How can I ensure my children get social interaction if I homeschool them?

I'm considering homeschooling my 6 year-old daughter and 8 year-old son. They don't have very many friends in school as it is, and my husband and I don't know a ton of parents in town. Are there good ways to socialize my kids, or should I just stick to public school?

Answers

Jenny Bristol, Homeschooling Parent, Writer, and Editor

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If your kids aren't finding it easy making friends in public school, leaving them there may not change that. Plus, if you're considering homeschooling your kids, there are likely reasons that you have for doing it that are separate from socialization.

Children having friends within their narrow age cohort isn't the most important factor in their lives. It is actually just as valuable for them, or perhaps more so, to spend time around and get to know people of all ages, both older and younger. Learning how to relate to small kids will help them be parents, teach them patience, and allow them to share their knowledge. Learning to speak with and relate to adults and older children will give them more confidence as they get older and give them even more sources for learning. Plus, all of that gives them a wider base of experience than the narrow social focus of public school.

That being said, it's pretty easy to make sure your kids get plenty of socializing time with kids close to their ages. Find out what their interests are, and find extra-curriculars that match up. Girl or Boy Scouts, homeschooling co-ops, local sports clubs, activities at the YMCA or the library, local board game groups, and other school-independent activities abound for kids. Some places have special activities just for homeschooled students that might be held during the daytime hours when other kids are in school. In addition, your kids are socialized every time they participate in family activities, and every time you take them out of the house and interact with the community. Public schools do not hold a monopoly on socialization. Far from it.

In the end, you'll be there to facilitate their social opportunities, and this kind of socialization results in a much better result, since you can nip any bad behavior in the bud as you see it, rather than weeks later when a pattern of bad behavior would finally get reported to you by a public school.

Socialization is much more effective for homeschoolers than for public schooled kids, I believe, because kids' families is much more involved in their lives, and you can tailor social and educational opportunities to the kids' interests rather than their age cohort.

Laura Burgess Martin, Special needs parent; work in non-profit sector

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I completely agree with Jessica. I do not homeschool my children but have friends who do. Their children do wonderfully from a social standpoint because the parents make sure the kids are involved in activities. They actively seek out local homeschool groups and field trips, they have an art day with an aunt who is an artist, they visit the local zoo regularly, and library groups. Their children are very involved in religious activities and dance.

Best wishes with your decision!

Lisa Tanner, Homeschooling Mom of Seven, MS Elementary Reading & Literacy

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As a homeschooling mom, my goal for socializing my children is to encourage them to interact appropriately around other members of society. I want them to know social norms, and how to pick up on social cues. I don't limit this to interactions with other children, though they each certainly have friends they enjoy playing with.

Here are some ways that we work on socialization, or opportunities to use our social skills, and times where I may take a few moments to offer instruction/guidance on those skills:

-While shopping--looking for opportunities to help others, being kind, courteous, using inside voices, etc. -Taking swim lessons -At random parks -In waiting rooms -Volunteering at long-term care -At church events -At auctions -At the fair -While playing with a friend -At story time -At the museum--both in a guided tour setting, and while exploring

Playing together, as siblings, is also an excellent way to practice socialization skills. Your children can learn conflict resolution, sharing, playing kindly, and so many other essential skills just in their normal day-day activities.

You don't have to constantly be seeking socialization for your children. Use the natural events that occur in your life, and look for teachable moments to increase social skills.

As they get older, have them call and schedule an appointment or two. Teach them how to answer the phone respectfully, how to purchase items at the store, how to ask for help if they need it in the library.

People are everywhere--teach your children how to behave around them, wherever you are.

Madison mckenzie dean, A home schooled 14 year old

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I am homeschooled and my father wants to send me back to plubic school because of my social skills are not the best but they are much better than when I was five ,but I'm doing much better in homeschool than I did in plubic school but he thinks I don't get any socialization at all when I do only with family though he thinks that sending me back is going to help me when it isn't going to at all I guess what I am trying to say is ask your kids witch they would be more comfortable with.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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Is there a local book club where your child can meet others and talk about the challenging themes in a text without being in the emotionally loaded situation of speaking with a parent? Also, I know homeschooled students who do physical education classes with other teens at local gyms and yoga studio--this might be a great way to interact with other kids.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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Are there a variety of activities to engage your children in? Will you be able to take them on field trips? Is there a local college campus nearby that has a variety of arts and sports events that you might attend together? If you do decide to homeschool, and you seek out various activities, I'm sure you'll meet more likeminded people and find more acquaintances for your kids.

If not, and they aren't being harmed or bullied, maybe keeping them in a traditional school for another year or two while you investigate these possibilities might be a good idea.

