Homeschooling doesn’t have to be lonely for children in small families. Here are some tips for tackling homeschool important socialization for your child.
For more than 2 million kids in the U.S., learning takes place at home. Many parents say they homeschool because they’re worried about the public school environment, they don’t consider their local school educationally rigorous enough, or they want to give their kids a firm moral or religious foundation.
Academically, homeschooled kids appear to do well — and they might even have an edge. Statistics vary, but homeschoolers typically score higher than public school students on standardized tests.
But what about socially? The common perception is that homeschooled kids are lonely and socially isolated, starved for peer interaction because they spend the entire school week one-on-one with a parent.
Is homeschool socialization a myth?
Yet that doesn’t seem to be the case, according to Richard Medlin, PhD, professor of psychology at Stetson University. “Research suggests that homeschooled children’s social skills and self-esteem are certainly no worse than those of children attending conventional schools, and are probably better on average,” he says. “They tend to be happy, optimistic, and satisfied with their lives.”
Although homeschooled children have less contact with their peers than kids who attend school, the interactions they do have are more meaningful. “Compared to children attending conventional schools, research suggests that homeschooled children have higher quality friendships and better relationships with their parents and other adults,” Medlin says. They also learn to interact with people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. And when they go off to college, those formerly homeschooled kids are “socially involved and open to new experiences,” he adds.
Encouraging homeschool socialization
That said, all children can benefit from social interaction. You can find many opportunities to socialize your homeschooled child — including the same programs public and private school kids attend, such as music or dance lessons, art classes, organized sports, scouting, or hobby groups.
“In fact, the flexible schedule and more efficient use of time homeschooling affords may allow homeschooled children more time to participate in extracurricular activities than children attending conventional schools,” Medlin says.
You can also band together with other families who homeschool to create opportunities for social interaction. “Almost every community of reasonable size in the U.S. has at least one homeschool support group offering field trips, group activities, special classes, and other opportunities for homeschooling families,” he adds.
You can also look into a homeschooling co-op, in which families join together to form small classes. Kids attend this school once or twice a week or more, and parents teach.
During the summer, give your child a break from home, sending him off to a day or sleep-away summer camp. Camp gives kids a chance to not only explore new surroundings but also form new friendships.
Finally, use the time you have together to build strong family bonds.
“Research does show that socialization is most effective when it occurs within the context of a warm, supportive relationship,” Medlin says. “Homeschooling may ensure that more of children’s socialization experiences are an intrinsic part of such a relationship.”
February 01, 2023
Janet O’Dell, RN