Worried your homeschooler won’t have any friends? Here are 12 things to try when socializing homeschoolers.
“But if you homeschool your kids, how will they learn to socialize?”
Ugh! Raise your hand if you’ve been asked this question before, during, or after deciding to homeschool… 🙋🏽♀️🙋🏽♀️
Well, don’t worry, you’re in good company. Because I seriously don’t know a single homeschool parent who hasn’t been asked this question.
Whether it’s from family members, friends, or even strangers at the grocery store (yes, I’m looking at you random lady who I don’t know!) everyone wants to know how you’re going to socialize your children without sending them off to school.
And do you want to know the worst part? Plenty of homeschooling parents are genuinely concerned about this, too. But they’re so busy defending their decision to homeschool that they don’t talk about it.
Yes, plenty of homeschool parents are worried that their kids will miss out on important social interactions and won’t be able to develop necessary social skills.
But the truth is, socializing homeschoolers is not as difficult or as complicated as everyone makes it seem. In fact, ask any veteran homeschooler you know and they will be quick to reassure you.
Not only can you make sure your child gets the social skills they need, but they might even end up with better ones than many of the kids who attend traditional school.
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed or nervous by the socialization question and wondering how to navigate this aspect of homeschooling, keep on reading, because I’m going to tell you everything you need to know!
I was compensated for my time reviewing KaiPod Learning and writing this post. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided.
What is socialization?
First things first, let’s define what socialization is. According to Britannica, socialization is defined as:
“The process whereby an individual learns to adjust to a group (or society) and behave in a manner approved by the group (or society).”
In other words, socialization is the process of learning to interact with other people and follow the unspoken rules of polite society.
As a parent, it pretty much boils down to the fact that we just want our kids to be able to make friends and get along well with others.
And there’s no denying that it’s important. Children with good social skills tend to have better relationships, higher self-esteem, and are more successful in life.
Does homeschooling affect socialization?
Yes, homeschooling will affect how your child learns to socialize and make friends. Most children learn a lot of their social skills while attending school.
Homeschooling can’t really recreate the same environment of 20-30 students being in a classroom together 5 days a week.
And honestly, it’s one of the things we like about it. But it does mean that how your child learns to socialize and make friends is going to look a bit different.
Rather than strictly from other peers at school, your child will learn social skills from interacting with the people they come across in their daily lives. This includes family members, friends, and other homeschooled kids.
Are homeschooled children better socialized?
This is kind of a trick question. As a homeschooler, I would say yes.
My kids (and most homeschooled children I’ve met) are kinder, calmer, and more mature than the majority of their public-schooled peers. They’re more likely to mimic the social skills of their parents rather than kids their own age.
But, I’m not going to say that homeschooling automatically makes your child better at socializing. It’s not a given. Just like going to public school doesn’t guarantee your kid will have great social skills and easily make friends.
(I went to public school growing up, and trust me, there were plenty of weird and awkward kids there too.)
The truth is that socialization varies from child to child, regardless of how they are educated. Some children are naturally outgoing and will make friends easily wherever they go.
Others may struggle more with social interactions, but with support and guidance, they can still develop strong social skills.
What does the research say?
Because socialization and homeschooling is a hot topic, studies have been done to see if homeschooled kids are really at a disadvantage when it comes to social skills.
And guess what? The research shows that homeschooled children are just as well-socialized, if not better, than their traditionally schooled peers.
A small study found that “home schooled population demonstrated above average overall social skills” when compared to public school children.
Now, I do think these results need to be taken with a grain of salt. Because, let’s be honest, socialization and social skills are hard to measure. However, it does show that homeschooled children are not automatically lacking in this area.
5 Things to Know About Socializing Homeschoolers
Alright, now let’s talk about what you need to know about socializing homeschoolers as a homeschool parent. Because this is such a sensitive topic, I feel like not enough homeschool parents talk about it.
Which often leaves new homeschoolers feeling a little unsure or nervous about how to go about it. But it’s not as hard as it sounds.
Here are a few things you need to know:
1.) You have to be intentional about socializing homeschoolers
The first thing to understand is that you will have to be intentional about creating socializing opportunities for your child. Just like the rest of your child’s education, you are in charge of making it happen.
And more importantly, you’ll probably have to actively seek out social interactions for your child. Unless you luck into having an amazing neighborhood where kids like to play outside together a lot, you’ll have to look for ways to get your child around other children.
2.) Some kids need it more than others
Something else that most people don’t talk about when it comes to socializing homeschoolers is that some kids need it more than others. Some kids, often called “social butterflies” seem to thrive with social interaction.
