Socialization seems to be a top concern for prospective homeschool parents. It also seems to be a concern for homeschool critics. In fact, whenever the subject of homeschool emerges, I can almost guarantee the person on the other end of the conversation will mention something about socialization.
Before I go any further, I want to mention that it’s a common misconception that homeschool and poor social skills are directly correlated. They are not. There are many children who attend public school that lack proper socialization skills, but we’d never attribute this deficiency to their being “public-schooled,” right? Instead, we’d just chalk it up to their personality. After all, many people are introverted and socially awkward.
When it comes to homeschool, like public school, I’ve met children who are super extroverted and outgoing, and I’ve met children who are super shy and introverted. It just depends. I’m a member of three homeschool groups and teach homeschool classes, so I’ve been exposed to tons of homeschooled children on the regular basis and they are all different.
But how do we actually keep our children socialized? The simple answer is, by socializing with them. After all, “socialization” defined means to mix socially with others. Every family has members with different personalities, values, and conflicts. Therefore, by definition, learning to interact and peacefully resolve conflicts with parents and siblings is socialization enough for a child.
I suppose when some people think of homeschool, they imagine a family living in the middle of nowhere on a farm with very little interaction with the “outside” world. There’s nothing wrong with these types of families, I know a few and most of their children are social butterflies, but I’m here to tell you the homeschool demographic has shifted. I spoke with a retired educator this past summer who was floored by all the social opportunities that are now available for homeschoolers.
Here are a few that we take advantage of:
My children meet weekly and learn elective subjects with their peers. All classes are taught by a skilled parent (some of which are former educators). Classes my boys have taken include physical education, group reading, math games, building and engineering, music, theater, geography, cooking, and more! There are over one-hundred families signed up for co-op each semester, so there are loads of kids. We host spirit days, picnics, and even theater nights.
Pictured above is one of the kindergarten classes I teach at my local co-op. We were trying to help them get their wiggles out before their next class, so we held an impromptu relay race in the hallway. I typically don’t get to take pictures of my kids in their classes because I’m teaching. This year, however, my kindergartner is in my first-hour class, so I’m happy to get at least one picture in!
It’s important to mention that all co-ops differ. Some co-ops offer organized sports. Some co-ops offer playdates. Some co-ops are even community service based. If you’re new to homeschool or just looking to meet new friends, be sure to search the types of co-ops your city has to offer.
2. Homeschool Groups
My children attend fieldtrips, playdates, picnics, holiday parties, and other fun events with their homeschool “squad” (that’s what we call it). We meet at least a couple times a month to enjoy the day together. What’s great about the homeschool group and co-op is that they provide an opportunity to build longevity in friendships. My boys met their best friends through our homeschool group and I think it’s awesome that they get to grow up and experience homeschool together.
Pictured above are my boys’ best friends all in one photo! We ventured out to the Go-Fish Education Center and learned all about aquatic life. We even got to go fishing! When the exploring was over, some of the group decided to stick around and have a picnic lunch. We feel so blessed to have these experiences.
How do you find a homeschool group or co-op in your area? Facebook is your best bet! Just type in “homeschool groups near me” in the Facebook search-box and request to join the group that best suits your family. An additional application process may be required.
3. Library Events
The library is always hosting events for children. Our local library even offers bi-monthly homeschool STEM classes. I make a habit of downloading the library events calendar from their website and marking off events we’d like to attend. Such events include read-alouds, craft activities, Lego clubs, STEM classes, reading books to shelter animals, and more!
Pictured above is a homeschool geography class hosted by our public library. This was a great series! The class learned about different countries and did hands-on activities. They hosted an exhibit day where students could bring in currency from countries they’ve traveled to. The students also did an oral presentation on a country of their choice (my son chose Nigeria, of course.) And my absolute favorite class was when they hosted a feast where the students brought a cultural dish related to a specific country.
Visit your local library’s website and search their “events” or “calendar” tabs to find out what they have to offer. I like to print out my local library’s calendar and highlight the events we’re interested in attending. I will say, though, that nothing beats visiting the library and speaking with a knowledgeable librarian about opportunities for homeschoolers.
