The biggest concern that many homeschooling parents have — and the most frequent question from homeschooling critics — is whether children suffer from a lack of socialization when they aren’t in a larger school setting with lots of other children.
The truth is that what level of socialization is healthy depends very much on the child and what his strengths and weaknesses are. As a parent, it’s also important that you be sure that the type and amount of social activity you put into your child’s schedule is really based on his best interest and not to alleviate any anxiety you may have about sending him “out of the nest.” Our kid have their own personalities, and the level of interaction they need may be very different from our own, and issue that can take some adjustment when parent-child schedules are so closely intertwined.
The concern I think most parents have about socializing their kids — and the reason a lot of them home-school to begin with — is that they are worried about their child going it alone. Fears of unwholesome influences, bullying and peer pressure often cause them to shy away from all but the most controlled situations.
This is a mistake. Your child has to leave the nest if she’s going to learn to fly. At some point, you have to hand the controls over to your child, and they begin to adapt and strengthen, like a muscle responding to exercise. They grow fast, often faster than we parents are comfortable with. But we have to let them go a little bit at a time, becoming trusted guides rather than constant protectors.
Self-reliance and confidence are hard to develop when a helicopter parent is always hovering. The stability and teaching you give your child at home will give them a foundation for responding to situations in the world in a healthy way, even if those are situations you would prefer to shelter them from, like peer pressure or bullying.
Creating Social Opportunities
One of the advantages of homeschooling is the flexibility it gives you compared with a public school schedule. You can fit educational playgroups, homeschooler field-trips and special group classes at any time during the school day.
There are also a lot of ready-made social activities for your kids to be involved in. Many school districts allow homeschooled students to join after-school clubs, sports and other extracurricular activities. There are also intramural sports leagues, private activities clubs and independently organized home-school groups for you to take advantage of.
Online resources can also be a tremendous tool for homeschooled students when properly supervised. Not only are online classes available from public schools and community colleges, but you can connect your child with real-life friends through safe, approved websites and email. (Make sure you set clear rules for Internet use, and teach your children how to create a healthy balance between time spent in online spaces and the rest of their life.
Adapt and Grow
The ultimate beauty about homeschooling is the opportunity it offers you to be so closely involved as your child learns and grows. You know very well how your kids learn best, and you can adapt quickly to their changing needs and growing abilities. The social activities you choose are a part of that. As they grow and change, so will you.
Bill Henry is a parent, writer and home educator. He writes on topics including homeschooling, education, child socialization and parenting.