Homeschool Dilemma How Do I Socialize My Children?

Homeschool Dilemma | How Do I Socialize My Children?

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 them 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:

 

1. Co-ops.

Homeschool coops and socialization
It’s relay race time for the kindergarten co-op class.

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

Homeschool group and socialization
A picnic lunch after exploring the Go-Fish Education Center.

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

geography class library Homeschool and socialization
Our public library hosts awesome classes for homeschoolers.

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

homeschool skate day
Enjoying our monthly homeschool skate day.

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

44f6b50d-bc73-4903-85ee-f1f3f9b04677
A lesson on states of matter at the Museum of Arts & Sciences.

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

Homeschool socialization sports
It’s game-day for our Upward Sports 2018 soccer team!

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.

 

7. Church

Homeschool and Socialization
Excited for Salvation Day at our home church.

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.

 

8. Travel

Capitol Building Washington DC
Spending the day in DC was a blast!

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!

 

9. Playdates

playdate
An intimate pool party at their best friend’s house.

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

Homeschool and Socialization
Making new friends at the Spring Fest!

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.

 

11. Fieldtrips

Homeschool fieldtrips and socialization
We got to meet some lovely animals during our field trip to the Rock Ranch.

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.

 

12. Camps

Homeschool Kids and Socialization
Vacation Bible School shenanigans.

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…

 

 

 

Toddlers and Toys

Toddler Boredom | 10 Ways to Resurrect Old Toys

 

Okay, so let me get this out of the way. The average attention span for a toddler is only 3-5 minutes. By age five, this span increases to a whopping 10-15 minutes. Not very long, huh? I know! It’s no wonder kids seem to run out of things to do so quickly. Nevertheless, I incorporated the following methods to maximize the attention span of my dear children. My boys are now ages 4 and 7, but these straightforward tips have worked for me since their toddlerhood. This week for Toddler Talk Tuesday, I will share simple things you can do to help curb toddler boredom. I hope you find these tips helpful. Enjoy!


 

Toddler Boredom | 10 Ways to Resurrect Old Toys

 

1. Don’t hold onto them. 

Those toys that your children have outgrown or don’t care for? Donate them! Sometimes when the toybox or playroom is overflowing with toys it can be overwhelming for kids, especially the younger ones. Purging toys not only lessens the load and makes playtime more attractive, but helps your children discover those long-lost items they’ve forgotten how much they love. Be sure to involve your little ones in the donation process. Let them know they are making room for new toys in the future. And don’t forget to let your toddler choose a brand-new toy to purchase and include in your donation!

 

2. Keep them in rotation. 

Limiting your child’s toy options may help hold their attention for longer periods—especially when those options are in rotation. Leave your child 1-2 toys to play with and put the rest away for a while. You may find that your child can play for longer periods with just one or two toys. This is because there aren’t a dozen other toys competing for their attention, so your child isn’t rushing to move on to the next best thing. Decide how long you want your rotation to last (every week? every month?) and reintroduce your child to some of the toys you’ve been hiding away. Be sure to keep the cycle going. 

 

3. Organize them. 

Yes! Keep the blocks with the blocks, the dolls with the dolls, the play kitchenware with the play kitchenware—you get the point! Avoid dumping all your children’s toys into one giant toy bin. Instead, get some inexpensive bins (the Dollar Tree is a good place to start) and teach your children how to keep their toys organized and accessible. You’ll be amazed at what a difference this can make during playtime. I recall several meltdowns because certain parts of a playset had gotten lost in the crowded toybox. Organizing toys keeps all those “parts” together, which limits frustration and tantrums. 

 

4. Play with them. 

Sometimes you just have to get on the floor and play with your kids. Doing so is not only great for bonding and building self-esteem, but also gives your child new ideas about how to play with their toys. Show them how to build an amazing tower with their Lego set, how to create an awesome storyline for their toy soldiers or dolls, or how to play a new tune with their pretend (or real) instruments. You may find that your child takes ideas and builds upon them, sparking a new excitement for their toys. 

 

5. Change surroundings. 

Take that play kitchen or workbench station out of the playroom and put it into the family room for a few days. On a sunny day, take a large blanket and place it in the backyard with a few of your child’s beloved toys for a fun toy picnic. During the winter, bring your child’s water table into the kitchen or garage and let them enjoy playing with a “summer toy” during a different season. Sometimes, a different setting can make old toys just as exciting as brand new ones.

 

6. Wrap them!

Yes, you heard it right. Get some fun wrapping paper and wrap some of your child’s toys. Toddlers won’t care that the toy isn’t new. They just love the idea of unwrapping a present! Even better? Give them some extra wrapping paper to wrap the toys themselves. My boys loved wrapping their toys and giving them to me as “gifts.”

 

7. Become a “toy fairy.”

I still love doing this! When my oldest was a toddler, I would sneak into his bedroom while he was asleep and set up his toys in an elaborate display. Trust me, this will buy you some time in the morning! Or even post-naptime! My son would wake up and be so excited to play. These days, since I have my children’s toys on rotation, I simply switch out their toys in the middle of the night for other toys they haven’t played with in a while. It’s like Christmas morning! They never know what toys they’ll wake up to.

 

8. Wash them.

Get a large container, fill it with water and bath bubbles, give your child a toddler-friendly scrubber, and let them “wash” their toys. Make sure the toys are not plush, battery operated, or electronic. They can wash their toys while sitting on the kitchen floor as you cook dinner (place a towel underneath them). Or, like my boys do, they can wash their toys outside in the backyard while you sit on the porch with your favorite book scrolling through Instagram.

 

9. Make them educational.

Place alphabet letters or numbers onto blocks, Legos, mini figures, or dolls and have your toddler arrange them in order. You can simply print out a number or alphabet template, cut them into squares, and tape them onto the toys. If you don’t mind things being permanent, you can even write on blocks and Legos with a permanent marker. You can also have your child group the toys by color; for example, place the red blocks with other toys that are red. Or, try arranging the toys by size. There are so many possibilities and your toddler will love having a little task to do!

 

10. Take them apart.

This is a recent tip I read about in one of my Facebook STEM groups. Whether you have a curious child or a future engineer, old toys that can’t be donated can be safely taken apart for further exploring. Let your child explore what’s inside a stuffed animal, a remote-control car, or that musical toy that plays the same annoying songs over and over. I do not recommend this tip for younger toddlers who still put things in their mouths, as there may be small parts involved. Always remember to provide close supervision.


 

As a disclaimer, I am not an expert. These are just tips that have worked for me and my family. I hope you found at least one of these tips useful. Join me next week for my final post on the Toddler Talk Tuesday series!

Let us know in the comments what you do to help curb toddler boredom!