Why Socialisation IS an Issue for Homeschoolers

Socialisation and Homeschooling - An Everyday Story

Socialisation and Homeschooling - An Everyday StoryYou 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. 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.

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23 Comment

  1. I agree with your basic premise. However, many schools today do NOT in the least bit provide students with a sense of belonging. Schools in the United States today are doing a very poor job overall in giving students a true community with whom to bond during the early school years.

  2. My kids don’t know any (other) homeschoolers, but they have a lot of friends locally – neighbours, kids from classes we attend, extended family. I agree that making a commitment when it comes to fostering relationships is essential. I also agree that finding people who want to add another relationship to their existing mix can be hard! My priority is with our neighbours, first, rather than with a homeschooling group (we don’t have anything local). Strengthening those relationships, across age groups, is important for all of us.

    1. I appreciate and agree with your thoughts, Cara.

  3. Iv totally agree with you on this. Socialization is a big deal to me, and what you say is not necessarily a popular thing to discuss among homeschoolers…. But the need for community is essential to our kids and ourselves for growing and developing. For us, our homeschool groups were very inconsistant, so we sujpplemented them with lots of opportunites in the wider community, and for us, that has made all the difference. I wrote a post on this at http://betsyhomeschoolconsulting.blogspot.com/2014/04/growing-leader.html
    and through involvement in a number of community groups, my daughter developed the skills necessary for growing and making friends, etc and going on to college. She has done well, in her first year there, largely from having the social skills practice and being a part of the cfommunity while growing up. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. UnschoolingMama says:

    I agree with the topic but not all the details.

    I live in the U. S. There’s an elementary school down the street that’s “good,” in terms of what most people have grown to expect from schools in general, meaning the kids score well on tests, the parents are involved as volunteers, the neighborhood is upper middle class so the school has many resources, and so on.

    However, all of the children are limited to 15 minutes to walk to the lunch room, eat, and return to class. Because the lunchroom is loud and crowded, like in most schools, the children must whisper and often aren’t allowed to speak at all. They have one fifteen minutes recess daily to play outdoors.

    Now, I know they’re around other children and adults in school, but how much positive socialization is really happening in these environments? How much interaction and conversation is genuine, chosen by the students on their own accord rather than structured or defined in some way by an adult?

    I agree that it’s very important to connect kids with other kids and adults to work with, play with, be in community with, in authentic ways. But I think this may be just as important for homeschooling families as well as families who have kids in traditional schools.

    1. I agree that socialization is important as well, with mentors as well as kids, although I believe mixed aged groups are more beneficial that same age peers. I definitely agree that U.S. schools, sadly, do not provide a good opportunity for positive socialization anymore.

  5. I really wanted to home school my boy but he is an only child and there is not a huge community of home schoolers in our area so I sent him to a small local school with a strong sense of community. It’s only been 5 weeks but he has made so many friends and has grown so much from the experience. I still think it would be nice to home school but I do a lot of volunteering at the school and his teacher is lovely. He has chosen friends that I probably wouldn’t have selected for him but it’s his life and his decision who he wants to hang out with. I believe being a confidant and social child is just as important as being well educated. You are very lucky that you have found such a good home school community for your children.

  6. Thank you for this interesting post. I really enjoyed reading it. I am someone who is constantly evaluating (and re-evaluating) our choice when it comes to the education of our children. I have long pros and cons lists for many methods of education but am still forming a final decision in my head. I was wondering if I could get your thoughts on how homeschooled children develop a sense of self that is not connected to their family but another separate community (which can occur through schooling). I thought joining a community group, such as scouts or girl guides, might be one way. How important is this? And from what age would you consider this important? And on a related note, when is it important for children to have interactions with other children when their parents aren’t nearby?

  7. Forced association is not socialisation. A classroom full of children can be a very lonely place indeed!! And when I worked in mainstream education, I found children had very little time to form any deep relationships with each other despite all the time they spend in the same environment working alongside each other. I haven’t found socialisation an issue at all with home education nor have I gone out of my way to prioritise this, but the core group of friends for my children formed very naturally and organically without me having to think about it and plan for socialisation.

