How do you make sure your son or daughter gets enough time with children his or her own age? Interacting with peers is a wonderful thing, but this fear of isolation drives much of the concern about socialization in homeschooling.
My little brother is an extreme extrovert. In high school, once he could drive, he was never home for more than a couple of minutes before he headed out to be with friends again. He ate meals with us and slept in his own bed, but other than that, he was elsewhere. He thrives on social interaction and goes a bit stir crazy if you try to keep him in the house too long. Me? I'm the opposite. But for my little brother, a large group of friends his own age was essential.
1. The first thing to notice is that finding friends is not tied to your education. Many parents ask me about finding peers for their preschoolers. By definition, these kids aren't in school yet. Also, summer breaks don't include school. Thus, social interaction and friendship is something built and maintained outside the classroom. Having a ton of kids in close proximity can aid in finding a kindred spirit, but I didn't have a bosom buddy when I went to public school. My friends have all come from extra-extracurricular activities not associated with the schoolroom (youth group, sports, Awana, Bible studies, play dates, neighbors, band, theater, film projects, etc). In fact, because homeschooling is flexible, I could hang out with whomever was available.
If no one is around, which may be the case if you live in a small town or remote area, the local school isn't going to address this either. A school does not create children your student's age. The difficulty in finding friends here has to do with your location, not your choice to homeschool. In other words, don't reject homeschooling based on a concern that would be equally applicable to a different education option.
2. The second point: peers are great, but similar age is not the most important element of socialization. Perhaps I feel this way because most of my friends are a decade younger than me. Both my sisters married men a few years older. And while I do have people my age who are near and dear to me--my wife and best friend--there are only two of them (one, my wife; two, my best friend; I do not have two wives, just to make sure that's clear <smile>). Some of my co-workers are around my age... most are not. My church is filled with people older and younger than me. Life does not isolate us into batches by age. Classrooms do that. Friends the same age are great because you are on similar paths, but there's much to be said for learning how to connect with people of all ages.
3. Third, how much time your children have with others depends on you. Until they learn to drive--and you never see them again until they get hungry--you dictate your students' schedule. If they're in school, some other adult takes on this role. So if you want to make sure your child has time with others, give them opportunities to do this. Head to the park, or see about hanging out at a nearby school at recess and lunch. Join a chess team or dance troupe. Take classes at your local event center. And remember: the kids you don't see there are stuck in a classroom. There isn't as much time for hanging out in the world of bells and passing periods and lectures and labs. You could even join a homeschool coop or support group. This can be intimidating, but don't let your nervousness keep you from giving your children a chance to meet kids their age. This could be a excellent opportunity to brush up on your own socialization skills as well <smile>.
How will your kids meet children their age if you homeschool? The same way they would meet kids if they went to school: by being around them at some point. Activities are a great place to start. Join a sports team or church group or Scouts or library program. And while there, stretch a bit and meet other parents. For me, meeting new people is great, but the hardest part is deciding to leave my house. I like my house. I'm comfortable there. But not everyone comes over. At least, not until they are invited.
To get even more tips and ideas for how your children can make friends and connect with others while you homeschool, check out the is socialization really an issue webinar.
Where did you make the most friends growing up? How have you helped your kids spend time with others? Do you have an extroverted student?
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester