“I am worried about sending my kids back, but I concerned about socialization if I homeschool.”
“I loved the flexibility of homeschooling this last semester, but I am concerned about socializing.”
“I really want to homeschool, but I am concerned about socializing.”
This is actually the number one “concern” I hear when people learn we homeschool. It honestly makes me laugh – more so now that I know the changes districts across America are making.
When we chose to pull our kid from public school (for so many reasons), we were “concerned” about socializing as well. This was particularly concerning for a parent of special needs children who need the stream-lined socialization for more than just play.
The fears of the “weird home school kid” label and, worst, it becoming true, were a serious battle for my family. I did what any data-loving person would do – I calculated all the time he spent “socializing” at traditional public schools. There is no talking in class (unless a team activity, which was once a week at best). There is no talking in the hallways (too and from PE, lunch, and recess or assemblies). There was no talking on the bus to and from school. So, I was left with the 20-minute lunch, 15-minute recess, and 20-minute PE class on average most days. I added in another 20 minutes of “team activities” for grace. All in all, my son was “socializing” 90 minutes a day – at best.
From what teachers are telling me, with new COVID-19 measures, children will not be allowed to socialize with those outside their class, dividers will be put up between students at their desks, team projects are out the window, and oh, PE, recess, and lunch will likely be in the same room with the same kids they are not allowed to go within 6-feet of.
Then I considered WHO he was socializing with. Daily we were informed of bullying (my son was actually bullied by students, teachers, and aides). Daily he would come home with stories that would break your heart.
The kids he could hang out with without being bullied, well, their morals were questionable at best. Parents allowing elementary kids to watch movies like Saw and other horror movies, or who believed kids should not be held accountable for behavior because they are “kids and need to figure things out on their own.” The lessons he was learning from his peers were not love, kindness, and mercy, but hate, selfishness, and worry.
Weighing the pros and cons, we obviously decided to pull our son.
So, how do we get that 90-minute social activity? How could we as parents fill the role the state has been doing so mediocrely? Could we do it better? The answer was a resounding YES.
1. Team Sports: Many parents say they are exhausted between school and the numerous activities they do after soon. Homeschool actually offered less time “in the books” and more time to have fun. Our son joined a community team – first flag football and then track and field. He is held accountable, taught self-discipline, and has so much fun! He has been a state champion in flag football and in track and field three years running. I addition to some great local teams, check out Special Olympics – for streamlined and special needs kiddos.
2. Play-dates: I don’t know about you, but I love play-dates (even as an adult). The beauty of homeschool is I get to pick who my child spends his time with. Gone are the days were every kid in a 30-student classroom has to be invited to every party and play-date. Now, we got to know who he was spending time with, the values those kids were pouring into each other, and not have to do the obligatory invitations to kids we knew our son did not want to hang out with. Don’t rule out co-ops, small groups, youth groups, and Sunday School.
3. Volunteering: There is so much emphasis in high school to do community service. A lot of schools now require this to graduate. But, why do we wait so long to instill that into our children? Volunteering is so important to the community and developing young hearts into compassionate passionate adults. Some great places to get involved are your local church, food closets, and community centers. We love working with senior citizens, writing cards, calling, video chatting! Our son has now started helping lead the young children at our church in Sunday School activities. I love it when my son gets to help out our local Rotary club serving meals, helping in supply drives, and more or helping Habitat For Humanity. See what your community offers, I bet it is more than you think.
4. Field Trips: Our son was lucky enough to go on one to two field trips a year. Field trips are so important for hands-on learning and socializing. People are more themselves when not in a traditional classroom. Since we pulled for home school, my son goes on at least once a month (COVID-19 aside). There are so many places to go for free and a lot of places have openings for homeschool groups. For biology and ecology, we took a trip to the Florida Caverns, for history we went to a live re-enactment of the Spanish colonies in Florida. There are so many possibilities! Even before homeschool, we would travel somewhere at least once a month just to see the world and new cultures. These are perfect outings for playdates, other homeschool families to join in on, or just fun for the whole family.
5. Extra-curriculars: Just like any kid, homeschool kids need extracurriculars. Our son has enjoyed learning dance and guitar. These are great ways to introduce other teachers while also helping encourage friendships to grow in unlikely places. Many community centers offer these classes for free or cheap. Don’t rule out acting, dance, art. Scouts are a great way to teach volunteerism and socializing.
It is easy to be concerned with socializing your child. I think we should be concerned about what that looks like regardless of where they go to school. As the old adage says, bad company corrupts good character. Homeschool offers an ability to know what is happening in your child’s life, offers more opportunity to grow and learn in a social environment, and allows you the opportunity to invest in the lives of those who hang around your child.
Whether you homeschool or not, I hope you consider these tips and how they can help your family grow together in love, laughter, and learning.