  8. I have been a teacher for over a decade and am strongly considering home schooling for my children for a variety of reasons. I love this article and I love that you have put so much consideration into this aspect of your child’s growth and development.
    I have read the comments of your readers above and I am surprised at the defensiveness of some of them. I think that any parent considering home schooling their children will naturally be curious about this important aspect of their child’s education and will be able to draw their own conclusion on whether it is something to be feared or something that might be an issue for them.
    I think the term socialisation has been over-simplified over the years to focus mainly on the leisurely, play time aspect of it but there is so much more to this concept then meeting and greeting friends and strangers and hanging out with peers.
    For one, when we teach students (well) they have the opportunity to work collaboratively with their peers on common tasks. Through these projects children gain the experience of working with people they are not always familiar with, which can be a lesson in itself and one that is difficult to replicate in home schools.
    Through these group tasks they have to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses before planning, designing, problem solving, negotiating and working together to achieve a common goal. Doing this cooperatively with people who are not always on your wavelength (as is often the case in classes) is a valuable life skill.
    As your post correctly points out, a home schooled child will only be able to have this type of experience if the parents are willing to go out of their way to provide it. If they are not made aware through posts such as this one that deep, meaningful socialisation requires more than a play in the park with other children every now and then or communicating with bus drivers or shop keepers or even just interacting with peers during school lunch breaks, then they may inadvertently rob their children of some crucial learning experiences.
    I do agree that there are many aspects of school social interactions that are less than ideal (one of the reasons I am considering home schooling) but I think it is so important for parents who home school to realise that their ARE positive aspects to having their children ‘cope’ with some of the pre-packaged community traits and to therefore ensure they are finding ways to allow their children to experience some of these throughout their home schooling journey.
    Thank you for bringing up this important topic with such well-considered information.

  9. There are so many variables to consider pertaining to individual homeschoolers and their social experiences; it is impossible to make generalized, blanket statements that accurately compare social opportunities of homeschoolers to that of public school children. It may depend on the parents, the homeschooling community you are a part of, and on the child himself, versus the public school child’s varying experiences.

    It is important as a homeschooler to search out opportunities, to find your own social community—and the best part about homeschoolers, in my experience, is they tend to be eager to make new friends with all walks of life. I will say, in my personal experience, it has been so much easier making friends in the homeschooling community than any other social avenue I’ve traveled (I attended public school).

    A book I highly recommend to all parents, which relates to this topic if you have yet to read it is, “Hold On to Your Kids,” by Dr. Gordon Neufeld. (Homeschooling is briefly mentioned in the book, and is not even touted as a solution to peer-attachment, so it’s a book for all parents, and does not push a homeschooling agenda.) The book addresses how society has driven our children to be peer-oriented, and not adult-oriented, and how detrimental this is to society. (I have seen families breakdown because of this.) Here is a YouTube video of a talk he gave. It’s long, but worth a listen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlMkWJY5T_w

  10. Great post Kate. Socialisation and community are important for all children. What I love about this post, and what many homeschoolers say on these topics is how mindful and in tune with their childrens’ needs they are. Likewise many parents of children who attend mainstream schools or independent schools like Waldorf schools. I do find it a shame that some homeschooling families appear to claim or suggest that authentic and multiage relationships are not supported to occur for the school attending child. Or suggest that school is not the real world. I find this ‘real world’ angle perplexing because last I checked being a child, going to school or being educated at home are all things that occur in the real world.

  11. Have you seen this blog post? https://blokeschool.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/socialising-and-subculture/

    Thought-provoking – certainly not all homeschoolers find socialising difficult, but certainly some do.

  12. corinnalake says:

    Hi Kate,
    I was following your blog and receiving your weekly emails, but for some reason they have stopped. I look forward to reading your blog updates each week and would like to continue receiving them. Do you mind looking into this for me or help me figure out how to follow your blog again? I click follow and I’m still not receiving emails. What’s weird is that I used to, and now I don’t . It stopped in February sometime. Thank you!

