I’m sure you’ve heard the arguments a thousand times from your critics: Homeschooled kids are anti-social, they don’t know how to cope in the real world, or even that homeschoolers are social outcasts. If you are already homeschooling your kids, you know better. If you are in the process of considering homeschooling, rest assured that the naysayers are not right. Sure, you have the power to make your kids social pariahs, but with a little thought and planning, your kids can be just as socially adept, if not more so, that those who go to public or private schools.
What does it mean to be socialized?
It helps to define this loose term before delving into arguments for or against homeschooling. Socialization is a complex thing and involves more than simply having a social life. It does not mean having more friends than you can count or having more friends and acquaintances than the kids in public school. To put it in the most basic terms, being socialized means understanding how to behave appropriately in different situations and knowing how to interact with a wide variety of people.
Public and private schools are big places where kids learn to be socialized in the school of hard knocks. They learn by trial and error how to behave around their peers and their teachers. Sometimes the teachers are available to guide them, but much of the time they are too busy to show each child how to behave appropriately. At home, you have the time, the ability, and the opportunity to teach your children proper social skills. You also have the flexibility to put your children into more varied social situations than a traditional classroom can provide.
Who is better socialized: homeschooled children or traditionally educated children?
The answer to this question is not that straightforward. A better way to consider the question is to look to the parents. As parents, we model behavior for our children and instruct them in how to interact with others. Regardless of the type or location of education, the best-socialized children are those whose parents take the time to teach them. As a homeschooling parent, this does give you an advantage. You have more time with your kids to help them grow socially. But, you must take advantage of the time you have. Surely there are homeschooled kids out there who do not develop good social skills because their parents keep them isolated and do not provide proper situations and interactions for them.
While the answer is not a definitive one, there has been research conducted that shows that homeschooled children can be as well socialized as public school children, and in some cases, even better. In 2003, a study conducted by the Home School Legal Defense Association  found that homeschoolers were either equally or more involved in community activities, voting, and employment than their public school counterparts. A study from the Canadian Centre for Home Education  followed homeschooled children from age 15 to 34. They found that these adults were more socially engaged than adults who were not homeschooled. They were also happier.
As a homeschooling parent, you have the power to put your children on the path to success in life, which includes good social skills. Instead of throwing them into a classroom in which their only opportunity to learn socialization is from one adult and thirty other kids, you can take them out into the real world. You can bring them to interactions with their peers, but also take them places where they can meet people of all ages and in all situations. There is no reason why your kids should not be the most socialized and successful of adults one day.
How to ensure your kids get the best social skills
- Start at home. In any family, homeschooled or otherwise, good social skills should begin early and in the home. As soon as your baby is born, he is observing the world around him. And while he is very young, that world is typically the confines of your house. Begin early by modeling good social behavior at home. Treat each other with respect, and he will soak up that information immediately. As he gets older and can communicate, you can correct his behaviors and instruct him directly as to how to treat his siblings, parents, and other people.
- Join homeschool groups and co-ops. There are many benefits to joining up with a group of like-minded homeschoolers. You can share resources, expensive equipment, expertise, and time. As for socializing, working with other homeschoolers gives your kids the opportunity to make friends. Being around other kids is a crucial part of your children’s social development. With a homeschool co-op, you get to control the type of friends your kids make. You can avoid the bad influences over which you have no control in a public school setting.
- Meet the neighbors. Even if you live in a very rural area, you surely have some neighbors. Encourage your kids to get out there and meet their peers. Even if the other kids go to school during the day, there is no reason they cannot get together to play in the afternoons or on weekends. Socializing with kids who are schooled traditionally can offer a good chance for your kids to learn about how other people live. It may also give them an appreciation for being homeschooled.
- Play sports. Joining a sports team is an excellent way for kids to make friends and to stay active. You may be able to find homeschooling sports leagues, but you can also join up with your local community teams. Playing sports helps your kids learn to play well with others, follow rules, and deal with conflicts that inevitably will arise.
- Volunteer. To get your kids out into the real world to experience different types of people and varied social situations, volunteer work is a great idea. With your flexible schedule, you have the chance to take your kids out to do volunteer work that other children can’t do because of school. They get to meet more adults and can practice their social skills in new situations. And, of course, volunteer work is also an excellent way to instill values of compassion and service.
- Get part-time jobs. Another way to get your older children into real world settings is paid work. Your teenagers can benefit greatly from working a few hours a week. They have the flexibility in their schedules to consider different types of jobs. Working further teaches your kids social skills by putting them into yet another situation in which such skills are needed. While other kids are sitting in the same old classroom, your child could be earning and learning.
- Join church groups. Your church is an outstanding source for social activities. Your children can make friends who are being raised with the same values and beliefs. Look for bible study classes, youth ministry groups, and even missionary trips. Any group organized by your church is worthwhile for your children’s socialization.
- Spend time with grandma and grandpa. Another opportunity you have with your flexible homeschooling schedule is to give your kids more time with their grandparents. Your parents and your in-laws are a great resource, not just for socializing, but also for valuable lessons in values, respect, and history. They have so much to teach your children about their life experiences.
All of the above ideas are good places to start for helping your children become well rounded and socialized. It is very important not to keep them isolated at home. Children need to have friends their own age. They also need time away from you. As difficult as it may be to do, your kids benefit greatly from being independent of you and learning some of their socializing on their own. Teach them the basics at home and then let them explore in different situations and make new friends.
©2012 Off the Grid News