Let’s talk about homeschool and socialisation. Be honest, are you having issues you aren’t sure how to fix? In this installment of the homeschool challenges series we will look at some common issues that crop up around socialisation in the homeschool world.
In this post:
- What’s the big deal with homeschool and socialisation?
- Getting the balance of activities right
- Introversion, Extraversion and Social Anxiety
- Finding your tribe
What's the Big Deal with Homeschool and Socialisation?
Ask any homeschool parent and they are almost sure to tell you that the biggest objection they hear to home education is some variation of, ‘but what about socialisation?‘
while being given the evil eye. Just for good measure.
Maybe you’ve been told, ‘You can’t do that! They won’t have any friends.’ *sad face*
Or my personal favourite, ‘It’s so sad your children don’t have a best friend‘.
And I’ll admit, some times it does make me feel really snarky. It takes everything I have got to hold my tongue some days.
Because it is just so rude and condescending to say these things to us. Not to mention downright untrue for the vast majority of homeschoolers.
But for one reason or another I don’t say what I am really thinking. I do manage to hold my tongue and get on with it…
I know I’m not the only one that feels like this because there is an abundance of blog posts refuting this myth that homeschool kids are unsocialised freaks who don’t have any friends.
Aside from being annoying, the downside to all this criticism and resulting snark/avoidance, is that we then fail to have the conversations we need to have about socialisation.
Because if I am being perfectly honest, wondering how the whole socialisation thing worked was a concern I had before we started.
And while I am being honest, I will even stand up and say that it is something that I think about quite a lot. Yes, even now as we are entering out fourth year of homeschooling!
Not wanting to have to constantly justify our choices to non-homeschoolers shouldn’t mean that we are missing out on sharing helpful advice with each other!
So this will not be another post about why homeschool socialisation is awesome (and it is). Instead, this post will look at some challenges that we may face when it comes to homeschool socialisation and what to do about it.
FYI my kids have lots of friends and choose not to label one person as their ‘best friend’ in case it makes someone feel left out. That’s some pretty insightful socialisation skill right there! Ok. Maybe a little snark does escape from time to time 😉
Homeschool and Socialisation: Finding a Balance Between Home and The World
This is probably the number one socialisation mistake new homeschoolers make;
That’s right. I see it happen again and again. I made this mistake too.
The first thing most new homeschoolers do is over commit themselves outside of the home and it leads to burn out. For you, your kids and even for your wallet!
Before we start homeschooling we worry about how our kids will make friends. Then we get into the local homeschool facebook group and see just how much there is to do and we want to do it all.
So we join a bunch of homeschool meet-up groups, sign our kids up for music, drama, sport, science club, art lessons…and then there’s Scouts and Saturday football that we don’t want them to miss out on either.
Suddenly we are never home.
And it’s exhausting.
If you are finding that you are all tired a lot, or that your kids have started dragging their feet to get ready and in the car for what was their favourite activity of the week, it is probably time to put a hold on all the socialisation. Just for a little while.
- Take a break and stay home for a few days or even a couple of weeks if you really need it. It’s good to relax and recharge.
- Talk to your kids about which activities they would really like to keep doing and which they would like to drop for a while. You can always revisit them at a later date.
- Look to see which activities are matching up with your homeschool goals and consider keeping those while you discard the rest.
- Try to create a balance of home days and out-of-home days in your week. The balance will be different for each family depending on individual personalities. Some families like to be out every day and spend weekends at home. Other like to alternate days or only go out twice a week. Do what works for your family, not someone else’s.
- If you have busy mornings, consider quiet afternoons or vice versa.
- The quality of the socialisation is more important than the quantity. If your children are happy and thriving, don’t let other people convince you that you need to be out more or that your children would be better off in school.
- If you are still concerned about your child’s social skill development, don’t be afraid to seek professional advice. Ask around in your community for recommendations of homeschool friendly clinicians and make an appointment.
The community of homeschool mamas on This Whole Home’s facebook page have some socialisation tips to share too! You can find their suggestions for finding balance here.
Homeschool and Socialisation: When You or Your Kids are Introverts
Personality plays a big role in the amount of socialisation you will need to schedule into your child’s week. Problems can arise if there is a mix of introverted and extraverted personalities in the family so it pays to be aware of this. The same issues can arise if one or more family members is suffering from social anxiety.
If your children love to be out and about all the time and you are more of a quiet cuppa at home kind of mum, there are a few different things you can do to make sure you are both getting what you need.
- Arrange playdates in your own home so that you can avoid crowds and the stress of having to get ready and go.
- Have another parent take your child to homeschool activities with theirs.
