When you choose the path to school your children at home, invariably, everyone from your mother to the cashier at Target will ask you,
“But what about socialization?”
It may be one of the most asked questions about homeschooling and a big fear for many who are researching their school options – how do I socialize my child? If you are considering an independent study program, most likely, you’ve thought your child interacting with other kids frequently so they don’t grow up “weird.” Don’t worry, there are many things you can proactively do to socialize your homeschool child and here are a few of them.
Co-ops in the independent study world are groups of homeschool families that get together to enrich learning, go on field trips, meet new friends, expose their children to another teaching style, etc. In some co-ops, parents rotate teaching responsibilities, which works great if you may be stronger in one subject – like history – while another parent is stronger in another subject – like math. Your students can be in a small classroom setting learning from people other than yourself. There are also organized co-ops set up where the teachers are vendors with a charter school and are set up more like a learning center.
There are many co-ops, but sometimes can be difficult to find. Start by getting involved in homeschool groups on Facebook and begin asking around to some homeschool families you might know to point you in the right direction.
Not every child will be inclined to sports, but it is a great option to not only socialize your child but allow them to learn how to work on a team, it teaches them how to respond to victory and to defeat. It also gets them outdoors to run around and be active.
Though only a handful of states will allow homeschool students to play on a school team, there are many ways you can get your child involved on a sports team. There are independent programs for almost any sport out there (many of whom are happy to join the vendor list, allowing you to use your funds) or you can get a group of homeschoolers together and start your own league or team.
3. Field Trips and Meetups
As a homeschool family, the world can be your classroom. You don’t need to be stuck at a desk (or the dining room table) every single day, five days a week. Get out there and explore museums, nature centers, theme parks, zoos and more, all within driving distance! Many places have homeschool days with special activities, demonstrations or exhibits geared toward homeschool families. Other places offer discounts for teachers or small groups during the weekdays. It may take a little research to find them but here is a recent post that highlights eight fun ones for SoCal families: 8 Great Field Trip Ideas For Homeschool Families in Southern California.
Recent studies show that 3.4% of school-aged children were homeschooled in the U.S. There are bound to be a few in your area, so join a Meetup group or some Facebook groups to connect with the wonderful community around you. They are always planning activities, get-togethers, and field trips, so don’t be shy.
If you’re an Epic Charter School student, be sure to check out our Epic Meetups page here.
4. Community Resources
Every quarter, my city’s Parks and Recreation department sends me a booklet full of wonderful classes and programs for kids (and adults, too!) From sewing to Tai Chi to cooking, the classes are affordable and fun. They also have sports leagues and camps during the summer as well as other community events and exhibitions.
Another community resource that people tend to forget about or overlook is the library. Not only is the library a haven filled with thousands of books, they often have free tutoring programs, story time, and special events that kids love.
If you belong to a religious organization, they likely have many opportunities to socialize with other children all through the week. Depending on the age of your children, they can be involved in any number of groups including children’s choir, youth group, VBS, camps, etc.
Your local YMCA also offers many options for kids to interact with other kids through their programs, camps, sports, and activities. Or find places your child can volunteer like a nursing home, animal shelter or local non-profit.
Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and other clubs like it (American Heritage Girls, 4-H, AWANAs, Boys and Girls Clubs) all meet regularly for activities, to learn good citizenship, set goals, complete projects and more. Many of these groups focus on personal development and shared experiences such as camps and other outdoor activities, making them great options for socialization.
Keep in mind that socialization doesn’t mean only surrounding your child with other children in their age group. Socialization means dealing with, working with and interacting with people – no matter the age, race, sex or social standing and homeschooled kids can have plenty of opportunities to encounter different groups of people. Your child can learn to be comfortable talking to adults about a variety of topics. Encourage them to place their own order to the server at a restaurant, or answer questions from a doctor at a checkup or speak to the elderly while doing volunteer work.
Socialization isn’t an impossible task for an independent study student. Whether your child is a social butterfly or is more introverted, socialization doesn’t have to be an issue for a homeschool family. It will take a bit of effort and research on your part. Remember that social skills are also an important part of your child’s education, so listen to your child, teach them what they need to know and give them ample opportunities to practice their newfound social skills!