Ah….the million dollar question! Admittedly, this was my main concern when I heard about kids being homeschooled. I cringe when I think about my vitriolic reaction and my narrow view of kids being shut in with their over-bearing, radically religious mothers all day. This isn’t what homeschooling is for almost EVERY homeschooler I’ve ever had contact with. People homeschool for all different reasons and keeping kids away from other kids is rarely heard of.
I guess the question becomes how my kids learn social skills. In the early years, the concern was how they would learn to take turns, not speak out of turn, and get along with others. I realized very quickly that these traits were rarely a problem with homeschooled kids. The few times our little homeschooling group has gone on field trips, we always get complimented about how well-behaved, engaged and courteous our children are-even the little ones. Complete strangers often compliment my children on their good manners or behavior. It’s happened in restaurants, church, department stores, and even weddings where they’ve been the only kids. When these same people find out that they’re homeschooled almost always ask the question…”But what about socialization?” Even relatives have gone out of their way to tell me what a nice 2-way conversation they had with one of the kids and in the next breath ask AGAIN “How long do you think you’ll homeschool?”
I don’t think homeschooling produces perfectly socialized kids 100% of the time. I’m not even suggesting that my children are perfectly socialized. But I can comment about a few observations.
I live in a neighborhood where the kids are evenly mixed between Catholic school and the local public school. With a few exceptions, their social circles are dictated by the school they attend. In other words, they tend to hang out with the 1 or 2 kids who are in their grade in their school. I realize this is natural, I’m not making a judgment, just an observation. My kids have friends in both schools and have never been teased or ostracized by either group when they play with kids from the other group.
When Kate was younger, she had friends from all different places. She got to be friends with the sister of one of Luke’s teammates, another sister of another friend, her cousin and a homeschooled friend who lives across the street. What was nice for her is that she has always preferred playing one-on-one or in a very small group. On a few occassions, a few of the kids would be in the same swim class or tennis class or “Little Flowers” group and it was nice for Kate to be with more than one of her friends and they got acquainted with each other. I guess my point is that she didn’t have a problem making friends or getting to know kids even though she’s never attended school.
I think Luke felt the loneliest at home for a few years and I used to pray for a boy his age (who liked to play sports) to move close by. I’d say there were 2 years when I really wondered if I was doing him a disservice by keeping him home. Not to say he was completely isolated-he still played football and wiffleball with the older neighbor boys and have friends over after school but he really felt lonely sometimes. Partly because he just didn’t “hang out” with the older boys.
This really isn’t an issue anymore. He is content having different friends from different parts of his life. He also is getting to be good friends with a great kid (2 years older) who lives in the neighborhood. This boy and his brother (who is a year older than Mark) have been playing with my boys off and on for a couple of years but for some reason, they are just becoming better friends. Even though this kid is 2 years older, I don’t worry about him influencing Luke in a negative way. He’s a great role model. I can tell Luke really looks up to him. I also think this other boy appreciates how nice and fun Luke is. There just isn’t any of the typical garbage. I found out not too long ago that this boy has been bullied relentlessly in school and wants to transfer to the Catholic school. Surprising since he’s very athletic, handsome, smart and all around nice. How could he be bullied? But he has been.
Hannah, who will be 13 soon, is just starting to feel like she wants to be with a gaggle of girls. It surprised me because she really is an introvert. Right before Christmas, she thought she might consider going to school next year. Once she got a cell phone, though, she felt connected and it satisfied her need to be a part of a group-for now. She texts a few friends but I think the format really suits her. (she can connect when she wants but isn’t obligated to spend hours with someone).Honestly, I think her status as being out of the loop but knowing people in a few loops is perfect for her personality type. She’s learning a lot about group dynamics by sometimes being immersed and sometimes observing. So, we’ll see. For now, she’s decided to stay home for next year. In my state school districts have to allow homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities, so this might be something she decides to pursue in the meantime. One other observation is that she also is friends with kids from both schools.
Generally I won’t say there aren’t concerns about my kids fitting in. When given the opportunity, they fit in pretty seamlessly. I’ve found that the conventionally-schooled kids sometimes aren’t open to it-or maybe just don’t think of it. In terms of behavior, I’m generally happy with how my kids present themselves. Sure, I have to correct them or talk to one about being hyper-sensitive about different personality types. Lots of times Mark likes to be the center of attention so I have to talk to him about that but I don’t think he’d be any different if he went to school.