What Is Socialization? How Can Homeschoolers Socialize? Find Out How Homeschoolers Deal With The “S-Word.”
“You are going to homeschool…. What about socialization?” If you homeschool, you have undoubtedly heard this concern about homeschool socialization, perhaps even from those you know and love the best. You may have even hesitated to begin homeschooling because of what we homeschoolers respectfully call “the homeschool socialization myth.” Discover more about the big picture of homeschooling socialization and find out how you can satisfy your child’s socialization needs and prevent the homeschool socialization issue (if it were an issue to begin with)!
|Concerns about Homeschool Socialization|
|In-Person Social Activities for Homeschoolers|
|Online Social Groups for Homeschoolers|
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What is Socialization?
If you are human, you have socialization needs. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the need for love and belonging is right there in the middle. As human beings, we need friendship and family and a sense of connection or community with others, and we are driven to satisfy this need through our behaviors. Oxford Languages defines socialization in two ways: “the activity of mixing socially with others” and “the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.” As adults who love our children, we want to make sure both of these boxes are checked. We want our children to have plenty of opportunities to interact with others and—at the same time—we hope that our children learn how to interact appropriately through these experiences.
Concerns about Homeschool Socialization
The last thing we want to do is to remove our children from public schooling and put them in a situation where their socialization needs are not met. According to public opinion, however, that is exactly what homeschoolers are doing. Non-homeschoolers, and even new homeschoolers, share concerns that homeschooled children may not get enough socialization. They believe that homeschooled children become recluses because they are not exposed to peers daily throughout the school day. They fear that too much time with one adult can lead to inappropriate social learning and that homeschoolers are doomed to social awkwardness or, even worse, isolation. They worry that homeschoolers will miss out on dances and proms, never learn how to fistfight or cooperate, develop poor manners and impatience, or be bereft of the opportunity to meet diverse people or even a future spouse. Some can even point to a child they met who fits the bill of the socially inept homeschooled child.
Here are some comments our homeschooling readers have heard about socialization:
“Your son is just going to have to get used to being picked on and learn how to deal with it better.”
“You have to let them go sometime.”
(My daughter was 3. I thought, how about if I let her go after childhood?)
“Don’t they want to have friends?”
I met a lady and was talking to her at a cub scout meeting for my son. She was asking questions and saying she felt that academically homeschooling is the best option, but she has concerns about socialization. She then asked, “Do they like to homeschool?” I said, “Yes;” then it was, “Don’t they want to go to public school?” “No,” was my reply. Then she said “Well, don’t they want to have friends?” I was so mad. I looked around: we were at a pack meeting, a very relaxed, fun one. Every one of my children was playing with friends, other kids they see in other settings! I said, “They have friends! They are not out there playing alone, are they?” I was so mad and shocked, I had to walk away. What child would not want to have friends? Why can’t they make friends outside of school? It amazes me that someone would actually think a thought like that. Thanks for listening to the rant!
“You must not have any friends; I bet you get lonely.”
As for questions that people ask and how we respond, my eighteen-year-old son did a pretty good job while at the dentist getting his teeth cleaned. When the hygienist learned that he was homeschooled, she commented, “You must not have any friends; I bet you get lonely.” Appalled at the rudeness of her remark, he replied, “No, I don’t have any friends…. you’re my only friend.” Well, needless to say, he took a beating on his gums. For once, though, I didn’t scold him for being witty. My son is known as the “social butterfly” in our homeschool area. […] He is always telling me how grateful he is that he was homeschooled and never had to deal with the issues that some of his friends had to deal with at such young ages. He is a very confident young man, as well as very respectful of those in authority. I have no regrets, and my biggest compliment and assurance that homeschooling is best for kids, is my son’s appreciation of this choice his parents made (as well as my other children’s). Thanks for a great website!
“Aren’t you afraid your boys won’t fit in and be with the in-crowd because of what you’re doing to them?”
My neighbor came to me the other day and saw me working with my boys and asked to speak with , so I walked over to where she was standing and listened to what she had to say…<All the while knowing something I really didn’t want to hear was going to come out her mouth.> She said, “Aren’t you afraid your boys won’t fit in and be with the in-crowd because of what you’re doing to them?” I said to her with a smile on my face and a very calm voice, “Aren’t you afraid yours will?” Well, she looked at me with wide eyes and made a grunt noise like a bull, turned around and walked out of my garage. Just wanted to share this with you….
“I really need to expose my kids to more germs on a regular basis so that they don’t get sick ‘when they are around people.’”
Great site. I’ve been homeschooling my 4 kids since birth. My sister, always quietly criticizing my choice to homeschool, recently made this remark. After letting her know that my kids got sick over the holidays, she informed me that I really need to expose my kids to more germs on a regular basis so that they don’t get sick “when they are around people.” I have yet to respond. Maybe others would also find that comment amusing. Thanks….
