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That Whole Socializing Thing

By Kasi Peters, MT-BC

A lot has already been written and said about the myth that homeschoolers lack exposure to social situations. I’m not sure I have anything new to add, but I met a dad today who told me he would love to homeschool his daughter, but his wife was worried about “that whole socialization thing.” I offered to have his wife call me to talk about the realities of homeschooling, and then I wondered what I would say to her if she were to actually call.

I might start by offering the idea that homeschooling is extremely efficient, and, because of this, there are hours and hours left in the day to plan social events, attend field trips, play with neighbors, friends, and siblings, and go to homeschool park days, beach days, or other events.

I might ask how much natural and organic socializing happens at school. I would wonder about clumping kids together simply based on their birthdays as being a way to find true peers.

I might suggest that when mixed genders and ages come together in places they all find stimulating and engaging, they know they are with people who have similar interests and passions, allowing for quick and meaningful connections.

On the flip side, I might add that homeschooling encourages and fosters exposure to all kinds of new and different experiences, so meeting people who are different from you, with different skills, different strengths, and different cultures comes naturally as well.

Or, I might wonder how a homeschooler who lives freely in the world—who interacts with mentors, parents of other homeschoolers, teachers, and all kinds of community members— could lack exposure to social opportunities.

I’m not at all saying that going to school doesn’t also provide opportunities for social interaction. I am saying, though, that homeschoolers have ample opportunities for meaningful social interaction on a daily basis. They also have a choice about when they are in the mood to interact, and when they need some down time. Homeschoolers can choose when they need more social time and when they just need to withdraw and/or dive deep into a solitary activity.

Social development is an important component in homeschooling. Socialization, maybe, isn’t so much of a priority. In our family, we aren’t especially interested in conformity or fitting in. We are interested in supporting and developing relationships with people who will appreciate us for who we are. We are interested in finding friends who can open our minds, and our social development includes trying as many new things as possible and interacting with as many different kinds of people as possible.

The key to homeschooling is the freedom to be as social as one wants and needs to be. In our house we have a variety of social needs, and one amazing benefit is that we can meet our own individual needs. One of us loves to bring as many people together as possible as often as possible, and loves group, collaborative learning. We can make that happen, easily. Another loves one-on-one time with one friend at a time for long hours, but maybe just a couple times a week. He likes to separate his learning from his social time. We can make that happen, too. Homeschooling has something for everyone in terms of social development. And like all aspects of homeschooling, it can be customized to meet the individual needs of each family member.

So, I hope this mom calls me, and I hope she’s interested in hearing what I have to offer. And I hope she asks a gazillion questions to really get down to the nitty-gritty of what it means to be a homeschooling parent. We could all benefit from deep and meaningful conversations about difficult topics—and I can’t imagine a better way to encourage social development than having the hard conversations. So, call me.