One of the biggest areas of concern among homeschoolers is how to socialize their children. Tell anyone you are homeschooling and this is typically one of their first questions: "But how do the children get socialized?" However, parents and those close to homeschooled students know that their children are actually better socialized in some ways than traditionally schooled children. Because they interact on many different levels with many different ages, most homeschooled children can converse easily with someone their own age or an adult who is fifty years older. This sets them up nicely for adulthood, where they will deal with many different age groups in the work place.
However, these social skills don't just happen. Homeschool parents seek out opportunities to "socialize" their children in a way that matches their own personal beliefs and goals for their kids. Below are a few of the most effective tools parents of socialized homeschooled children use.
10 Ways to Socialize Your Homeschooler
Although there are many other opportunities to help your child learn social skills and manners, these are just a few of the things you can try to finally answer this questions of socialization once and for all.
1. Homeschool Organizations
Homeschooling has grown tremendously in the past 10 to 20 years. While those who pioneered the movement were often isolated, today's homeschooling parent often has the support of a local homeschooling organization filled with other parents and children the same age as her own. Homeschool organizations often organize monthly get togethers, field trips, proms and graduations.
2. Homeschool Co-ops
Some homeschooling parents choose to join a school co-op. These are typically small, with about five to ten students per class and are taught by the parents in the group. Co-ops meet one or two days a week and work is done independently outside of class. This is a nice mix between private school and homeschool. Children have a chance to be with peers (although not all will be their exact age) one or two days a week and take specialized classes their parent might not be able to teach.
3. Community Sports
Many local schools will not allow homeschoolers to compete in sports, although some will. However, there are many community sports available, usually through the parks and recreation departments in your local community. You'll find basketball, soccer and football. Some homeschool organizations offer sports as well, particularly track and soccer. If you can't find the program you want, consider starting one of your own. Pop Warner offers a good program, or you can just get together with other interested moms and dads and form a team or two.
4. Art & Music Classes
Local art and music classes can help your child meet others with similar interests. Typically, there will be at least one or two parents in the homeschool community in your area who offer various art or music lessons. If not, local community colleges and music stores will often offer group classes for a reduced rate.
5. College Classes
If your homeschooled student is a high school sophomore or older, you may want to look into a couple of college classes at the local community college. The great thing about these courses is that they can often be used as dual credits, applying both towards high school and college credits. This can give your high schooler a head start on his or her college degree while also allowing him to meet new people.
6. Adopt an Older Adult
Because it is important for children to learn to talk to and interact with people of all ages, you may want to consider adopting an older adult at a local nursing home or in your neighborhood. Try to match your child with someone who has similar interests. If your daughter loves to sew, find a senior who enjoys making quilts. If your son is passionate about learning history, try to match him with a war veteran. Visiting an older adult each week not only teaches your child to converse easily with the older generation, but also teaches him to give back to the community and spend time volunteering.
7. Join 4-H
Local 4-H Clubs offer many different activities for students and can help develop lifelong friendships. Even if your child isn't interested in animals, there are groups within the 4-H umbrella that focus on gardening, sewing, crafts, art and many other areas of interest. 4-H is also a great place for your child to learn how to compete with others and be a graceful winner or loser.
8. Play Dates
Most homeschool parents choose a few friends that their children get along well with and arrange play dates every other week or so. This allows your child to have the companionship of other children that are not their siblings and gives you time with another adult who understands your struggles with homeschooling.
9. Church Activities
If you belong to a church, your child will likely participate in church activities. Younger kids will enjoy programs like AWANA and Vacation Bible School. Teens will enjoy youth group activities and events. A good youth group can keep your child busy with activities that teach your child your values and also gives her a chance to be around other kids her own age in a social setting.
10. Summer Camp
While some homeschool groups have a specific camp where the children in the group get together, outside summer camps can be a good experience for homeschoolers as well. There are as many types of summer camps as there are different areas of interest. You'll find traditional summer camps, sports oriented camps, extreme sports camps and music camps. Give your child your budget for summer camp and how far away you are willing to let him travel and let him choose which one he would like to attend. Summer camp is an opportunity to get away from it all, meet new friends and make lasting memories. Some children find that they stay in touch with friends made at camp. This can help teach youth how to maintain a friendship with someone who doesn't live near, which can be a vital skill in life.
Ultimately, try to stop worrying. Your child will learn social skills by going with you to the grocery store and seeing how you interact with the cashier. He will also learn skills by talking to his parents, his siblings, aunts and uncles, the mailman and his pediatrician. In today's world, where parents run here there and everywhere, it is nearly impossible not to get "socialized". Planning some of the activities listed above is certainly helpful, but not worth stressing over.