As homeschoolers, we all know that one of the first questions we get from others about our homeschooling lifestyle is, "what about socialization?" We all have our own ways of answering, of determining if the questioner is asking if our children are "socialized" in the contemporary sense of being familiar with pop culture, being able to adjust to rules of order in group settings, and conforming to peer group expectations, or if the questioner is really asking if our children are "social," interacting frequently with other children and adults throughout the week.
Most often, it seems to me, questioners are seeking the answer to the latter, wondering how children who learn without school become social, playing and learning with others. As the ranks of homeschoolers grow, the opportunities for homeschooled children to interact with other homeschooled children rises too. Here in the city, we have a large and vibrant homeschooling community that plans and promotes countless, varied activities designed for children of all ages and interests. From park days to arts classes, aquarium workshops to hiking clubs, board game meet-ups to reading groups, city homeschoolers soon find that the issue is not finding ways to be social, but learning to not become too over-scheduled with the bounty of social offerings!
And, of course, there are all those other social moments with non-homeschooled children, including structured after-school or weekend classes, like dance and sports teams and art programs, and the more spontaneous play that occurs daily with neighbors and friends.
I sometimes hear from parents contemplating homeschooling that they are intrigued by its ideals but wonder if it is right for their child. Often their child is particularly shy or awkward, gifted or eccentric, and the parents worry that homeschooling may not create the established social structures of school to help the child learn to interact most effectively with other children. To these parents I say, your child most definitely will benefit from homeschooling! Children who may be shy or socially awkward or have advanced or unusual interests benefit greatly from the smaller, more diverse homeschool social network.
Let's say your shy first-grader is passionate about building rockets, wants to spend all of her time immersed in learning about and constructing rockets, and you would like her to interact more with other children. As the homeschooling parent, you could send a quick note to your local homeschooling online community or support group to see if any other children share this interest, and then connect these children around this shared interest, fostering social interaction in a meaningful, genuine, non-intimidating way.
Rising numbers of children learning without schooling, connected to active and diverse homeschooling networks, lead to many moments of natural, constructive, authentic social interactions that enhance the homeschooling life.