– Judi D
The Homeschool Socialization Myth
To be sure, there are some homeschooled children who exhibit social misbehaviors, but there are also plenty of children in traditional schooling with those exact same issues. Ultimately, homeschooling does not make socialization difficulties a foregone conclusion. Here are some reasons that the homeschool socialization myth is just that—a myth:
- Socialization may not be happening as much as you imagine in a public school. In a perfect world, class time is filled with interactive activities, group work, and socially constructed meaning. In the real world, while many teachers work hard toward that end, socialization during class may be limited. For elementary students, less structured socialization opportunities may consist of lunch, recess if the school has it, and specials like gym and art. For middle and high school students, unstructured socialization may be limited to a twenty-minute lunch and a couple of minutes between classes. The real opportunities for socialization may lie in after-school activities, school events, and rides on the bus.
- Homeschoolers socialize every day! Homeschoolers are interacting with their homeschool guides (parents, guardians, tutors) daily, and many are interacting with siblings as well. For some homeschoolers, the opportunity to discuss topics in depth and follow their child’s interest is what brought them to homeschooling. For others, opportunities to connect virtually through classes and activities can bring socialization into the school day. If homeschooling is done right, students are interacting with people in the home and online as part of schooling, so socialization is a part of class time.
- Homeschooling is only six or fewer hours per day for five days a week. That leaves plenty of time for socialization outside of homeschool time. Homeschoolers can see family and friends, join community activities, play sports, attend events and socialize like any other non-homeschooled child. In some cases, access to peers in these self-selected activities can lead to deeper friendships because of shared interests and extended periods of time to connect.
The truth is that homeschooling may, in fact, create benefits to socialization. Homeschooled children may more easily be able to avoid bullying and negative peer pressure, socialize with people of various ages daily, and build social confidence as they interact under the guidance of positive adult role models. According to a review of research on the socialization of homeschoolers, by Richard G. Medlin of Stetson University, “Compared to children attending conventional schools, […] research suggests that they have higher quality friendships and better relationships with their parents and other adults. They are happy, optimistic, and satisfied with their lives. Their moral reasoning is at least as advanced as that of other children, and they may be more likely to act unselfishly. As adolescents, they have a strong sense of social responsibility and exhibit less emotional turmoil and problem behaviors than their peers. Those who go on to college are socially involved and open to new experiences. Adults who were homeschooled as children are civically engaged and functioning competently in every way measured so far.”
In-Person Social Activities for Homeschoolers
To maximize the socialization activities available to your homeschooler, you may want to purposely seek peer activities both inside and outside the classroom. Because homeschoolers may have even more flexibility with their schedules, a wider range of activities may be open to them. Here are some possibilities:
- Meetups with members of local homeschool support groups (e.g., group meetings weekly at playgrounds or other fun places)
- Cooperative learning opportunities through local homeschooling co-ops where different adults teach different classes to groups of children
- Homeschooling field trips through organized group trips or just interacting with the others who attend. Get even more homeschool field trip ideas here.
- Homeschool programs at local organizations, like museums, gymnasiums, and libraries (e.g., homeschool gym or art classes, theater camps, story hours, craft programs)
- Participation with organizations like Scouts and 4H, which can provide a range of socialization opportunities while also continuing the learning
- Community sports teams (e.g., Little League baseball or football, club cheerleading) and tournaments or sports events
- Group lessons for hobbies (e.g., horseback riding, sports, music, coding)
- Summer camps (e.g., academic, outdoors, sports, theater)
- Volunteering within the community or through organizations and youth groups
Online Social Groups for Homeschoolers
In addition to reaching out to your own family and friend networks, you can try virtual! Although arguably different from in-person social interactions, your child can meet some pretty great friends in homeschool groups online. Here are just a few to explore:
Homeschool Field Trips & Activities | Facebook Group
“This group is dedicated to field trips and activities with the hope of making it easier by having everything in one place. Anyone is welcome to post a trip, event, class etc. Please add other homeschooling friends who you think would be interested. Together we can make this group grow and have some great field trips!”
Homeschool Social Group Online | Facebook Group
“Group for online homeschool socializing. Events will probably just be on zoom, suitable for kids between the ages of 9 to 12ish to chat about all different topics. This is a lesson free zone. The zooms will be child led but supervised to ensure no inappropriate behavior.”
Secular Virtual Homeschool Social Clubs | Facebook Group
“This is a group for secular homeschoolers to connect their kids to other homeschoolers for virtual meetings, clubs, play dates, etc. Members are all welcome to initiate their own events and meetups.”
Social Clubs for Kids | Outschool
“Outschool offers over 140,000 interactive online classes. Keep your kids inspired and engaged with online classes, clubs, and camps covering all their favorite topics.”
Other Homeschooling Socialization Resources
What else can help you best support the socialization of your child? Below are some resources to get you thinking and help you stop worrying about socialization in your homeschool:
Common Objections to Homeschooling by John Holt | The Wonder of Homeschooling
“People, especially educators, who hear me talk about homeschooling, raise certain objections so often that it is worth answering them here.” Socialization is just one of the many topics!