They constantly want to be around friends and make them easily. Other kids, however, are much more introverted and prefer to spend time alone or with a small group of close friends.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a personality difference. So don’t automatically assume your child needs to be socializing as much as possible simply because they’re homeschooled.
3.) You can’t force friendships
Another thing you need to know about socializing homeschoolers is that you can’t force it. It’s really great when you find a group and kids start to connect, but it’s a natural process that happens on its own.
Even in public school, friendships form organically. Yes, being around other kids will increase the chance of it occurring, but it’s not something you can just make happen.
As a parent, all you can do is create opportunities for your child to connect with other kids and see what happens.
4.) Your child might need a little coaching
Another fun fact that I discovered about homeschool socialization is that my kids needed a little bit of help when it came to learning how to interact with other kids. For some children, as I mentioned this doesn’t come naturally.
And public school provides lots and lots of trial and error so most kids end up stumbling into the right way to make friends and play with other kids.
But when you homeschool, there is less of that time built into their day. There is also a bit more pressure to make things work.
As the parent you’re thinking: “I went through all this effort to get out of the house and bring you around other kids, so you better go play with them.”
And often the kids know that if they don’t figure out how to play with these kids right now, they might not get the chance for another several days.
So for some kids, it’s helpful to teach them ways to talk to new people. Offering simple ways to start conversations like:
- “My name is <your child’s name>. What’s your name?”
- “My name is <your child’s name>. Do you want to play tag with me?”
- “Hi, my name is <your child’s name>. I like dinosaurs and playing soccer. What do you like to play?”
Especially up through elementary school, this is a great starting point to open conversations and get them engaged. Then, when it’s a good fit, most kids will take it from there.
5.) There are no deadlines for learning social skills
The last thing that hardly anyone talks about but I think is so important for socializing homeschoolers is that there are no deadlines. Seriously, think about that for a minute.
No one is going to ask your child when they graduate “At what age did you learn to play well with other kids? When did you have your first best friend?”
Most homeschoolers will tell you straight up that kids learn at different ages and stages and that there is a broad range of normal. The same is true for social skills.
And there are no rules that state at what age your child needs to have mastered them.
If your child is not at the same stage socially as other public school kids, there is nothing that says you can’t continue to work on those skills as they get older.
So don’t feel pressure to push your child into friendships or social activities before they are ready. Take things one step at a time, keep creating opportunities for them to socialize, and trust that they will develop social skills at their own pace.
- How to Teach Feelings and Social Skills to Kids With LuvBug Learning
- Teach by Dennis DiNoia: The Best Advice for Homeschooling Parents
How to Socialize Homeschoolers
Ok, now let’s get into how to actually socialize homeschoolers. As I mentioned, it’s mostly about creating opportunities for your child to interact with other kids.
Give them a chance to talk, play, and develop relationships. Give them the time to learn how to make friends.
I also want to offer a quick suggestion: encourage your child to interact with different types of people. The more different types of people your child is around, the stronger their social skills will be and the more prepared they’ll be when they go out into the world.
Here are some specific ways to create those opportunities:
Homeschool learning groups
If you’re looking to combine the social and interactive benefits of public school with the flexibility of homeschooling, then you should definitely look into local homeschool learning groups in your area.
A great one to explore is KaiPod Learning. KaiPod Learning offers a hybrid homeschool learning environment.
Your child gets community and regular socialization opportunities while you get to choose the curriculum and still provide a personalized learning experience.
Here are some of the perks of enrolling your child with KaiPod Learning:
- You provide the curriculum, so you know it’s one that works well for your child.
- On-site, experienced KaiPod Coaches help guide and support your child with their curriculum, interests, and needs.
- Daily enrichment activities including experiments, field trips, and collaborative games.
- Flexible plans and schedules. You can choose from 2, 3, and 5-day schedules.
- Lots of opportunities for your child to build strong social skills and lasting friendships.
It’s really the best of both worlds in that your child will still get the regular interaction with other kids and friends that they need while at the same time, getting personalized learning in a way that helps them succeed academically.
Head to KaiPod Learning to learn more and find a location near you.
Another way to help provide your child with opportunities to make friends is to join a co-op. Co-ops are typically a group of homeschooling families who come together to provide classes or learning opportunities for their children.
These can be organized by subject (like a math co-op) or age range (like a preschool co-op).
Co-ops are great because they not only offer your child the chance to socialize with other kids but also give them the opportunity to learn new skills or subjects from other parents who may have a specialty in that area.
