“But what about socialization?!”
The questions of socialization are probably the most common question we get as homeschoolers – asked by some well-meaning friend or family member, whenever the topic of homeschooling comes up around the dinner table.
I know. I can hear all of you groaning and see the eyes rolling. Maybe you just let out a deep sigh, trying to stay calm. I get it – I react much the same way. So many of us hear the SAME questions so many times, that we start to reply dismissively, or maybe we just get angry about it.
But is “The S Word” really the non-issue we homeschoolers would like the world to believe? Or is this something we need to discuss in a more open and honest way? While I understand the annoyance at this, the number one concern that non-homeschoolers have – I’d like to suggest that maybe this is something we need to take more seriously, and answer more honestly.
When someone asks me “but what about socialization?” – what I hear them asking me is “what about friends? and activities? and having people around them?” I see a reaction amongst homeschoolers that borders on defensiveness when this is brought up, and we all immediately reply with all the things we do, all the places we go, and all the opportunities our kids have to make friends. We give out the technical definition of ‘socialization’, and maybe go on to explain why we don’t want our kids to be socialized in a traditional school environment. But I don’t think those sorts of replies really answer the question the person was asking.
For me, this question is valid. This topic is important. I have days where once the kids are in bed, and I’m sitting with a cup of tea and relaxing, OFTEN I am thinking of whether the kids have a vibrant enough social life, whether they have seen people enough this week, whether I can offer them the same opportunities they would get in a traditional school environment, or whether they are lonely.
The Balance Between Being Out and Being Home
We started homeschooling and immediately dove in to our local homeschool community – we delayed any emphasis on seated lessonwork, and just went to as many events and outings as we could. Our local area doesn’t have an organized or structured “homeschool group” per se, but there are quite a number of us homeschooling families around our small city. So we jumped in – we gathered friends and had playdates, and we focused on making sure we had a great circle of friends and acquaintances in our local community. What ended up happening is that we were gone TOO much, doing too MANY things, and it got to be too much. SO this year, we made a conscious decision as a family to be home more, to focus on our studies and our relationships with each other, and to nurture our best and closest friendships. And my, how the pendulum has swung! I feel a lot of anxiety and worry about my children this year – we don’t see our friends as often, I don’t see MY friends as often, and deep in my heart I DO worry that they may be lonely and missing out on parts of childhood that I look back on with fondness.
Loneliness and Lack of Social Time
Because I’ll tell you what – I am lonely. I sometimes get tired of being with these two little people day in and day out, I would be lying if I said those days don’t happen. I have days where I get tired of being their Personal Social Life Co-Ordinator – if they see their friends, or get involved in field trips and outings, it has to be planned and organized by me. And some days I just feel weary of it. But here’s the thing – I solve MY loneliness by reaching out and being part of a great, dynamic, online community of women I respect and trust. I write this blog. I connect with other moms via Periscope or Facebook Live. But our children don’t always have that opportunity to create communities online in this way.
And sometimes, for some of us the local homeschool community is NOT vibrant or robust or active. Not everyone everywhere has a group that meets regularly, or has a group that meets at all. Some families might move often, and it takes time to find and nurture friendships when you don’t have the “built in friends” that comes with a school environment. Or perhaps Jane Homeschool Mom has a hard time reaching out, asking for playdates. Maybe a homeschool family has a child with special needs that makes it hard to get together for group outings. Or the worst one – when your circle of close friends you DO have, starts to dwindle as kids go back to brick & mortar school (this is happening with more frequency as my son edges up into middle school age).
There are MANY homeschoolers who struggle with the social aspects of homeschooling. So are we really doing anyone any good by denying that this ever happens? Everytime I see the typical reply to this question, I feel a little badly about myself for worrying about socialization. I feel like “Is something wrong with me because I DO have concerns about this, as a homeschooler?” Could we be answering this question honestly, talking more about it with each other, instead of replying defensively and immediately with a scoff and a wave of the hand?
It’s easy to pretend this socialization thing is a non-issue, but do you worry about your kids’ social lives (or your own)? Let’s chat about this, leave a comment below letting me know what you think!
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