The socialization of homeschooled children is often a popular topic among the friends and extended family members of homeschool families. I have to admit that I have had my share of questions over the years, and I still get asked about my children's socialization. I often feel the need to put to rest the anxiety of whoever is asking, while deep down I know that I don't need their approval of our chosen activities.
Children get a lot of socialization in their immediate families interacting with their parents and siblings. The tenth edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary describes the word socialize as "to make social" and "to fit or train for a social environment." What better environment to train a child in than their own home! In our family, we talk a lot about letting others go first. We also ask our children, "What does your brother/sister want to play?" and we teach that whatever we are doing needs to be fun for everyone. Relationships outside of our family are important since we do live in a community, but our family is our focus and our priority.
Since we don't live in a bubble and do venture out into the world, the following is a list of what we have done so that our children meet and socialize with other children:
- Sports activities. You can often find local league sports or other sports opportunities through the public school near you. We have had a lot of fun with our local league soccer and basketball.
- Library. Reading times for preschoolers, summer reading programs, and fun trips to the library just to read books and have fun are all opportunities to get to know other families!
- Playdates. Have some friends over to play and have snacks. I often invite the mom as well as the kids to get to know the whole family.
- Sunday school. Church is a wonderful place to develop lasting relationships.
- Local playgrounds. These can put you in touch with families in your community.
- Co-op classes and local homeschool groups. These are beneficial for both student and parent!
It is important to prepare your children by training them how to behave in social situations. We are personally working on how to meet new adults. My young children take to other children well, but I have one who gets shy around new adults. We are also working on looking at the person who has asked a question and giving them an appropriate answer, and answering the telephone when I can't. For some reason, my children are not phone people.
Socialization is a matter of preparing our children to be able to interact well with other people. This involves a variety of skills, including honesty, politeness, forgiveness when wronged, and selflessness. These skills take time, and they take consistency. The home is the best training ground for socialization because we parents can take the time and be consistent in training our children and equipping them in this area.
The data now emerging from the last 20 years are also heartening. The Wall Street Journal reports that colleges (like Harvard) are now adjusting their admissions policies to accommodate homeschoolers. And the Society for Human Resource Management, which publishes HR Magazine, states that companies that hire homeschoolers are, on average, "enthusiastic" about them as workers, and that some business are now making concentrated efforts to specifically recruit homeschool graduates.
So if that pesky straw-man socialization question comes up, know you're in good company, and that ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. Homeschoolers at large are not only excelling academically, but they're also proving to be well-rounded and outstanding citizens in the social arena as well.
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