I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked by people “What about socialization?” or something to that effect. Depending on the tone of the person asking I’ve responded in different ways. My answer has also changed as the kids have gotten older.
These days in answering that question I often start with my own thoughts about socialization… “well, I want the kids to be good listeners, polite, well-rounded, self-confident and sociable. My kids have so many different opportunities to socialize and be around other people of all ages that our family finds it to be a non-issue.”
Preschool Years: When we first started homeschooling (or not going the public school route), my kids were 4 and 2 and ED was a baby. In Australia preschool is state-funded (with teachers who are academically trained teachers) so all of my friends sent their kids to preschool. All of them! That was the most difficult transition for us as homeschoolers. We weren’t doing the traditional thing and yet my family was still too young really to join in with the few homeschool families there were in our town because their kids were quite a bit older. We did lots and lots of hands-on activities and things as a family and I jumped a bit more into academics (doing largely Montessori preschool at home) because there was a huge (for me) gap left by my close-knit group of friends. Play-dates were harder to come by and we tried to squeeze in weekend playdates. We did the few activities we could — kindermusik, swim lessons — and I took the kids out lots and lots to go hiking and exploring.
Lots of things changed when we moved to the U.S. The kids were a bit older (2, 4, 6) and we found that there was a huge homeschool population here. Suddenly, we had to make sure we didn’t overbook ourselves! The kids are involved in a wide range of activities… they’ve dabbled in gymnastics, children’s choir, soccer, dance, parkour, art class, music class, nature class, homeschool PE and swim classes, homeschool playdates (playdates with public school friends too!), community volunteering, and library sponsored activities. Some activities are free, some we’ve paid for.
As for the classroom setting itself, I agree that homeschooling does not look like the classroom setting but in some ways I think my kids are freer to talk, discuss, explore things academically. I *do* have to keep them on track when we’re talking about things, but I find I’m not battling the whispering and daydreaming that I did as a classroom teacher. When there are just two or three sitting next to you, you know immediately if one of them is not tuned in!
My kids have lots of friends and we make efforts to get together regularly to foster those friendships. They are respectful to their coaches and other adults. I’m told they listen really well (at home? well let’s put it this way — they’re kids!).
Some people wonder if homeschooled kids are too sheltered… but (unfortunately) my kids have had to deal with various issues along the way. We’ve had long conversations about bullying (LD’s best friend was bullied at gymnastics), theft (someone stole something from LD at camp) and other things. And we have our fair-share of conversations about the poor behavior, rude or disrespectful comments, and bad language. In a way I feel I’m at an advantage because I try to address these right away and make it clear that some language is not appropriate in our family.
One advantage homeschoolers have is the ability to interact with people of all ages. My nieces and nephews (also homeschoolers) are wonderful with their young cousins. My kids have friends of all ages… and have had the opportunity be with adults in the community as well.
I find socialization not to be a pressing issue as a homeschooling family, though like most every parent I worry about my kids being responsible (doing their chores and helping when asked), not whining, being respectful to the adults around them, and listening/following through with things (DD–will you ever put your shoes away rather than tossing them off here-and-there?!!).
There’s a really interesting article in the Washington Times, Homeschooling: Socialization Not a Problem which has some really fascinating details from a Canadian study of homeschoolers who are now adults.
More recently I wrote this post: What about the Social Aspects of Homeschooling? which gives dozens of ways homeschooled students can socialize with their peers.
Don’t miss this important post: How Do I Get Started Homeschooling? which links to all the posts in that series.
Homeschool Questions Answered: What does a typical homeschool day look like?
To Homeschool You Need
Advice to New Homeschoolers
Homeschool Questions Answered: Why do people homeschool?
What has surprised you most about homeschooling?