4. Homeschool Days
Our local skating rink, trampoline park, bowling alley, museums, and other venues offer what we call “homeschool days” where they open the facility to homeschool families usually at a discounted rate. This is a great opportunity for my boys to meet children who are not a part of our homeschool group. It’s also a lot of fun!
Pictured above is our monthly Homeschool Skate Day. This day is open for all homeschoolers to come out and socialize. They can skate together, play at the indoor playground, or hang out at the cafeteria over some fries and a coke. This is an all-ages affair and a super lax environment.
Check with your local recreational businesses to see what they have to offer homeschoolers. Zoos and aquariums may also offer extracurricular classes. Sometimes, these venues will agree to start incorporating homeschool days if the demand is there. Therefore, you can always round-up homeschoolers in your area to petition for such services if they’re not offered.
5. Extracurricular Classes
So, I’ve talked about co-op classes and library classes for homeschoolers, but that’s just the beginning. There are many places that offer extracurricular classes that benefit homeschoolers. Some of our local museums offer STEM courses at a decent price. Our local education center offers low-cost classes on fishing, aquatic animals, and natural resources.
Pictured above is a lesson on states of matter during our group trip to the Museum of Arts & Sciences. Students were able to do a fun art project using a liquid, solid, and gas. They even learned about plasma. This lesson was followed by a lecture on birds, reptiles, and mammals with live animals included! To cap off our trip, we visited the planetarium and watched an awesome presentation on galaxies and constellations.
Art and music studios have also reached out to homeschoolers in our area, offering discounted group rates. Even our state capital offers legislation classes every year for homeschoolers, along with a free tour of the capital building and an opportunity to meet legislators. Local churches have also been kind to homeschoolers. One of them just started offering science classes to homeschool students this year!
Now, I can only speak for my city, but I’m sure there are similar opportunities in yours. You’d be surprised which establishments offer opportunities to homeschoolers. As previously stated, if you find absolutely nothing, you can always petition if you show them you have enough homeschoolers who are interested in their services.
6. Organized Sports
My boys took taekwondo classes in the past. This year, they’re trying their hand at soccer. Organized sports are great because it means my boys have teammates who are most likely not homeschooled. Exposure to non-homeschooled children is a great way to eradicate untrue stereotypes about homeschoolers.
I’ve read that public schools in some states allow homeschooled students to partake in their organized sports programs. That’s not the case where I live, but we do take advantage of the Upward Sports program. Upward Sports is statewide and offers basketball, soccer, football, cheerleading, and more! So, if you’re a homeschool family looking for organized sports opportunities, check to see if there is an Upward Sports program in your area. Your local recreation center is also a good place to check out.
Pictured above is my oldest son’s Upward Sports soccer team. As you can see, the teams are unisex and generally separated by age group. Here, the coaches are handing out Game Day Stars. The stars represent a virtue that the athlete exhibited well, like good sportsmanship, humility, etc. The program prides itself on not just focusing on performance but also the character of each athlete.
We are a family of Believers so attending church is another opportunity for our children to interact with their peers. Our church has a dynamic children’s ministry for each age group and my boys look forward to seeing their friends every Sunday.
Like co-ops and homeschool groups, attending church is yet another way my boys have the opportunity to form long-term friendships since they’re exposed to the same group of kids on the regular basis. And it’s not just during service that they get to see each other, but they look forward to running into their friends at all the family events hosted by our church.
Pictured above is my oldest son with some of his classmates on Salvation Day at our home church. It was a special day because he accepted Jesus Christ into his life! Since my husband and I attend the adult service, we rarely get to take pictures of our kids at church. I’m so glad that our church hosts a Facebook page just for the children’s ministry so that we can see our boys in action. So, a huge thank you to our church for this beautiful image.
As Georgians who have family that lives in Nigeria, Maryland, Rhode Island and Tennessee, travel is something we love to do. The great thing about traveling with kids is that it really does open their eyes to the diversity that exists in the world. They understand the concept of culture and accents, and that not everyone looks, speaks, or even believes as they do.
