So often I get asked some form of this question: “I love the IDEA of homeschooling, but my biggest fear is socialization. How will my child learn to connect with others his/her age?”
It’s an age-old joke. Homeschooled kids are weird. Awkward. Don’t know how to fit into society.
So naturally it’s something that crosses every new homeschooling parent’s mind – what about social growth? How do I make sure my child knows how to talk to other kids? What about participating in events? How do I find local things for them to do…. So I CAN SOCIALIZE THEM.
Ok. First…. Let me say that stereotypes are just that. Stereotypes. Are there weird and socially awkward homeschoolers? Sure. Is every single child that goes to school a perfect social butterfly? Uh no. So let’s just go ahead and drop that stereotype right in the garbage where they all belong, ok?
Next…. Let’s determine what “socialization” actually means.
Think about your current adult life, which is, after all, what our children will eventually be living. How much of your daily time is spent in a room with only members of your exact age group around you that you are happily working with?
I’m going to guess none….
In real life, socializing is having discussions with your elderly neighbor, working with co-workers of all ages, genders, and races, checking out with grocery clerks, talking to your spouse (also likely not the same age as you), and of course, spending time with your kids.
“Socializing” your child doesn’t mean that they need to be forced to spend time with their peers or they will be weird and awkward.
That’s not it at all.
Socializing simply means that you give your child opportunities to engage and connect with others around them – regardless of age or any other factor.
How can you do this?
So glad you asked. 🙂 Here are some of my favorite ways of encouraging my children to communicate with others:
* Get them outside!! Yes, being outdoors and spending time playing and exploring nature enhances connection and communication skills with others – even if your child is playing alone. Pretty cool, huh?
* Talk to them often, and use big words. If your child can say “Tyrannosaurus Rex” she can say and learn other big words too!
* Give them the opportunity to talk and have independent conversations, especially with other adults. Oftentimes when we are out running errands, we are so focused on completing tasks and checking off lists that we don’t stop to realize how much our children are learning and absorbing from these daily trips. Let your child order for themselves, chit chat with the clerk, check out their own books at the library, say hi to the person walking by, etc. Model good communication skills and give them a chance to practice too!
* Seek out practical ways to have your child engaged with other children. This doesn’t have to be in their exact peer group necessarily, but of course interaction with other kids is great IF your child wants to (don’t force it). Some good places to try this are library storytimes, sports or lessons, events at local museums, playdates with friends, etc.
* Read! Help your child learn the nuances of conversation while increasing their vocabulary through reading literature every single day! Reading good, diverse literature also helps your children build empathy skills that will help them relate to others better.
And, above all, just remember that you are doing what you know is best for your child. Something like socialization is a fear that creeps up to help you make sure that you know you’re in alignment with your best choice.
Need some more ways to get out and explore the world around you with your children? Check out A Child’s World Curriculum – full of meaningful ways to encourage natural exploration with your children.