Yes, it is the one word that always comes up when Homeschooling is mentioned. That is when we homeschoolers try our best not to roll our eyes. Skeptics often accompany this word with other words, like “Isolationists”, “Overprotective”, “Helicopter Parents”, and sometimes even as harsh as “Weird” or “Freak”. You guessed it, sooner or later, as a Homeschooling parent you will be asked, “What about Socialization?”
There are always two sides to every coin, and I can usually find some truth to every criticism I receive and the same is true with the issue of Socialization.
On one side, I feel that a strong healthy family life is the best environment for any person to learn HOW to socialize. In our families we learn HOW to communicate, HOW to share, HOW to be friends, HOW to interact with dignity and integrity.
On the other side, I can completely see how choosing to homeschool would mean choosing to miss out on many opportunities to PRACTICE socializing. It is a real issue and one that, if not considered and dealt with, can become a problem.
Some families hardly have to think about this issue because of their personalities and circumstances. Families with two very friendly, extrovert parents will naturally lead their children into many opportunities to socialize. Even easier if they are community or church leaders that are obligated to socialize on a frequent basis.
However, for families that have naturally shy parents, families that move around a lot, or live in a culture they are unaccustomed to, social opportunities may have to be sought out more. These are instances where parents have to reach outside their comfort zones for the good of their children, and in most cases that is exactly what they do.
I know for our family we have had a mixture of these two sides. My husband is a very outgoing, naturally social person and because of his work environment and our church involvement we often do not need to search out many social opportunities. Conversely, I am a bit more shy, especially when not speaking my native language, and very task oriented and often completely forget to socialize! Also, we have not lived close to extended family our entire married life. Thus, we have seasons where our schedules and commitments, as well as my children’s neighborhood friendships, lead to enough opportunity for our children to socialize outside family life. Then there are other times when I need to schedule extracurricular activities and play-dates to supplement our church and other social activities.
One note of caution I would lend to the argument is that please be in tune with your Heavenly Father and your family. I truly believe that one of the greatest diseases of today’s world is over scheduling. Having too many commitments and too much socialization outside the family can be just as detrimental as not having enough. Studies on the subject have shown that over scheduling causes stress which leads to health problems and familial upheaval. If you notice members of your family being especially irritated, frustrated, or seeking for time alone, you may want to consider limiting some of your commitments. Believe it or not, you can always say no.
If , however, you happen to be on the other side of the coin and need a few ideas for supplementing your social life here is what has worked for us:
1. Join a class
Just about every community has classes for kids. Your budget willing, have your child choose a music, sports, art, or other class they are interested in.
2. Check with local schools
We’ve had times with community classes were either too expensive or too far away for us so we’ve worked out something with a local school. For example a private school close to our home was more than willing to let us pay a pro-rated fee for my son to join them in their Physical Education class.
3. Start a group
If you can’t find a class or it’s out of your budget range, start your own! With our first international move everything was far away and I was still getting to know the area so once I met a couple other moms in the community that had kids my age I jumped at the chance and we started our own preschool trade-off. It worked out well for everyone involved and I even made some great friends!
There are probably at least four million other ideas out there but those will get you started. Just remember that you don’t need to be pressured by what the world or even other families are telling you. This is YOUR family and you know them better than anyone else, and anything you don’t know the Lord will help you to know. Look, watch, listen and find YOUR balance.
So, what have you found to be your challenges with the socialization issue? What have you done to find balance in this arena?