The Development of Social Competence in Children
“Researchers have tried to pinpoint the origins of positive social adjustment in relation to genetic, familial, educational, and other factors. This digest reviews research on the development of social competence in infants and children, emphasizing the developmental processes which take place in the family, peer groups, preschool, and elementary school.” Read this research article to find out more!
Elephants Teach Socialization
What can we learn from watching elephant interactions? “What if, instead of grouping all of those of the same age together with too few and too poor of quality of role models, all of these youngsters were allowed to remain with and interact with their families and others in their society, both older and younger?”
Homeschool Socialization & My Reasons | Homeschool.com
“Worried homeschooling won’t provide socialization? Find out why those worries are unfounded and how they can be the REASON to homeschool.”
Homeschoolers Are Not Hermits: A Practical Guide to Raising Smart, Confident, and Socially Connected Kids $
By Kathy Oaks (Author)
“Think you can’t homeschool because your kids are highly social? Are you worried about trying to teach everything yourself? Are you already homeschooling and need some advice and encouragement? Relax! This accessible book by #1 Bestselling Author Kathy Oaks will give you the confidence to take the leap and see why so many people love homeschooling.”
Homeschooling and the Myth of Socialization | Lew Rockwell
Read Manfred B. Zysk’s passionate opinion on the topic: “Go to your local public school, walk down the hallways and see what behaviors you would want your child to emulate.”
Homeschooling and Socialization | Homeschool.com
“Any time homeschooling is brought up, there’s always one question in particular that always creeps its way into the conversation: “What about socialization?” For those who aren’t familiar with homeschooling, this is pretty much the be all-end all as to whether or not homeschooling can work.”
Homeschooling: Socialization in a Homeschool Environment (Kindle)
By Jacki Gibbons (Author)
“This book contains introductory information on homeschooling, addresses homeschooling socialization concerns, and provides suggestions to address those concerns. The book includes public and at-home socialization information and activity options, provides information on successful homeschoolers, and provides online resources to support homeschooling families. This book may be helpful to new homeschooling families, those considering home school, and others who are simply curious.”
I am Homeschooling Because I Want My Kids Socialized | Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
“That was the only answer I could think of to tell the lady in the checkout line at the store. Hopefully, that would nip in the bud any further questioning of the new lifestyle my husband and I had embraced.”
The Scoop on Socialization? | Homeschool.com
“The question of socialization comes up often in conversations about homeschooling. Discover some surprising tips on how to address the homeschool socialization question.”
Social Skills and Homeschooling: Myths and Facts | Family Education
“The socialization myth was born out of a misconception of what it’s like to homeschool. Many educators and critics of homeschooling still believe homeschoolers hit the books at 9 a.m., work all day at their kitchen table till 3:00 p.m. or later, and spend their day isolated and alone. This, of course, is ridiculous!”
Socialization is a Bunch of Malarkey | See Jamie Blog
“The real question is, do I want my children to “behave in a manner approved by” kids their own age? Which brings me to a story about our dog.
Socialization: The Biggest Non-Issue in Homeschooling | Time4Learning
How do homeschoolers make friends? How does homeschool affect social skills? Find out answers to these questions and learn about homeschool socialization ideas and the social benefits of homeschooling children.
Socialization – A Homeschool Hallucination? Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
“Anybody that homeschools has probably faced homeschool socialization interrogations. Today, I’m sharing about socialization in our homeschool world. Are we as isolated as some think? First, I want you to hear my story.”
Fred Worth explores the issue of homeschool socialization and the implications of being asked about it by non-homeschoolers.
Supporting Students in Online Socialization | Homeschool.com
“Homeschoolers need to be intentional about connections. Discover helpful tips for encouraging socialization through online methods in your homeschool!”
Yes, My Grown Homeschooled Children Are Odd — And Yours Will Be Too! | Homefires
“I’ll tell you what I think. The truth is, homeschoolers are not well-socialized. Here. I’ve said it. Someone had to.”
One final thought on socialization from one of our homeschooling readers:
This weekend, at the conference, I was engaged in conversations about socialization, about being asked about it, how to explain it, etc., etc., and also sat in workshops/seminars where that topic was discussed. At the same conference there were about 100 teenagers, all homeschooled for most or all of their lives – they had none of the “affectedness” of kids subject to peer pressure; all of them seemed confident, mature and highly skilled in social graces. I envied them and thought how different I would have been had I been homeschooled – no pressure to conform, “be” this or that, have a certain “look,” wear the “accepted” styles, and so on. Their language was not peppered with expletives; none of them appeared to be smokers; the “devil-may-care” facade was absent….and on and on.
Through it all, I decided that from now on when I am asked, “How do you plan to socialize your child?,” I will answer simply “Properly.”
– Lyn K.
Do you have some advice or experiences to share about homeschool socialization? Give us your socialization ideas and comments below….