- Implement a quiet time policy in your home in the afternoons when you have been out in the morning. This will allow you the quiet time you need to recharge.
What if it’s your child who is anxious in social situations?
- Arrange one-on-one playdates with children who have a similar temperament and/or interests.
- Inviting friends over to your home can work well for a child who is anxious to go out.
- If you are attending group activities make sure there is a quiet space your child can retreat to if needed. Start off with smaller groups if you can.
- Try using technology to facilitate socialisation. This could mean texting with a friend, or perhaps gaming together. If this is your choice, look at ways to keep online interaction safe such as using a homeschool only server for gaming or keeping the computer in the living room.
- If your child wants to try taking a class, say an art class for example, look for smaller classes, classes where parents can enroll alongside their child or arrange a teacher to come visit your homeschool group if your child is already comfortable there.
If you are the one that loves to be out doing all the things while your child would prefer not to, there are ways for you to find balance as well.
- Organise your own personal activities for after dark or on the weekend so that you can leave your child at home with their other parent.
- Buddy up with another homeschool parent so that you can ‘swap kids’. This will free up some time for you to pursue your own activities while your child is cared for in a familiar environment with friends.
- Talk to your friends on the phone if you feel the need to chat.
- Think about the possibility of part-time work to fulfill your socialising needs.
- Try outings to places where the kids can do their own thing while you chat with other grown-ups. Think libraries, parks, etc.
Now if you and your kids both love getting out there and mixing it up in the community just make sure you are keeping some balance and getting the down time you need. Even extraverts needs quiet time alone sometimes.
Want to read more about homeschool and socialisation? The bloggers at iHomeschool Network have a huge selection for you to read from here.`
Homeschool and Socialisation: When Finding Your Tribe is Hard
Another issue that crops up is difficulty in finding your homeschool tribe.
It’s not always easy to find a group of children and parents that you gel with. Simply being homeschoolers isn’t enough to take you from being acquaintances in the wider community to being real friends.
It’s not a nice thing to talk about, but some groups are less inclusive than others. Either the kids are firm besties and don’t want to let anyone else in , or the mums are. And adult women can be very clique-ish.
I get it. It hurts.
Other times it may just be tricky to find exactly what it is you are looking for in a tribe.
When it comes to finding your home in the homeschool community, here are some things to remember:
- If you or your kids don’t feel welcome in a group, there is no shame in moving on. Don’t make yourselves miserable by trying to fit into a group that is unwelcoming or that has a different set of values than you do.
- Get involved in activities that match your child’s interests, not just the general meet ups. Your children are more likely to find like-minded friends if they can bond over shared interests.
- If there isn’t a group or activity already set-up or that feels welcoming, don’t be afraid to start your own. Advertise on your local area facebook page and organise a get together of kids based around a shared interest. Just this week I have seen new meet-ups organised for larping, playing board games, a book club and a crafty meet up for littler ones.
- Don’t limit meet ups to just those where the kids are the same age and gender. Homeschool kids are generally more willing and happy to play with a wider range of kids because they haven’t been taught to segregate based on age or gender.
- It’s ok if your kids’ tribe isn’t your tribe. If your kids are loving a particular group and making friends, make the effort to go even if you know those mamas are never going to be your best friends. Make nice while the kids are doing their thing and make your own friendships elsewhere.
- If you can’t find your mama tribe, go online. You can find mamas with similar lifestyles and interests to socialise with online. Often those friendships will move into real life at some stage too!
- Don’t forget you and your kids can have more than one tribe! Don’t worry about trying to fulfill all of your family’s socialisation needs with one group. You will miss out if you do that. We have several groups we attend regularly, each with a different focus.
- Most importantly, keep trying. It can be hard but it’s important and worthwhile. Don’t be put off by established groups. Yes, they can feel tough to crack but that’s just because they have been buddies for a while. They were newbies once too. Generally if you are friendly and upfront, they will be as well.
- Once you find that magical unicorn, a mum and kid combo you and your kids click with, be pro-active and organise playdates or outings. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you because chances are they are just as nervous about making friends as you are.
Socialisation isn’t the problem that non-homeschoolers sometimes make it out to be, but it can be tricky to navigate. If you are having trouble, reach out to your community and ask for help.
There is always someone who can recommend a new activity or group for you to try. There are always mamas who have faced the same issues you have that are ready to lend a supportive shoulder and a sympathetic ear.
If you can’t ask in person, ask online. Just don’t be afraid to ask.
By being mindful of everyone’s needs and challenges, you can find the homeschool and socialisation balance that is right for you.