Addressing Homeschool Socialization
It's the first question you get from strangers who learn that you homeschool. Among veteran homeschoolers the topic is simply referred to as The Question. The dialog goes something like this: "Hey guys. I met somebody at the mall today who asked me if I homeschool and then asked me The Question." At this point everyone in the room responds in unison: What about socialization?
Making The Question clearer
How do you address The Question? Before you can answer, you need to determine the question at hand. Is the person asking about social outlets, the time we allot to spend with friends and do fun things together, or is he actually asking about socialization? These are two entirely different questions.
Social outlets are a no-brainer. Many opportunities exist for homeschool families to spread their social wings and meet with other homeschooling (as well as nonhomeschooling) families. If someone asks you how your child finds social outlets, list the myriad of activities that nearly every homeschool family involves themselves with. Religious organizations, sports, scouting, and so on fill our children's time and create excellent social opportunities.
The majority of questioners ask about something much more nebulous than scouts or Sunday school. The words are the same: What about socialization? However, they don't want to know what you do so much as where your children will stand when they mature.
Now when The Question is posed to you, and you truly understand the query, you are free to answer the question instead of providing a few fluffy comments or blindly running through your after-school itinerary. The question is really How will your child fit into society if he doesn't go to school? The answer, of course, is that your child fits into society just fine.
Your child learns from you and the other adults and almost-adults in his life. He gets a much better view of how life really works because he isn't incarcerated with a selection of age-mates all day long. Your child sees wisdom at work as she watches you plan and complete tasks, interact with people in your community, and schedule your life to get (almost) everything done. She learns your values and morals as she listens to what you say and watches what you do. In the meantime, your child learns to
- Interact with the people around him, regardless of age, sex, or social class.
- Observe and join adults in conversation that includes more meaningful topics.
- Work with others as a team for longer than an hour on the playing field. Working together becomes a way of life with homeschool students and parents.
- Spend concentrated time and effort becoming good at a skill, such as dance, engineering, or computers.
This is the kind of interaction that leads to healthy, independent citizens.
Letting your proverbial hair down
Homeschoolers who've been at this long enough to develop a network of friends can readily tell you that finding something other than homeschooling to do is easier than staying at home and teaching. Not that working with the kids is boring, but the thought of spending the afternoon with other people always raises interest. We could be ice-skating with friends or lunching at the park. Maybe it's not too late to attend that field trip. But no, here we sit, finishing the daily math assignment. It's enough to give one the doldrums.
Math assignments have their place, but so do relaxation, volunteering, and group activities. All of anything makes your student lopsided. As Aristotle once said while gazing out the window at the other homeschool boys whose work was already finished for the day, "Moderation in all things is good."
Although your social adventures are only limited to your imagination and the number of hours that you're willing to leave the house each week, here are some general ideas to get the thoughts churning:
- Join the scouts or 4-H. Many communities offer homeschool 4-H groups, and a few areas contain scouting groups whose members primarily homeschool. (If you join a homeschool group, it generally meets when you're available during the day, instead of using evening or weekend hours.) Ask around.
- Volunteer for a local nonprofit organization. Many organizations may appreciate helping hands. The animal shelter, library, and local food bank are only a few of them. Look in the nonprofit section of your local phone book and locate a worthy cause.
- Play ball, tennis, or golf. Regardless of your favorite sport, the local parks and recreation department probably offers some kind of spring or summer classes. It's a great way to meet other people and maybe even find someone to play with. After signing up for tennis lessons last summer, the parents in my time slot sat around the picnic table to get acquainted. It only took us a few minutes to realize that all but one of us taught our kids at home.
- Meet a playgroup at the park. Homeschool park groups incorporate all ages from preschoolers on up. Some families pack a lunch and stay most of the day, while others drop by for a bit to spend some time and then wander off to other activities.
- Play in the homeschool orchestra. And brush up on your note theory at the same time. If your community doesn't offer a homeschool orchestra, maybe it organizes a theater group, choir, or some other artsy conclave.
- Join or create a field trip group. Some homeschool groups meet once a month or so only to participate in field trips together. This is a way to meet other families, see new sights, and not feel like you're committed every week for the rest of the semester.
If you find yourself driving around your community from event to event several days a week, you may want to pick up a set of foreign language tapes. Pop one into the car as you head down the driveway and work on your foreign language skills as you ride together. It not only makes the travel time useful, but it also marks off one more subject from your daily list. Even if you can't look at the book (which is certainly not recommended if you are driving) you can learn quite a bit through listening.