The “S” Word

Will My Homeschooler Be a Weirdo?

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Show Notes

Homeschooling is becoming more and more mainstream, but myths, misinformation, and misconceptions about homeschooling are still all too common. It’s inevitable that all homeschool parents will hear a comment like “Homeschoolers are weird and poorly socialized!” More likely, they will hear it 87,000 times.  Everyone from your partner, to grandparents, to the stranger in their grocery store checkout is going to have an opinion on it.  And you may have concerns and doubts about it, too, especially after hearing this question over and over again.

In today’s episode we are going to talk about the S-word! SOCIALIZATION. Socialization is a valid concern.  But it’s also one of the biggest myths about homeschooling.  The myth of socialization when it comes to homeschooling is a common misconception that suggests homeschooled children miss out on crucial social experiences. Some people are concerned that homeschoolers will never learn common social etiquette and participate in group activities. Or that they won’t learn how to do things like standing in a line, waiting your turn, sharing, and other manners and habits.  There are also concerns that they will miss social cues, not know how to talk to other people, or behave.  And there are concerns that homeschoolers won’t have opportunities they may get in public school- like clubs, sports, and other activities.

Homeschooling can provide a rich and diverse social environment.

Homeschooled children do engage in social activities such as sports, music – like band and orchestra, clubs, and community events. These activities enable them to interact with peers and adults from all kinds of backgrounds. Additionally, homeschoolers have flexible schedules which allow them to explore real-world learning opportunities. People are starting to notice, and studies are proving that these opportunities allow these kids to foster strong interpersonal skills unlike if they were in a classroom all day. They are out in their communities every day, shopping, running errands, going to the post office, talking to neighbors, hanging out with friends, and tons of other opportunities we’re going to get to. 

Everyone likes to talk about socialization like it’s only a positive thing, too, but the truth is, there’s a lot to be concerned with when it comes to socialization.  When people ask if we are concerned about socialization, we respond that of course, we are!  We are totally concerned about bullying, peer pressure, and exposure to age inappropriate content. Homeschooling offers a more personalized and positive socialization experience, as it allows children to avoid a lot of negative peer pressures and bullying that can sometimes occur in traditional school settings. Not that these things don’t happen to homeschoolers – they do, but it’s often easier to nip that behavior in the bud as it happens, because you are right there.  This is something that is so much easier to do in a family group setting than it is when you find out about something that happened at school days later. Also, being present and modeling appropriate social behaviors and teaching your child if they say or do something inappropriate, can be corrected right there on the spot.

Overall, homeschooling’s socialization myth has been debunked many times over by the multitude of opportunities for social growth and development available to homeschooled kids.

What is socialization and why is it important for everyone? (7:04)

One of the things you will notice when you start getting these comments about socialization is that people often throw that word out without actually knowing what it means or what they mean. Is socialization being in a classroom with 30 kids from your neighborhood really replicating what you’ll experience in real life?  Of course not, traditional school and maybe a nursing home are the only places this segregation happens.  In your job, in your neighborhood, in public, you are always going to be surrounded by people of all ages and so many different backgrounds.

And it’s not that we don’t think socialization is important. Socialization is crucial for everyone for several reasons:

  • Social Skills Development: These interactions develop important skills, like communication, cooperation, empathy, and conflict resolution. These skills are crucial for success in both personal and professional life.
  • Emotional Well-being: Socialization provides emotional support and a sense of belonging. It can help children develop a healthy self-esteem and mental well-being. Friendships and social bonds can provide a strong emotional safety net.
  • Cultural Awareness: Socializing with a diverse group of people exposes children to different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives, which fosters more cultural awareness and embracing people of all walks of life. 
  • Learning from Others: Interacting with peers allows children to learn from others’ experiences and perspectives. It can broaden their horizons and encourage intellectual growth.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration: Many aspects of life, including work and sports, require the ability to work effectively in teams. Socialization provides opportunities to learn teamwork and collaboration skills.
  • Conflict Resolution: Socialization involves dealing with conflicts and disagreements, which are valuable life skills. Learning how to navigate conflicts constructively is essential for personal and professional relationships.
  • Preparation for the Real World: children will eventually need to navigate the real world outside of the classroom. Our communities are full of diverse people and social situations. Socialization prepares them for this reality. When you think about it, a classroom is actually an artificially structured system. There are probably a lot of parents of kids in public school who worry about their children making it in the real world. Homeschooled kids get far more opportunities to interact with all different kinds of people.
  • Networking: Building a social network from a young age can be beneficial in various aspects of life, including career opportunities and personal connections.
  • Coping with Peer Pressure: Socialization allows children to learn how to handle peer pressure and make informed decisions, which is especially important during the teen years.
  • Building Friendships: Friendships formed during childhood and adolescence can be some of the most enduring and meaningful relationships in a person’s life. Socialization helps children build and maintain these connections.

