Homeschool Socialization - Developing Your Homeschool Child's Social Skills
By Kristi Hagen
Everyone needs friends, and, as parents, you and I both know we’re responsible for our children’s social lives as well as our own. As homeschoolers, we also know that kids don’t need public school pressure in order to find friends . . . so I’m not going to waste your time with hundreds of statistics to support homeschoolers and socialization. Instead let’s explore the top two ways to find life long friends for our children . . . and ourselves!
Support & Fun All Rolled into One!
The best way to find friends for your family is to research the homeschool groups in your area. Find the one that fits your lifestyle, religious beliefs, and educational views the best and join it! Here are some great sites online that will help you find groups in your area:
Learning 4 Life
Teach at Home
Support Groups in USA
After finding the group that's right for you, don't get overwhelmed with all of the activities: remember... homeschool group activities are opportunities, not obligations! A lot of groups are very organized and offer a lot of activities, but you shouldn't feel like it's an all or nothing kind of thing. Choose your activity and only do what you and your kids want to.
Too Much of a Good Thing? Try a Mini-Support Group!
On the other hand, a lot of the groups are very unorganized, and as soon as they find a smart and capable person who looks like they're willing to take control, they'll throw all the organization onto them. Don't let this be you! If your new homeschool group is unorganized, just try to get a list of names of homeschoolers in your area as well as the ages of their children. I would start with one family at a time (whose kids are close in age to my own) and begin calling them; this way, you can put together your own mini-support group! Smaller groups are better for getting to know each other, anyway. Once you've found a family, give them a call:
"Hi! I'm homeschooling my children in the same neighborhood as you. The information I got from the area homeschool group tells me that your two children are the same age as mine. Honestly, my kids and I are just looking for some homeschool friends in the area. I was wondering if there is some time this week that we could meet at the park and have a picnic. You pick the day and I'll bring my famous fruit salad!"
This approach works like a charm - and if the first family you call is uninterested, which is unlikely, call the next. Fear of rejection is not something you should worry about. Remember: you are now solely responsible for your younger children's interaction with new people - so take charge and make the first move! If not for yourself, then do it for them.
When you get together with your new play group, here are some great educational field trip ideas:
Fire station, library, park, beach, zoo, airport, art/history museum, children's museum, governor's office, police station, farm, factory, sporting events, local industry (bottling factory, wood mill, steel mill, coffee farm), parent's work place, seniors' homes, and any kind of outdoor activity (hiking, skiing, etc). The best thing to do is find out what you have in your area and use the resources at hand. You'll be surprised at what's out there!
Soccer & Brownies anyone?
The next best place to find friends is through extra curricular activities. See what's available in your city and talk with your kids. Friends come naturally when your kids are involved in activities with children their own age. Calling the YMCA for ideas is a great place to start. Here are some of our favorites:
Boy scouts, Girls scouts, Brownies, Soccer, Softball, Gymnastics, Martial Arts, Swimming, Summer Camps, Youth Groups, College Classes for homeschoolers, Writing Clubs, 4-H, Choir, Spelling and Geography Bees, Game Days, Volunteering, Drama Clubs, Church Groups, Craft Classes, Book Clubs, Bowling Clubs, Skating, Teen Clubs, and just about anywhere else you can think of!
Try to get done with school work at the same time as the local schools. Then your children can play with the neighborhood kids just like everyone else.
If you have other kids in the family close in age, invite them over. My son is best friends with his cousin. We live close by and they are always calling or coming over. My son doesn't have a lot of friends, but he does have his "best friend." So life is good!
Don't forget about yourself! We're so engrossed with our kids that we forget about ourselves. Talk to your homeschool group or fellow soccer moms and plan a "girl's night out" and go to dinner or just get together at someone's house to talk, eat, and have a good time. No Kids Allowed! Schedule your "play time" just like you would for your kids and have fun doing it!
New friendships aren't hard to find as long as you stay open to new people. We just need to get out of the house (past the mailbox) and have adventures. These fun outings will encourage all of our families to naturally meet friends that we all need! Thanks for listening, and I hope some of these ideas will help you and your kids make and keep life-long friends.
Kristi Hagen is a homeschooling parent and author of "A Parent's Guide to Homeschool". She's also one of the editors of HomeschoolViews.com, which publishes an informative monthly Homeschool Newsletter.