Pictured above is our spring trip to the nation’s capital. People from all around the globe flock to DC every year! Not only is it home to the White House and Capitol building, but it’s also home to seventeen museums, all of which are free! Some museums include the African American Civil War Museum, the National Geographic Museum, and the International Spy Museum to name a few. It was great to surround our children with such culture and diversity.
You don’t have to spend big bucks to travel. Every so often, we like to take day-trips to Atlanta or other surrounding cities and states and explore what they have to offer. All you need is a good running car and some gas! Parks are everywhere and they are generally free. You could also arrange a day-trip on a day you know certain museums offer free admission. Many children’s museums have FREE admission days!
While our homeschool group hosts playdates, I also take the liberty of arranging personal playdates outside the group. Personal playdates are great because they create a more intimate setting, allowing for the parents and children to bond more. These playdates can take place in your home or a mutual place like the park.
Pictured above is an intimate pool party we were invited to by good friends of ours. It was just my boys and her boys splashing around and bonding on a beautiful late August day. We try to be intentional about getting our kids together in-between homeschool group events so that they can strengthen that bond.
I must mention, you don’t have to be best friends with the parents to make this happen. In fact, our first playdates with other families were arranged solely based on the fact that our children hit it off and we wanted them to see more of each other. The more we got together, the more my friendships grew with each parent. So, don’t be afraid to take initiative and exchange contact info with the parents of your child’s new friend.
10. Community Events
We don’t just rely on our homeschool group to provide the fun, we go out searching for the fun, too! There’s an amazing Facebook page I frequent when I want to know about upcoming events in the community. Perhaps your community also hosts a local events page on Facebook? It’s worth checking out.
We’ve attended everything from parades to festivals, holiday celebrations, and more. Pictured above is our boys enjoying their time at the Spring Fest. I love that they can make friends literally anywhere! They’d just met this brother/sister duo and you’d never know it by how well they played together.
I made this a separate point because you don’t necessarily have to belong to a homeschool group to go on fieldtrips. In fact, our family has been on quite a few self-planned fieldtrips, which is great because we could explore at our own leisure. Nevertheless, planning a group fieldtrip with other homeschoolers means you can get awesome discount rates. Additionally, your child gets to learn and experience new things with their peers.
Pictured above is our group fieldtrip to Rock Ranch. Our boys learned how to make corn flour by hand, met beautiful farm animals, played in the corn pit, bounced on a giant inflatable pillow, toured the grounds on a hayride, and much more. What makes these fieldtrips even more special is that they are creating memories with their friends.
If you need some fieldtrip ideas, visit my Instagram to check out some of the fun fieldtrips we’ve taken.
During the summer, my boys enjoy attending reading camps, sports camps, and VBS camps. Not only do they get to see some of their friends, but they also get to meet new people and experience new things. These programs are typically free or low cost and are usually hosted by local libraries, churches, and/or recreation centers. Be sure to check out the venues in your area to discover similar summer programs.
Pictured above is my oldest son at one of the Vacation Bible Schools we’ve attended. This particular VBS is their favorite and they look forward to it every year. I do want to mention that, in most cases, you don’t have to be a member of a church for your kids to be able to attend their VBS. Vacation Bible Schools are typically outreach programs and are open to the community. We attend VBS’s at churches we’re not members of all the time!
Lastly, your local museums, zoos, entertainment complexes, universities, etc, are great places to check for camp programs. Our local museum hosts STEM camps year-round. One of our local universities hosts summer camps that allow children to take science, writing, and history classes. Even our entertainment complex got in on the fun and started offering summer day camps. All you have to do is call the venue and ask or simply check out their social media pages for information.
I’ll close by saying this is not a comprehensive list. There are many other ways my boys have the opportunity to socialize. They visit their cousins, they volunteer, they play with the neighborhood kids, and so much more. We are blessed to be surrounded by so many opportunities.
Finally, this is not an attempt to prove that my homeschooled children are “socialized,” but rather a way to give my homeschool peers some ideas on what social opportunities they can seek out in their area. I hope this post was helpful!
Until next time, friends…