    1. Hi Corrina,

      Thanks for much for letting me know. I will definitely look into it for you. I am not sure what happened but will try my best to get it sorted 🙂 🙂

  13. Great post Kate. I appreciate how “real” you are. You have raised many points that I have been concerned about myself. There are many social situations in class that are more difficult to provide at home with a only a few children: negotiating, debating, team work, to name but a few. Thank you for this.xx

  14. Nila Dickson says:

    Thank you for such a great post. What I love about you, is your honesty.. Yes, some homeschoolers might not find “socialisation” an issue but I’m sure there are plenty who have struggled or are currently struggling. Your post will help those people so that they don’t feel alone and feel like they’re doing it all wrong. Some parents might find it difficult to find a homeschooling community that suits them and in some places they might not have a huge choice. It would be similar to finding the “right school” for your kid etc. I don’t think your post would put people off homeschooling, I just think you are making them aware that socialisation is a very important part of homeschooling and it might not be as easy as a lot of homeschooling bloggers make out. Thank you Kate for your honesty. I appreciate it x

  15. What did people do to socialize thier kids before mainstream education? I doubt they ever even worried about it and for good reason. Humans are social animals. Unless you lock your child in a closet and never allow them to interact with other human beings “socialization” shouldn’t be a problem for the vast majority of children (kids with social impairments being the exception and that holds true for both traditional school and homeschooling). If you engage your kids in the community, join scouts and/or sports, participate in a religious group, volunteer, and/or allow them to make friends and spend time with them then there should never be any concern about “socialization” whether your child is in traditional school or homeschool. However homeschooling generally allows more time for a child to be social and also allows them more time to be out in the community being social with all different ages and walks of life. Kids in traditional school have less chances for that type of social activity simply due to time constraints and the rigors of controlling a large group of same age children confined to a classroom for hours at a time. That can be worked around, but it does make it a bit harder for parents of traditionally schooled kids to ensure their child is comfortable around all ages and types of people.

    For the record, I homeschool and have also and still do work with children. In my experience I have found homeschooled children to have better social skills in all age groups. Tradiationally schooled kids tend to function acceptably with same age peers (normally depending on fads that allow them to speak the same language), but are uncomfortable with older students and adults and are frequently condescending to younger children.

  16. One reason I homeschool is because I wasn’t part of that community in school. I’d rather be alone at home then surrounded by people who don’t even acknowledge I exist. Not everyone was really “part” of school. Seriously.

  17. lydia purple says:

    hi kate, i just started our homeschooling testing phase. my daughter was in preschool for almost two years, but i kept thinking and researching homeschooling. one of the reasons i didn’t just jump in when i first got excited about homeschooling is the whole socialisation issue. i am an introvert, so i know i’ll not naturally jump into group activities all the time. i’ll have to make it a priority. just a few weeks ago though, i really felt that i should just try homeschooling before kindergarten and thought about taking my daughter out of preschool a month before the summer break, but just a month ago she started asking to stay home a lot and we gave it some thought and decided to take her out already now to do a ‘homeschooling test run’. she did make some real good friends in the last year, so we will commit to keep those friendships. one thing that i really appreciated is that she gained confidence in a group setting, she used to be really shy, but in that year and a half of preschool she really blossomed in that area. she even speaks to parents of kids that she just met at the park. i wonder if she would have grown in that area without the preschool experience, as she learned to meet parents of her new friends there… anyways, homeschooling is so small here, there are only a few hundred families in all the country, we’ll see how the next 3 month go and then decide about the next school year. well, i am excited and i really love hanging out with her a lot and seeing her learn. she is just like a sponge, soaking up all that interests her.

  18. Well done Kate for discussing this topic. It sure is a major factor in many families decisions on whether to home school or not. Reading through the comments above has highlighted some of those concerns. I was wondering whether you will touch on any of these in future posts?

  19. Do you moderate comments? I have lost my earlier comment 🙁

  20. My son is at school now, but when we were at home, one thing I constantly struggled with was not putting my own socialisation needs ahead of my kids. That may sound like a terrible thing, but as adults, sometimes it is more natural to try and foster friendships with the families that YOU get along with. So if I found a real connection with another parent, I found myself more willing to put effort into arranging meet ups and play dates, hoping that the children would find a strong connection, too. This was not always the case. Other times where the children really seemed to hit it off, I found my effort level wasn’t as high if the parent-parent connection wasn’t as strong. It is absolutely a difficult and important road to navigate. Thank you for writing about this. It is something I feel like other bloggers sometimes gloss over.

    I found making parenting meet ups for a dinner without children once a month or so really helped in this area and made me focus more on the relationships of my children during the week.

    I think the personality of the child also comes into play. My middle child is the type of personality to just jump in and play with whoever is around. My eldest child is much more sensitive and needs a genuine connection for a friendship to work. His ability to read social cues was lacking and something we really needed to work at. We never intended for homeschooling to be a forever solution for us, but happily, I have found that his social skills have really blossomed in the classroom environment.

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