Apr 152012

Homeschooling seems to be pretty mainstream these day. Which is why I am always caught off guard when people suggest that my kids were somehow deprived of the opportunity to develop social skills because they’ve been homeschooled. Never mind that the people who say this are people who’ve never even met my kids. It’s the idea that some people still think that the only place a child can be socialized is in school.

I think of the socialization issue as the bogeyman under the bed — it simply doesn’t exist. Between support groups, co-ops, field trips, sports leagues, church groups, volunteer opportunities, special interest clubs, scouting, and 4H, my family had more opportunities for socialization than we could actually participate in during any given week (assuming we also wanted to get some work done, that is – my kids and I were not always in agreement on this point).

I would argue that homeschooled kids are actually better socialized than their school-attending peers.  What environment could be more artificial than the one created in a typical school, where kids only associate with those whose birthday falls within a 12-month window of their own?  And how often do you hear parents extolling the virtues of their child’s classmates?  More often, parents seem to be complaining about negative influences found at school, rather than enthusing about positive ones.

For my family, the socialization opportunities afforded by homeschooling could not have been duplicated in school.  One daughter was the youngest ever volunteer at our local nature center.  She impressed the director of the center at an Earth Day clean-up and so an exception was made for her.  My jaw dropped the day I arrived to pick her up and saw that she was in charge of the gift shop, running visitors’ charge cards and handling cash.  She was 12 at the time.  My son was the first year-round youth volunteer at our county library and earned himself the distinction of “Volunteer of the Year. ”  My youngest daughter volunteers at that same library today.  Experiences like these develop poise and confidence along with social skills.

To those starting out or just thinking about homeschooling:  don’t believe the socialization myth.  Check out the homeschool support groups in your area.  Join one…  or more.  Look into activities offered in your town:  is there a soccer or softball league your child would enjoy?  Sign up!  Your local library is another source of activity.  Many libraries hold classes and sponsor clubs.  What does yours have to offer?  If you have a place of worship, look into youth programs offered there.  Finally, don’t overlook old favorites such as Boy or Girl Scouts and 4H. These organizations offer children myriad opportunities to form friendships while pursuing interests and developing skills.

Hey, don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the Washington Times reports about homeschooled kids and socialization.