your hopes up too much thinking you’ll meet your ideal homeschool community full of children that will become your kids’ life-long friends – it takes time to get to know people, their family and educational values
- Do however go with an open-heart and an open-mind and be brave! Introduce yourself to as many people as you can and let them know a little about you
- Don’t force (or strongly encourage) your children to play with the other kids – just like you, they will take their time getting comfortable
- Get the phone number and email addresses of those you connect with and make a date to meet again
- Start small; build your community slowly – one other family, then another – organise a regular meet-up
- Prioritise this time in your homeschool planning – a community can grow or fail. If you and your children connect with these families, you need to make a commitment to attend regular meet-ups
As homeschoolers, we need to be always thinking about whether we are giving our children the opportunity to really grow in their social development; skills like working through arguments, testing theories and listening to other people’s ideas.
This level of social interaction; working together on a deeper level, only comes from regular interaction. Socialisation is something we need to be consciously and consistently working on.
I feel like we have found our community now; Jack and Sarah have a group of wonderful children and adults in their lives and they are building some very authentic relationships. But I still need to prioritise their socialisation.