To be honest, I’m not exactly sure how to start this post. Before I started homeschooling, I was extremely worried about my kids appearing strange or backward to other people. I worried that the kids would lose friends and not make new ones. I worried they wouldn’t be able to relate to other kids. I worried what other adults would think of my kids. I was terrified the kids would be labeled “weird.”
These worries and fears actually prevented me from starting homeschooling AFTER my husband and I had come to the conclusion that homeschooling would be the BEST thing for our family. I’m not sure I could articulate what “being socialized” meant, but by golly, I couldn’t bear to have my kids be labeled “unsocialized.”
I had to examine what I thought “being socialized” meant. To me, a well socialized person is:
- able to recognize and react appropriately to social cues like body language and tone of voice
- comfortable initiating conversations
- self aware
- able to put others at ease
- polite and respectful by default
- able to listen attentively to others
- genuinely interested in other people
- able to handle criticism and praise graciously
- emotionally stable
- familiar with current events, pop culture (to some degree, anyway), and social trends
- knows how to politely extricate him/herself from unpleasant or inappropriate conversations and situations
- can work well as part of a team
- dresses appropriately for any given situation and is clean in body, mind, and speech
At first, we all felt rather isolated. The kids still played with their public school friends, but after school hours only. We didn’t know too many homeschoolers when we started, but we joined a local LDS homeschool network, The Deseret Home School Association. Throughout our first year, we went to just about every party and field trip they put on, wherever an event was held —even if it meant driving out to Caldwell (some 45 minutes away!)
The kids are involved in tae kwon do lessons, violin and piano lessons, choir, Boy Scouts, Activity Days, and church. These also provide “socialization” opportunities. Also, the kids go to the home of an elderly neighbor once a week to play board games with her and some other homeschooled kids. Also, I have an elderly friend that has “adopted” the kids and we get together frequently. The kids do just fine, and I’m not afraid to ask anyone for their take on how my kids are handling things.
But what about when they’re older? What about school dances, clubs, sports? I used to fret that my girls would miss out on going to things like prom or that my boys wouldn’t get to play football or basketball, or that the kids wouldn’t have the opportunity to be in the junior Kiwanis club or drama club or whatever because they aren’t in public school. I got over it. For one thing—I may or may not be homeschooling the kids when they get to high school. I would LOVE to, but at this point, I think I’ll give them the option of continuing with homeschool or letting them go the traditional public route for high school. For another, if my kids decide to continue to be homeschooled, there are SO MANY community and homeschool-network sponsored clubs and sports teams to choose from year round. Also, the homeschool community in Boise is thriving and many homeschool organizations in the area sponsor parties and formal dances for high school aged kids. These events are organized, advertised, and funded by the students who attend, which not only gives the kids a great social outlet, they learn what all goes into planning and executing a large social event!
So, with all that, I think we’re set. Of course, I do still worry about socialization, especially when I catch the kids picking their noses or chattering on incessantly to someone at the doctor’s office—but kids will be kids. As a homeschooling mom, I sometimes feel pressure to be hyper-vigilant about how the kids present themselves to others, but I’ve also learned that kids are kids, and they’re LEARNING. They’ll go through annoying phases and occasionally exhibit undesirable behaviors and attitudes. There will be embarrassing moments, social gaffes, and misunderstandings. That’s just part of the process. I figure as long as I’m making an effort to teach them proper social behavior and giving them opportunities to practice it, they’ll be fine.