It’s important to strike a balance between socialization and academics, ensuring that kids have plenty of time with friends while still receiving a quality education. Homeschooling families are so creative and often find ways to combine socializing with learning to ensure that their children develop both academically and socially. 

What are some ways that homeschoolers find social opportunities? (10:53)

One of the things that we often tell people is that we do have a problem with socialization as homeschoolers.  And that problem is that with so many extra hours in our day, it’s easy to overschedule yourself.  We sometimes struggle to find time to be at home and get our work done! One of my initial reasons to homeschool is because I wanted to give my kids more opportunities Beyond what a school can offer – I wanted to give them the world — but the world is big and it can really fill your calendar quickly!

Scroll down to download our free full list of 100 Ways to Socialize your Homeschooler:

Homeschoolers have so many different avenues for socialization that can help them build meaningful relationships and develop those important social skills:

Local Homeschool Groups: search out local homeschooling support groups and co-ops where families meet regularly for educational and social activities. These groups often organize field trips, classes, and group projects.  

We’ve talked often about our park day groups which is really where we laid that foundation for friendships. And so many of the group activities and clubs we started later, came from these original park day groups.And we did so many parties with these now lifelong friends- not back to school parties, Easter Egg Hunts, Christmas potluck dinners, Halloween Parties, and Valentine exchanges. 

And later- we have been part of groups that put on dances- “what about the prom is a common homeschool question that we have all been asked.  Usually when we have kids so young, prom isn’t even on the horizon!  Well, they can go to the prom!  And there’s also Graduation- some mom friends and I worked so hard and put together a grand event– I think it was about 15 kids, and since my daughter also earned her associates degree in high school, we did the big ceremony at the community college too. And then I also hosted a big bash with all the kids she grew up with.  

Keep in mind that every kid is different, and they may not want a big graduation ceremony or a big party and that’s OK too. At 17 and 18, they probably have a pretty good idea how they want to celebrate. So, make sure you bring them to the table. That can be hard sometimes for parents because this is our celebration too.  Make sure you aren’t projecting your own feelings onto your kids. This is their moment. 

Extracurricular Activities: Homeschooled children can participate in extracurricular activities like sports teams, art classes, music lessons, dance classes, band, or theater groups within their community.

You should check out our FREE Extracurricular Workbook. We’ve listed over 100 ideas and step-by-step ways to help your child find some extracurriculars that they will love. 

Community Classes: Enrolling in classes at local community centers or libraries can help homeschoolers meet and interact with peers who share their interests. We love our libraries!  I started when my kids were toddlers, taking them to library story time. We’ve also done a lot of rec center classes- they are low cost and low commitment.  We’ve used that as a way to try things out without getting sucked into a multi month session if the kids want to quit after two classes.

Volunteer Work: Volunteering is also an excellent way for homeschoolers to give back to their community and make new friends. For years, we volunteered at an Alzheimer’s and dementia center and some of my kid’s friends are 90 years old. I absolutely love that my kids don’t care if you’re 2 years old or 90 years old. Age is irrelevant to them. We’ve often volunteered with other kids who are passionate about similar causes- we put together food bundles at food bank, we did a homeless coat drive, we got together with other families and wrote letters to veterans, we did a book drive for an underprivileged school and all the homeschool kids read the books to these young children. We also did meals on wheels when my kids were very young – Cameron was in his car seat, walking up and ringing the doorbell. Sometimes we would talk for a long time to these people. They were often very lonely.

My kids do a lot of nursing home gigs as Irish dancers especially during St. Patrick’s season- they absolutely love interacting with the seniors in these communities.  

Online Communities: There are also so many opportunities for homeschoolers to connect with others through online forums, social media groups, and virtual clubs or classes. We’ve talked about how online friends can be absolutely real and valuable.

Local Events and Clubs: you can also participate in community events and clubs, like 4-H, or you can participate in youth groups. My kids do Youth and Government through the YMCA.  Both of our kids have done scouting.  

Part-Time Jobs: Older teens can get a part-time job and learn a lot of valuable skills. They learn how to cooperate as a team and make new friends. A job can also provide exposure to a variety of situations as they learn to navigate working with others. And homeschoolers can work during the day. In high school, my daughter was able to earn her associates degree and work a full-time job to buy her first car, and still have plenty of time for friends. 

Family and Friends:  Don’t discount family!  One of the reasons I started homeschooling was because I had 2 kids under 2 and then 3 under 4.  I didn’t have the same social need for a preschooler that a parent of an only child might have.  My kids were a group almost from the beginning.

Time spent with extended family members and close friends are more social opportunities for homeschoolers. These family gatherings and playdates are the best!  And those private play days are such wonderful memories for me. Through the years, my kids’ best friends’ parents have been MY best friends. These are some of my favorite homeschool times. 