We joined a co-op for the first time last year and we all loved it.
Hybrid Homeschools vs. Co-ops
A common question many parents have is: what’s the difference between a hybrid homeschool and a co-op? Although they are similar and both offer benefits for homeschool families, they have some key differences.
A hybrid homeschool like KaiPod Learning, offers a more structured learning environment while still allowing parents to have control over their child’s education.
Co-ops, on the other hand, are typically more flexible and rely on parents to take turns teaching or providing resources for their children.
If you’re comfortable with occasionally handing a bit more of the teaching off to another educator or you just don’t have the time to commit to a co-op, a program like KaiPod Learning would be a good fit.
If you prefer to be more involved in your child’s learning and want to further support your homeschool community, a co-op would be a great option.
Another great way of socializing homeschoolers is through sports and extracurricular activities. My kids have made tons of friends through Jiu-Jitsu, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, and swimming.
It’s also a great way to make friends with families outside of your specific homeschooling groups.
Joining a homeschool group is another great way to connect with other homeschoolers.
These groups often organize field trips, park days, or other activities where kids can interact and learn together. Some groups even have regular meetups for things like book clubs, science experiments, or art classes.
This has been a big source of socialization for my family. We joined a group that meets for weekly playdates.
From there we made friends that turned into library groups, movie clubs, co-ops, and more.
Public school extracurricular activities
Depending on your area, another option you could try is to join the extracurricular activities offered at your local public school. Some states will allow homeschooled students to join programs like the school’s band, drama club, or sports teams.
This can be a great way for your child to interact socially with their peers while also participating in activities they may not have access to as a homeschooler. Not all areas allow this though, so you’ll have to check with your local school district.
Depending on the size of the homeschool community in your area, you might be able to find lots of classes offered specifically to homeschoolers. These classes are often available during the day when most kids are in public school.
They can range from art and music classes to sports or even things like Boy/Girl Scouts and 4-H.
This is another great way for your child to meet other homeschoolers and create social opportunities while also learning something new. Check with your local library, community center, or online groups to find any classes offered near you.
In today’s digital world, using online classes is another way to help your homeschooler make friends. Many programs like Outschool allow children to meet together virtually for lessons.
Online they are able to interact with other classmates, work together in groups, and sometimes extend those friendships outside the classroom.
It’s not exactly the same as making friends in person, but your child will still get to practice and develop a lot of the same social skills.
Another great way to help your child get out in the world and socialize is through volunteer work. Volunteering not only allows your child to meet and interact with people of all ages, but it also teaches them the value of giving back and helping others.
Not to mention, it looks great on college applications!
You can find many opportunities for volunteering from local charity organizations or non-profits. Some ideas include working at a soup kitchen, organizing a donation drive, or participating in community cleanup projects.
Your local community
A great source of social interaction for your child is also right within your own local community. If you have a strong network through your church or even extended family, that can often provide lots of opportunities for your child to interact with other kids and work on their social skills.
For many homeschoolers, their community becomes an extension of their homeschool, and they can form strong friendships with those they interact with regularly.
For older teens, a job could provide a lot of opportunities to make friends. A part-time job at a local store or restaurant, volunteering at a daycare or summer camp, or even starting their own small business can all be great ways for teens to connect with others and gain valuable experience.
They’ll also get to learn important life skills like responsibility, time management, and problem-solving.
If your child is into music, group lessons are another great opportunity for socializing homeschoolers. During group music lessons children often have to work together and learn from each other, promoting social skills and collaboration. Plus, they get to share a common interest with others in the class.
Camps for kids
Lastly, summer and day camps are a great way for homeschoolers to socialize with other kids from different backgrounds. Camps offer a variety of activities and outdoor adventures that allow children to work together, learn new skills, and form friendships.
They also offer an opportunity for your child to gain some independence while being supervised by trained camp counselors.
Final Thoughts on Socializing Homeschoolers
If you’ve been losing sleep wondering if your child will struggle to make friends or that they’ll be too isolated at home, I promise you that there are many opportunities for them to socialize and build friendships.
From co-ops and homeschool groups like KaiPod Learning to sports teams and volunteering, the options are endless. It may take some effort on your part to seek out these opportunities, but they are definitely out there and it’s easier than you think to start including them into your homeschool routine.
What are your best tips for socializing homeschoolers? Did you learn something new? Let us know in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Candice is a mom of 3 who has been homeschooling since 2013. She has an A.A.S. in Early Childhood Studies and cares deeply about helping other parents get the information and resources they need to help them homeschool their children with confidence.