Homeschoolers and Socialization

Socialization Among Homeschoolers: Everything You Need to Know

Are you on the fence about homeschooling your child because you are worried about homeschoolers and socialization? Here’s everything you need to know so that you will have the confidence to say yes to homeschooling, just like we did!



Managing the Doubt

I started homeschooling my son from day one. Even though I had been a primary teacher for 14 years, I always knew that I would homeschool him.

Those first few years were racked with questions and worries. Oh, the worries! They haunted me day and night.

During the day as I tried to “school” my son, I struggled with things like, am I doing enough? What if I miss something? What if he is not ready for [fill in the COUNTLESS blanks]?

At night as I lay in bed trying to sleep, more questions swirled in my mind. Do I need to get him into a co-op? Will he have friends? What if he wants to play sports? Will he be SOCIALIZED??? 😳

We are now eight years into our homeschooling journey. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I no longer have lingering questions about homeschooling and that I sleep divinely every night. Sorry, but nope.

I still worry about things from time to time. The question of “Am I doing enough?” and similar ones creep back into my head on occasion. (I write about how I handle that in this post.)

But the one question that I no longer grapple with is that of homeschoolers and socialization.


What is socialization?

Oxford Languages defines socialization as, 1. the activity of mixing socially with others and 2. the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.

By these definitions alone you can see that simply attending a traditional educational institution is NOT the only means of achieving socialization.

I would challenge, does attending a brick-and-mortar school equate to socialization at all? Who among those of us traditionally schooled hasn’t heard a teacher say, “This is not the time to socialize!” during class? 🤔

So why is it that this is the question that you hear so many ask when talking about homeschooling? Is it because we are programmed to view brick-and-mortar schools as the norm in terms of learning and interacting?

If that is the case, it is time to change the norm.


What is NOT socialization?

“Forced association is NOT socialization” ~Author Unknown

The above quote is one of my absolute favorites! Early on when I was really struggling with the idea of socialization, I came across this quote and was stopped dead in my tracks.

It had been ingrained in me that if my child did not attend a traditional school, then he wouldn’t have any friends. A fellow teacher even said to me that she chose not to homeschool because “there was nothing quite like a school friend.”

These were the kinds of things that people would say to me at the beginning of our homeschool journey that made me question if I was doing the right thing. After all, I did have the benefit of having that “school friend” as a child. Was I taking that away from my own child?

Then I came across the above quote. I began to realize a few things.

First, just because someone attends a traditional school that does not mean that they will find that “true friend” there. Sure, the chances may be pretty good (as I knew for myself), but there was no guarantee. Just because you have been assigned to a room with individuals of the same age doesn’t mean you will find a true bestie.

Second, as I challenged the idea of school as the number one place to interact with others, I began to see all of the MANY opportunities that lie outside of school. Opportunities that not only were plentiful but even seemed to be more suited to positive interactions and socialization.

And BONUS…..you can find true friends there too!

Socialization Among Homeschoolers: All Your Questions Answered

Below is a list of questions that either I have been asked or that others have shared with me that they have been asked about regarding homeschoolers and socialization.

How do homeschoolers socialize?

There are many opportunities for homeschoolers to socialize! Do NOT let others convince you differently. I will list a few ways that homeschoolers can grow socially.

1. Co-ops

Co-ops are groups of local homeschooling students who occasionally gather for activities or classes. You can find very structured and very unstructured ones…..and everything in between! They are not mandatory, but I know a lot of homeschoolers who participate in them and really enjoy it. In our years as homeschoolers, we have not found them beneficial for us and only belonged to one briefly.


Personal story alert!

When we first started homeschooling, I remember thinking about how I first needed to find a co-op for my son. I was obsessed with getting him into one. I mean, he MUST have a friend group, right?

Wrong.

I signed him up immediately with a local group that I was sure he would fit right into. Some of the parents in the group I had known from when I was in school. The group was based out of a church that, while not the one that we attended, was of the same faith as ours. It was a big group but not overwhelmingly large. They did activities together about once a month. I thought it would be a perfect fit.

