Homeschool Socialization: Do I Need to Worry?
Inside: Are you considering homeschooling, but you are worried that your children won’t get enough socialization? Here is why you don’t need to worry!
How do you make sure your homeschooled kids get enough socialization?
It’s one of the most frequently asked questions that homeschool moms get. I can understand why. When a child goes to a traditional school, they are around their peers all day long every day. So, people assume they are getting great practice when it comes to their social skills.
But, is that really the case?
What is Socialization?
Let’s talk about what socialization is in the first place. Merriam-Webster defines socialization like this:
a: the process beginning during childhood by which individuals acquire the values, habits, and attitudes of a society
b: social interaction with others
c: exposure of a young domestic animal (such as a kitten or puppy [or a kid?]) to a variety of people, animals, and situations to minimize fear and aggression and promote friendliness
Socialization is the process of learning how to navigate the world you live in and successfully interact with those around you.
Acquiring Values, Habits, and Attitudes
Let’s look at definition a:
acquiring the values, habits, and attitudes of a society. When a child is in school, they learn habits, attitudes, and values from their peers and teachers during the day. Now, I will just on the record as saying that most teachers are amazing. Especially elementary teachers. I used to be a high school teacher and my hat is off to those amazing individuals who choose to spend their days with the little ones!
It’s just that my girls are young and their minds are impressionable and I believe that as a parent it is my responsibility to screen what she is exposed to as she develops her “values, habits, and attitudes.”
But, I’m not sure I want my child developing the values, attitudes, and habits of their peers in elementary school. Today, with the internet and phones and the language kids hear on the TV. There is just so much I want to delay when it comes to exposing my girls to the world.
Don’t freak out and think “ok, she’s one of those uber-protective moms who doesn’t let her kids out of the house.” Definitely not the case. It’s just that my girls are young and their minds are impressionable and I believe that as a parent it is my responsibility to screen what she is exposed to as she develops her “values, habits, and attitudes.”
A friend of mine whose children go to public school was telling me a story about her son (first grade) riding the bus home. One night she and her husband asked him how the bus ride was and if he heard any bad words.
Of course he did, it’s the bus.
It was the F-word.
Of course it was the F-word, it’s the bus!
Have my girls heard the F-word? I’m sure they have. I’m just not sure they need to hear it every day on the bus.
As a homeschooling family, my husband and I are in charge of the things our girls hear and see. We try to give them broad exposure to the world. Different cultures, different languages, diverse people an experiences. But, at ages 7,5, and 3, we try to do it in a PG (let’s be realistic, ok, I’m not sure G even exists anymore) manner.
As homeschooled kids, their “society” is our family, so they acquire the habits, values, and attitudes of our family. That’s ok with me. I’m proud of our family.
Social Interaction with Others
Ok, definition b: social interaction with others.
This is what most people mean when they ask about homeschool socialization.
More and more it seems we are seeing horror stories on the news of homeschooling families across the country who hid or imprisoned their children. Let’s just be clear – this is not the majority of homeschooling families! These are monsters who abused the privilege of homeschooling as a way to abuse their children.
Now, do homeschooled kids spend more time at home with their families than their public school peers? Of course they do. Homeschooled kids spend anywhere between 20-24 hours with their families. Public school kids spend between 15-17 hours with their families. Those are totally just estimates by me taking into account bus rides and any activities that homeschooled kids or public schooled kids might do.
But, just because homeschool families are spending their time together, doesn’t mean we aren’t spending time with other people during that time. For example, my kids go grocery shopping with me and talk to people there. I go to a weekly bible study and the kids go to childcare with other kids their age. We attend a homeschool co-op where they have a class with kids in their same grade level. We have play dates. My kids do dance and sports.
Here are some great ways to get social interaction for your homeschooled kids:
- dance class
- sports teams
- theater class
- field trips
- homeschool co-ops
- public school sports programs (homeschooled kids can participate in some districts, so check your local schools)
- music lessons
- art class
- summer camps
- church youth groups
- books clubs
- library groups/activities
Benefits of Homeschool Socialization
#1 We don’t have to worry about “socialization exhaustion.”
I actually find that my kids enjoy being home because all of that interaction can be exhausting for young minds.
When my oldest was a toddler and I was still working, every evening would be awful. She was so cranky and I couldn’t figure out why. But, as I’ve read about it, I think it’s common.
She was so exhausted from being at daycare all day, that she was letting it all out at home, where she felt safe. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a mom say something like “his teacher says he’s a perfect student, but when he comes home he is just cranky”.
I think it’s very common.
Kids use all their energy to “be good” in school and then have to let loose when they get home because they know Mom will love them anyway.
We don’t have that problem with homeschooling. My kids are free to take breaks and play as needed. I’m not saying we never have tantrums because my kids can throw tantrums with the best of them. I’m just saying that we don’t usually have tantrums from “being good” all day.
#2: More frequent interaction with a wider variety of ages
As homeschooled children, my girls are exposed to lots of age groups in most of our social activities.
At bible study, they have play time with all the kids, toddlers to grade school. On homeschool co-op field trips it isn’t just kids their age – it’s entire families. Homeschooled children have more opportunities to interact with different generations of people on a regular basis.
I think learning this skill of interacting with people of all ages is very valuable. When they grow up, they won’t be interacting with a group of people their own age. They will be working and interacting with people of all ages. So, homeschool socialization is a much more realistic way to learn socialization skills.
#3: Homeschooled kids get exposed to much less bullying
All kids need to learn to take criticism and keep rolling. They need to learn that everyone is not nice and some people do mean things.
I just don’t think they need to learn it in elementary school. Or even middle school.
Kids have enough going on in their rapidly developing minds without throwing bullying, teasing, and shaming into the mix, too.
Homeschooled children are largely spared exposure to bullying and shaming. My girls can be mean to each other just like every other set of siblings, but it doesn’t cross the line to bullying.
I love being able to help my girls avoid those harsh situations until their minds and confidence are better prepared to handle it.
#4: Homeschooled kids might not be up on pop culture
My oldest is seven and she doesn’t think she needs a cell phone. Why? Because none of her friends have cell phones. Almost 40% of third graders have cell phones. What?!
At seven or 10, or even 13, most children do not know what they should and shouldn’t be looking at online. Or who they should or shouldn’t be talking to!
Homeschool children may be less knowledgeable than their public school peers on all things pop culture, youtube, and sexting and I am totally fine with that!
IF you are reading this article, then you are probably a concerned and involved parent. Please don’t’ worry about homeschool socialization – your kids will be just fine.
I have full confidence that my girls will grow up to be well-rounded, compassionate women who can maneuver any social situation. But, there’s no need to rush into it. And homeschooling lets them experience all the things as they are ready for them and not before.