Homeschool socialization, it’s the big topic that gets everyone talking. It’s the first thing people bring up when they hear the term homeschooling and it’s usually the most hotly contested topic. We’ve been homeschooling for about a year and a half now and here are my thoughts on homeschool socialization.
In this great and epic battle you usually have two very clearly defined sides. One side, usually people with no experience homeschooling, believe that homeschooling will cause your kids to lack any social skills and become socially awkward, friendless people. The other side, usually experienced homeschoolers, argue that homeschooled kids are much better socialized. They are comfortable socializing with people of all ages, backgrounds and levels of ability, rather than only ever spending time with their peers.
So which side is right?
Well other than the obvious response of… well it depends on the family and community they are working in… I think there is a general theme.
Are you ready for it? Here goes…
BOTH SIDES ARE RIGHT!
In our experience our kids have been exposed to a much more diverse community since starting to homeschool. There are people of all races, abilities and ages. My children have become more confident and comfortable talking to new people as every gathering usually involves new faces. This is huge for my oldest who suffers from social anxiety and school intensified that anxiety to damaging levels. Homeschooling has helped him overcome his social anxieties. So yes, the homeschool socialization supporters are right. These kids become quite socially capable.
But there is another side. In meeting all these different people, it is harder for my kids to make meaningful, deep connections. I see a common issue constantly being raised in my homeschool groups, these kids need friends. At school they would be surrounded by hundreds of children, usually for many, many years, allowing for deep connections. Every day they would see the same faces and develop close bonds and best friends. Homeschooling often lacks that consistency in meeting up with the same people often enough to make close friends. They also tend to be smaller groups in homeschooling, making it harder for some kids to find others like them that have the makings of a best friend. Another issue, the parents are always around! I think there is something to be said for letting kids develop some friendships and socialize without the parents hanging around. So the other side is right too. There is a homeschool socialization issue.
But there are also issues with public school. Let’s not pretend otherwise. There are pros and cons to every choice we make in life. I think what is important is knowing these issues and being proactive in finding ways to overcome the shortcomings to the best of our abilities. In our case I’ve enrolled the boys in a lot of programming and chose programs that last all year, such as Scouts and a Co-Op, so my boys can see the same kids each week. When my boys were in school I was doing other things to address the shortcomings of the school system.
At the end of day, nothing is perfect. We simply need to find what works in this moment. To do our best to balance the pros and cons in our favour. And find what is right for our kids.