You’re homeschooling your family and have navigated finding the appropriate curriculum, setting a schedule, and developing a system to motivate your child to succeed. Now, it’s time to help your student maintain a healthy level of socialization. The research about homeschoolers and socialization is mixed, so knowing how to make sure your kids are on the right track is essential to maintain your child’s growth and development. In the end, the students whose parents made the effort are the ones who graduate with a healthy sense of self and the ability to connect with their peers in an appropriate and vibrant way.
At Northgate Academy, we recommend that you look into the following options for keeping your student socially engaged:
- Connect with a local homeschool group or co-op.
- Check your state’s policy about homeschoolers participating in after-school activities.
- Find a group lesson or activity for your child.
- Dually enroll high schoolers in a local community college.
Connect With A Local Homeschool Group
Homeschool groups and co-ops offer field trips, group lessons, and an abundance of activities to help your student see that they are not “the only” young person being taught at home. Some of these organizations offer weekly, monthly, or quarterly activities to get your student together with other homeschooled students. This opportunity to bond with their peers is an important step in their natural development. Homeschooling can feel isolating, so it’s important that your child connects with others who are having the same experiences as they are. Those moments when you met someone who you connected with and who understood who you were and what your experiences were probably stick with you even today, so providing that same experience for your child is an important responsibility as a parent.
You can locate these groups with a simple internet search, but The Homeschool Legal Defense Association has state-by-state resources to help you connect with homeschool organizations near you. Another great option is The Homeschool Mom, a central location to find homeschool co-ops, add options for families homeschooling around you, and search for groups and activities local to your family. Homeschool.com also offers state-by-state search for support groups that can help you organize or join activities that will connect you and your children to your peers.
Check Your State’s Policy About Homeschoolers Participating in After-School Activities
Certainly, one of the reasons you are homeschooling might be to avoid the difficulties that arise from public education today. This choice is a very personal one, so it might not fit with every homeschool family’s ideals. However, many states allow homeschool students to participate in after school activities as long as they are maintaining the same academic standards as the requirements of the state.
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education has gathered the information for each state. If your state is one that allows homeschooled students to participate in after school athletics or activities, this can be a good way to allow your child time outside of the home to cultivate friendships and explore their interests.
Find A Group Activity For Your Child
Many alternatives to participating in public school activities exist for homeschooled young people. Community centers often offer a variety of group activities and lessons where your student can be exposed to social situations in a regulated environment, giving them some independence from you in a few doses each week.
Youth sports leagues are a wonderful way for your child to learn about cooperation, teamwork, and dedication to a goal. These leagues will run either seasonally or throughout the year, giving your child an opportunity to explore and discover what truly interests them. They’re a great opportunity for your family to gather together to support one another while your child is exposed to social situations and other adults who can prove to be mentors and positive role models.
Gymnastics, robotics teams, dance lessons, art lessons, and local choirs are also a positive way for students to learn how to develop long-term friendships and interests outside of the home. The Scouts are another resource to help your student learn self-reliance and develop relationships with their peers, and your local church youth group can support you as you strive for both academic excellence and the development of a well-rounded, respectful, active young person.
Explore Dual Enrollment
Although not all students will be ready to attend class at a local community college, some are aching for the chance to get a jump on those credits. This is a wonderful opportunity for older students to earn that jump-start toward a career while exposing them to light social situations and the realities of post-secondary education. If your child is ambitious, organized, and motivated, reaching out to your local community college might be a good option for them. In the security of a classroom, they will be exposed to working in a group, participating in appropriate and professional discussions, and learning how to give and take in an academic setting.
Taking one or two classes each grade level during junior or senior years can help your student not only learn how to socialize but narrow their interests so that when they graduate, they do so with confidence about their next steps. Learning how to communicate with peers in this setting will give them a major advantage that other students simply don’t have. Not only will they be independent thinkers from the work you do as a homeschool family, but they’ll have the experience of interacting with college professors and peers while still reaping the benefit of your careful guidance and direction.
Because the statistics and the research about the socialization of homeschooled students is so varied, it’s important to take this area of development seriously. Your goal in homeschooling is to help your child grow to be the most aware, thinking, and caring human being you can possibly raise. Ensuring that they know how to navigate the intricacies of social situations, working together, and connecting with others will help you fulfill that goal.