What about socialization? Homeschooling parents hear that question, or some variation, often in the course of their homeschool lives. This question is often asked by well-meaning family members and friends who are truly concerned that our children are going to miss out on some vital skills and experiences not being in school. We know that much social learning takes place within the family unit, especially if there are multiple children. Yet, while we homeschooling parents understand that our children do not need to be in a classroom with 20+ other children of the same age 5 days a week, 6 hours a day in order to be a socialized human being, our children do need some interaction with their peers and the opportunity to make friends.
When I first thought about homeschooling, my older two children were very little. At the time, we were involved with a parish sponsored play group where both they and I made some great friends. I also took them to a Music Together class where they also got to play and learn with other young children. But as my oldest child reached kindergarten age, I knew that those resources would soon be gone. I wanted to homeschool, but I didn’t want to do it alone. I reached out to my local Catholic homeschool group, but no one ever got back to me. For that and other reasons, I sent my children to school for two years.
When God made it plainly obvious that I should be homeschooling, the doors opened. I had a friend in that local homeschool group. I was able to start to attend the Friday morning “Moms pray, Kids play” sessions with my children. Eight years later, I still look forward to this weekly gathering. My children made wonderful friends and I can’t imagine homeschooling without the support of this group of moms. On and off throughout the years, that group has also sponsored co-ops, both large and small, in which my children have had the opportunity to have a more classroom-like experience.
What other opportunities have my children had to learn social skills? In second grade, I sent them to the parish religious education program for their sacramental preparation. When they were younger, they played soccer in the fall and spring. When they got a bit older, they started acting classes, an activity they love and still take part in. This has been an excellent educational as well as social activity for them. They have learned how to speak in public as well as how to work with a large and diverse group of people to pull a production together.
The library has been a great resource, not only for books and educational purposes, but also for free social activities. Our local library runs a chess club which my children took part in for many years. Through this club, they were able to engage in friendly competition with fellow members, as well as had the opportunity to compete at larger regional events. When they were young, I took them to library story hours and events. As they got older, they were able to volunteer during the summer for the summer reading program, helping to run activities. This helped teach them responsibility and provided them with the opportunity to practice customer service skills. They have also taken classes at our local museum school.
The opportunities for homeschooled children to have the chance to learn social skills are many and varied. Almost any community after school activity is also open to homeschoolers. Homeschooled children can play organized sports, take music or art classes, get involved in scouting, 4H, or be a member of a parish youth group, to name just a few. The YMCA or Boys and Girls Club also may offer interesting programs. While overloading on activities is never a good idea, choosing one or two worthwhile activities to take part in can go a long way in providing a chance to make friends and learn social skills.