M. Erez Kats, Seattle Language Arts Teacher

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I agree with the above experts on the need for socialization with kids, and their natural curiosity and propensity for this. All of the different events they have mentioned, from museums, zoos, and bookstores' events, to community sports teams, and activities like dancing, concerts and karate to religious gatherings, parks, and library or YMCA (CBO) type activities are all things that will benefit them greatly, and get them out of their comfort zones, meeting other kids and adults, and constantly expanding their minds. I feel that their minds are like sponges, and the more you expose them to, the more they will gravitate towards. And depending on the child, some students will take to these activities much more readily than they will to the more strictly regimented and tightly scheduled world of school. They may greatly adore the extra time they spend with you, and cherish all of these experiences as much as they would at any school. But as one expert also stated above, you have to have the time, strength, patience, and energy it takes to do all of this with your kids. If you don't feel you will have time for this, it may be better to enroll your students in school, and have them connect with these types of activities through the multiple resources the school likely has available. Good luck!

Jessica Lopa, School Psychologist and Founder of Mommy University

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Whether your child is homeschooled or in public school, I believe being engaged in community activities is so important for healthy childhood development. There are so many fun and brain boosting ways to enhance your child's social interaction and social skills, and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money.

**Barnes and Noble offers a ton of story times and special events that not only encourage a love of reading but also allow kids to interact and socialize with peers. I recommend going early and staying later to those events and let the kids play games and find new books with new friends.

**Libraries often have homeschool programs as well as fun clubs like Lego Club, American Girls, Mindcraft and more. This allows kids with common interests to socialize and have fun.

**Indoor play places are great places to boost gross motor skills while also allowing kids to interact with other peers. Bring your kids to an open session for their age group so they can make new friends.

**Museums and zoos are not only great for coinciding with academic lessons, but they also offer wonderful opportunities to socialize with peers. You can sign your kids up for events and programs with other kids that have similar interests.

**Lowe's and Home Depot kids building workshops (which are FREE) are great for meeting new kids while also enhancing fine motor, visual and problem solving skills. You can incorporate these events into lessons while also encouraging social interactions.

I also love the list from Jessica Sillers. I agree that playgrounds and parks are great places for socialization plus they also make for a great substitute for physical education classes. Activities such as dance, karate, gymnastics, soccer and basketball are also fun ways to socialize and get to know kids in the neighborhood and surrounding towns. I hope this list helps!

Jessie Voigts, Travel writer, international educator, mom

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Our daughter (13) has always been unschooled (unschooling is a form of homeschooling that is child-led learning). This is the question that always arises when people talk about homeschooling.

Socialization of your kids takes place every day, in a variety of ways. And think about it - in school, they are only socializing with a small segment of society (and all around their age). In real life, do you have friends that are only around your age? No! So think of socialization as living life fully, interacting with everyone. Here's how:

As others have said, take your kids everywhere. The grocery store, library, shopping, events - and model conversational behavior. Make it interesting! Pretty soon, your kids will be able to do the same (even if they are introverts, as our daughter is). Our daughter loves talking with the librarians and discussing books, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter.

While events and groups and activities are important (for you, too), plenty of socialization can be done at home. Have them skype their friends, grandparents, or family friends. I am sure they will be very into online activities, including games. Our daughter learned a lot of social behavior (and we had many, many discussions about this) from online games such as Wizard101. Playing games online (including minecraft) teaches you a great deal about human behavior, as well as how to react to it and learn from it.

Mostly, be involved in the world and take your kids with you. Kids have natural curiosity and will have no problem socializing.

Jessica Sillers, Homeschooled K-12, Writer

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There are so many fabulous ways to find social interaction for your kids! Here are a few good places to start looking:

  1. Local homeschooling groups. Many areas have a network for homeschooling families to connect for support, socialization, and curriculum recommendations. Search online to find one near you.
  2. Library or Community Center. Look for book clubs, craft days, or classes.
  3. Church, temple, or other spiritual center. If you are religious, your faith community may offer fun activities for kids.
  4. Museums/nature centers/aquariums/etc. You can get education and socialization in at the same time. Many museums and other sites with an educational bent offer homeschool days or see homeschool field trip groups come through. It might even be worth calling up to ask which groups visit if you're not sure where to find homeschooling support.
  5. Extracurricular activities. Dance classes, gymnastics, circus school, summer theater productions, community sports teams, and art classes can be excellent ways for your kids to have fun and see other kids.
  6. Playgrounds, pools, parks. Your kids are still quite young. Making regular visits to playgrounds and other places where kids can casually play can be a way for them to strike up organic friendships, and for you to connect to other parents in town.

Expect to be on the road a lot. Back when my mom homeschooled me and my sisters, we were in the car almost every day driving to an activity or event. Just like kids in public school, homeschooled kids need social time most if not all days to cultivate friendships and develop their people skills. Hope these ideas help!

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