The first few activities were awkward. My son was an only child and everyone else had multiple siblings. Breaking into that was hard. He had interests like video gaming, that most of the children there were not allowed to participate in. He was an introvert (like his mama!) and joining conversations was difficult for him. After a few good attempts at joining in and seeing the sadness on his face at the thought of attending one of the gatherings, I came to the conclusion that co-ops were not necessary for us.

Why do I share that with you? Co-ops CAN be great for some homeschooled kids, but for others, they may not be a good fit and that is okay too. There are MANY ways in which you can engage your homeschooled child with others, not just through a co-op.

End of personal story. 🙃


2. Visit the library.

The library isn’t just for checking out your favorite books!

Most libraries have programs in which homeschooled or traditionally schooled children can participate. My son and his cousin enjoyed quite a few of those at our local library. From Lego building clubs to science clubs, they joined other children in activities that were both educational AND social. And they had a great time doing it!

3. Community Recreational Sports

If your child is interested in sports, you could have him or her join a community sports team. Again many communities have these teams already established and you don’t have to be a homeschooler to join them!

4. Local homeschool Facebook groups.

In my area (and I am guessing yours too!) there are a TON of homeschool groups. Often, parents in these groups will post playground meet-ups, and group field trips to various museums, lakes, or parks. The best part is that usually, you don’t even need to be a member of a specific co-op to join them!

5. Clubs

Homeschoolers can join local clubs like the Scouts, YMCA, 4-H, or the like to be a part of groups and meet friends.

6. Part-time jobs

Teenagers can get part-time jobs where they can be around others, socialize, and potentially meet friends.

7. Church Groups

Often times churches have youth groups or community activities where children can participate and interact with others.

8. Volunteering

Check around in your community for places where you and your child can volunteer. Pet shelters, churches, libraries, nursing homes, and the like may offer volunteer opportunities.

9. Summer Camps

Explore summer camp options in your area. My son attended a variety of day camps in the summers when he was younger. A local church here provided a week-long art camp (which he LOVED!) and another church provided a week-long bible camp where you could choose to play sports or do crafts. Additionally one of the community centers in our area offered various week-long camps from cooking to sports to Lego building….and everything in between!

Do homeschoolers get enough socialization?

This is a question I hear a lot. It gives me quite a chuckle because more often than not, we get too much socialization. So, yes. Homeschoolers can absolutely get enough socialization. What is even better is that they often get it with children of various ages, not just those in their own age bracket, which is excellent practice for later in life!

Are homeschooled kids socially backward?

Sure, some are. Just like some kids who are traditionally schooled are also socially backward or awkward, you will find some homeschoolers like this too. I was traditionally schooled and I am about as socially backward as I can be!

Are homeschoolers able to function and be productive in society?

Yes, absolutely. I have had the privilege of being a homeschool evaluator for over 20 years and have been homeschooling my son now for 8 years and can tell you that homeschoolers are able to function and be productive in society, just like their traditionally schooled peers.

Do homeschoolers have social skills?

Yes, homeschoolers have social skills. After all, social skills are developed by being out in society and mingling with people. Since we do not live under rocks but interact like everyone else, yes, homeschoolers have social skills.

Are homeschooled kids lonely?

I am sure some are lonely. I am equally sure that some kids who attend traditional schools are also lonely. Loneliness is not a tenet of homeschoolers!

How do you answer the question “What about socialization?”

This question used to cause me such anxiety. Even after I felt secure in my decision to homeschool, I just waited for someone to challenge me on it. I was ready to pounce……

Depending on my mood, I sometimes had a snarky answer. I am sure you can imagine. Things like:

We don’t keep him locked in his room.

We don’t live under a rock, you know.

I promise we take him out in public. He knows how to stand in a line, smile and greet people, and has manners.

Other times, I would just say outright that he has plenty of social opportunities and it is not a concern of mine.


Final Thoughts: Homeschoolers and Socialization

The reality is that socialization really can happen anywhere…..and does. It happens at the grocery store, in club sports, family gatherings, camps, jobs…..literally everywhere.

No one needs a brick-and-mortar school to ensure that their child gets some socialization. We’ve just been conditioned to believe that we do.

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