Field Trips: Homeschoolers often go on educational field trips to museums, zoos, historical sites, and nature reserves, where they can interact with both their peers and experts in various fields.

We love field trips and have an awesome episode with 100 Top Field Trips. Personally, I’d rather go on a field trip to learn hands on, than do a worksheet! I also created this super cool field trip guide you can download for free.

Online Classes: Some homeschoolers take online courses or virtual classes, where they can collaborate with teachers and students from around the world. We have loved Outschool!

Outschool is an educational platform offering over 100,000 Interactive Online Classes for every age group from 3 to 18 years. You can use it as full academic classes or supplements.
Learn More >>

It’s important to note that homeschooling can be tailored to each child’s needs and preferences, allowing families to create a socialization plan that aligns with their values and educational goals while providing ample opportunities for interaction with others.

Are traditionally schooled children better socialized than homeschooled kids? (26:18)

In those younger years homeschooling takes less than an hour. Even when our kids were earning their associates degree in high school, they never did more than 4 hours of school each day. This allows for more opportunities for positive social interactions. All of the social opportunities that we just talked about that homeschoolers are experiencing during the day when they’re not in a classroom, have given them experiences and more opportunities for socializing and learning these skills. 

It’s important to note that the social development of any child is influenced by a lot of factors, including their individual personality, their family environment, and the specific homeschooling or traditional school experience they receive.  And unfortunately, as homeschooled parents, the pressure is all on us.  Our kids are a reflection of us.  If your school kid grows up to be a troublemaker or outcast, you can blame the school environment. But nobody questions whether or not kids in school are socialized. Let me tell you, being put in a building with peers of your same age and socioeconomic background is not necessarily socializing. But for homeschoolers, it’s all on us.

So let’s talk about some of the differences in socialization between traditional school kids and homeschooled kids.

Here are some considerations:

Homeschooled Kids:

  • Varied Experiences: Homeschooled children have more flexibility to engage in a wide range of social experiences, including interacting with people of different ages, cultural backgrounds and perspectives, promoting diversity and tolerance.
  • Individualism: Homeschoolers feel minimal peer pressure to conform or fit in and are encouraged to express themselves and have a voice without social pressures. Homeschooling can provide more one-on-one time with parents or educators, potentially addressing specific social needs and positive guidance. 
  • Limited Negative Influences: Homeschooling can minimize children from negative peer pressures and bullying and provide guidance when needed.
  • Tailored Learning: Homeschooled children can learn at their own pace, especially those with learning differences, reducing the stress and social anxiety that can occur in a classroom setting. 

Traditionally Schooled Kids:

  • Structured Environment: Traditional schools provide a structured social environment with limited real-world experiences. Students learn to navigate various social situations and hierarchies with a large student teacher ratio affording minimal guidance. 
  • Peer Interaction: From an early age, kids learn how to be like others and conform, at the cost of neglecting or even never discovering what it is that makes them special. In a school environment, peer pressure can dictate things from how to look and sound to how to act in order to be accepted by the peer circle.

In Conclusion

There is a large body of research focused on determining whether homeschooled or traditional schooled kids are better-socialized. The research has found that being homeschooled does not harm socialization skills, and in fact, more and more studies are indicating that homeschooled children score more highly than children who attend school on measurements of socialization.

Ultimately, whether homeschooled or traditionally schooled children are “better” socially depends on the individual child, the quality of their educational environment, and their unique social needs. Some homeschooled children thrive socially, while others may face challenges.  It’s up to you to figure out what best works for your family and child. Similarly, traditionally schooled children can excel socially or encounter difficulties.  When someone asks you if you are worried your kids will be weird.  Ask them if they knew any weird kids from school. We all did! Here’s the thing.  My kids were going to be weirdos whether they went to school or not.  Sorry kids, but that is genetic!

The key is to provide opportunities for socialization and development. Many homeschooling families actively seek out socialization opportunities for their children to ensure they have well-rounded experiences. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether homeschooled kids are better socially than traditionally schooled kids. Social development is a complex and multifaceted process influenced by various factors, and both educational approaches can provide valuable social experiences when done thoughtfully and with the child’s best interests in mind.

It’s easy for those outside the homeschooling community to look at these students as “different” or “socially awkward.” But much of that sentiment results from simply not having any real knowledge of what homeschoolers actually do. Homeschool parents don’t tie their kids to a desk for 8 hours. They’re cuddled on the couch reading books, they’re learning at libraries, at museums, they’re interacting with residents at senior centers, with other families and fellow students. They’re experiencing real-life situations and conversing with many types of people from all walks of life. They play Little League, nerf battles, video games, text their friends, join clubs, and are free to be themselves with opportunities beyond what they could get in a school environment.

This Week’s Freebie:

Download the Complete Socialization List HERE (pdf)
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