The biggest criticism of a homeschool education is the lack of social interaction. People outside the homeschool community generally view homeschoolers as introverted, socially inept or awkward, ultra-conservative, and averse to society. The belief is that homeschool students sit at their kitchen table all day with no contact with the outside world other than the occasional librarian or visit from Grandma. But, for most homeschoolers, that image couldn’t be farther from the truth. In many cases, homeschool children have better manners, are more at ease speaking with adults, and can hold intelligent conversations on a wider range of topics than public school children.
Today’s homeschoolers not only understand that children need to be social and learn to make friends but have more opportunities than ever to make that happen. Parents have enough life experience and education to know that children cannot be kept isolated from the world and must be allowed to engage in friendships, rivalries, competition, and dating. Homeschool parents who do not choose to expose their children to new people and experiences are leaving those children at a disadvantage. Children have to practice sharing, empathy, confidence, bravery, winning graciously and losing gracefully, and respectful listening to different opinions.
Homeschool parents can choose from an array of activities to give their children opportunities to forge friendships, learn from a variety of teachers and coaches, and explore different personalities and lifestyles. In fact, some homeschool families use their time at home as a break from the hustle and bustle of activities!
Cooperative homeschool groups were created as a response to the lack of social interaction and neatly solve the problem of isolation in homeschooling. Parents and students come together in groups to teach and study various subjects. Families can choose how many classes they want to participate in and which they would like to teach. Coops give both parents and kids a chance to interact with people outside their family and learn through new perspectives.
Art and music classes can be taken through a public school or private courses and provide another opportunity for children to explore their interests and meet new people. Sports clubs and teams offer the same chance to grow and learn, whether with a community group or in a public school. Not only will children learn new skills but they will also practice meeting new people, creating and nurturing friendships, and looking at life through different lenses.
Parents should be aware of the importance of a social life for their homeschool child, especially as the teen years commence. Maturing children need to fulfill their desire for independence and must be allowed to create their own identity and circle of friends; it is an important developmental milestone. Parents who stifle that need will find themselves dealing with either a rebellious teenager or an emotionally stunted adult. Teenagers need to begin breaking away from mom and dad and creating meaningful relationships with friends or “significant others” in order to build an identity separate from the family.
Homeschool families are not weird or different, they simply choose another educational avenue than the majority. Friendships, love interests, the quest for knowledge, competitiveness, artistic talent, etc are not limited to public school students.
Mimi Rothschild is a veteran homeschooling mother of 8, writer of a series of books called Cyberspace for Kids, and passionate advocate for children and education that is truly worthy of them. In 2001, Mimi and her late husband founded Learning By Grace, a leading provider of online Christian homeschooling Academies.