Chances are high that you’ve either asked somebody this question or had this question directed towards you. Some folks might even fall into both groups. Socialization, it seems, is the number one fear or criticism of homeschooling held by the majority of the population.
The socialization myth has been debunked many times. Homeschoolers actually have the opportunity to learn better social skills due to the lower adult/child ratio, stronger attachment and the opportunity to have adults help children work through any social issues that arise.
And yet: while the majority of homeschoolers do grow up to have excellent social skills, the ability to make and keep friends, get jobs and learn about pop culture and group dynamics, as a homeschooling family it’s our responsibility to actively seek out friendships, group learning opportunities and outside mentorships for our kids. There are lots of ways to do this, from simple and easy to more complex.
Nurturing a Healthy Homeschooling Social Life
Whether you’d like to help your 6 year old build a few good friendships or you want to learn together with a bigger mixed-age group, there are a few different ways to build up your social life when you’re homeschooling:
1. Get proactive. Unlike the default way many people build friendships when they attend school or work outside the home every day, friendships for those who work or learn at home are necessarily more intentional. This can be a good thing, but it means that you need to be proactive about building relationships. Invite people over. Have playdates. Keep your front door open and welcome the neighbour kids in. Throw a party. Strike up a conversation with your neighbours. Meet up with friends for field trips or coffee dates. The important thing is taking the initiative.
2. Share ideas and resources. Trade, barter, borrow and loan. Give gifts of your time, creativity or know-how. Offer to share your expertise and invite others to share theirs. Swap babysitting or child care with a trusted friend.There are so many ways to generously share and receive in a community.
3. Form a club. Friendships flourish when we see our friends on a regular basis, and one of the best ways to nurture that is by forming a club. Invite a few friends over on a weekly basis to work on something together. The topic doesn’t matter much as long as it’s something you and your kids enjoy – so far I’ve been part of a woodworking club, art club and science club. Clubs are great way to experience learning with others in a smaller group environment.
4. Organize field trips or meetups. If you’re constrained by space and don’t want to invite lots of people into your home, try hosting field trips or meetups instead. Pick a destination, date and time and spread the word. You may not always see the same familiar faces at every event, but you’ll most likely meet a wide variety of people from your local homeschooling community.
5. Coordinate a homeschool co-op or drop-in. Potentially very rewarding, but not for the faint of heart! If you have a dedicated core group that is willing to pitch money towards renting space then co-ops can be a fantastic way to make mixed-age learning environments available to many homeschooling families at once. Have a few meetings at the beginning to work out the details of exactly how the co-op will work in a cooperative manner. Do parents teach classes in their area of expertise? Do all parents take turns introducing various elements on a unit topic? Is the goal primarily social time? Do you share mutual learning goals and styles? Make sure everyone is on the same page when you begin, but stay open to adjusting things as you go along. If a co-op that meets your needs already exists, joining and participating is way easier than organizing!
One area of relationship-building that our family hasn’t explored much yet is finding other adults to act as mentors for our child. Other adults in a child’s life will be role models whether that relationship has been actively and intentionally defined or not, but the kind of mentorship I’m thinking of is when a young person has a deep interest or passion for a topic and an adult is willing to let the young person apprentice or learn from them. Paid “extra-curricular” classes like music, dance or art fill this role for us at the moment, but I’m wondering how that will change as my kids grow older. Our community has an amazing youth-run resource centre that focuses on providing support for youth in my area that is sort of what I have in mind. The Purple Thistle is something we will grow into, I think. Or maybe not. Who knows? We’re learning as we go along. :)
What are your favourite ways to connect with people as a homeschooling family? Do you usually find yourself wanting to build up more community or carve out more family-only time?