Please stop worrying that your homeschool children will turn out socially awkward or ‘weird’ because they have a more personal education. If you haven’t been homeschooling long, then welcome to the wonderful world of at-home learning. There are many challenges ahead, and offering your kids opportunities to have social interaction is among them. However, there’s no reason to believe that they are somehow losing the chance at ‘normal’ social interactions. Unless you think kids need bullies or that asking an authority figure when and if you can get up to pee is a necessary skill, then you’re probably only caught up in one of the biggest myths of homeschool. Don’t worry, this is normal. No one expects a new homeschool parent to know every detail of the misconceptions about this wonderful form of education. I’ll help you get some more accurate information and offer some suggestions to help along the way.
Are homeschoolers socially awkward? Homeschoolers are no more socially awkward than any other child. Every person and family handles social interaction in their owns way, and some do mishandle it. Still, this question is based on a persistent and utterly incorrect myth about homeschool kids. There’s no evidence to support the idea that homeschool kids are notably behind in social mannerisms. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
Homeschool Socialization By The Numbers
The idea that homeschool kids are socially awkward is a problem. Firstly because it is simply not true, and secondly, the people perpetuating this stereotype are harming the right to homeschool. For example, a survey of school superintendents found that a stunning ninety-two percent thought homeschooled children weren’t getting adequate socialization (Homeschooling Parents As Educators, Mayberry, Knowles, Ray, & Marlow, 1995). That is nothing short of a shocking lack of education where it should be most developed.
Meanwhile, opinions aside, homeschoolers have shown time and again that they are entirely capable, socially-minded, polite, and capable of forming deep, lasting friendship bonds. You might call this socially ‘abnormal’ but not in a negative way.
In his study, Homeschooled Children’s Social Skills, researcher Richard G. Medlin, Ph.D., a Professor of the Department of Psychology at Stetson University, not only cites the survey of those not-so-Superintendents but also offers a vast list of studies and evidence supporting the idea that homeschool children are superbly well socialized. Most homeschool parents are quite dedicated to ensuring this is the case.
Meanwhile, the well-respected Business Insider published an article by Chris Weller titled, ‘Americans are rejecting the ‘homeschool myth’ — and experts say the misunderstood education might be better than public or charter schools.’ He cites a 2009 study showing that homeschoolers have a sixty-seven percent college graduation rate, which is substantially higher than public or Catholic school students. This clearly shows that home educated children are up to the challenges of being in an often competitive group setting.
Moreover, homeschoolers follow through and complete the task they set themselves regardless of the behavior of those around them. That certainly implies good social coping skills.
Teaching Social Behavior
Though it may take a while to get your routine down, teaching social interactions at home is the same as any other lesson. If you deprive your child of the opportunities and materials to accomplish the goal, then yes, they will likely be quite socially awkward. However, if you incorporate it into your curriculum, then it will work out just fine.
Like other subjects, some kids will take longer than others to grasp the concepts. You may have a shy child or a social butterfly. Most fall somewhere between those two extremes, but children are natural learners, and they will pick this up just fine.
You do not need to be a specialist or even an especially social person. Just as you can get a tutor for math, you can find other people to interact with your kids. Homeschool groups, pods, and co-ops are a great place to start looking. Whether they are online or in person, most cities have several to choose from, and you are not obligated to stay with any group that doesn’t suit your family.
Manners are a social device by which we make those around us feel at ease. Doing this furthers our ability to interact pleasantly, so teaching manners is a smart way to help your homeschool child develop their skills. Moreover, children and adults can take classes in manners, watch videos about them, and practice them like any other subject in school.
If your local tea house offers a class in social niceties, consider signing your kids up for that. Just like teaching them how to answer a phone or the door, learning the right fork for a table or how to be a good host(ess) is a social skill worth developing. Have them write letters, emails, and thank you cards to friends and family. Even a penpal can be a superb opportunity to increase social interaction awareness.
Participate in Social Activities
Children of all ages learn their social interactions through immersion. Whether your family goes to a church, volunteers, or spends time at the park, every interaction counts. Sign them up for one-on-one classes like learning an instrument and let them talk to the instructor. Likewise, consider sports, dance, gymnastics, or other interest-based extracurriculars.
Kids who love art can take art classes, and theater kids can go to workshops. Funny children might enjoy youth comedy or putting on sock puppet shows for younger children. Any interest or hobby has its fans. From bowling leagues to kids cooking classes or non-age specific activities like participating in your local SCA and dressing up as knights, there is a whole world of people out there doing things they love or want to try.
When the pandemic ends, seasonal events like fireworks, holiday light displays, and trunk-or-treat are a blast for younger kids. Meanwhile, older kids can appreciate it as well or even participate and help chaperone or facilitate activities. Family and community celebrations, both outside the home and within, are great chances to use those social skills.
Get out and go to museums, art shows, age-appropriate concerts, or the fair. Visit zoos, aquariums, and amusement parks if there are any nearby and play tourist in your hometown by seeing any historical attractions or unique spectacles. Many towns and cities have festivals, outdoor music events, or simply trails you can hike or bike and meet people along the way.
Encourage high schoolers to look into a part-time job or community service like volunteering to help read to the elderly. It looks spectacular on college applications and job applications and develops a deeper sense of community.
You can use any social event for fun, but it is also a teachable moment. Don’t forget to discuss stranger danger with young kids, and remind older home learners that they should pay attention and listen to their instincts. Public events are a great time to remind kids that they are not always obligated to tolerate other people’s behavior. Someone who scares or upsets them is not someone they are obligated to remain near or offer polite conversation. Good social skills include knowing when to walk away from strangers and even toxic friends.
Don’t Be Afraid to Think Outside the Box
Video games are not inherently bad. Older kids can play with peers and other fans of gaming via MMORPGs and live online events, while young kids can type to others with Neopets or similar youth-oriented games. They will learn social skills while working on their dexterity, focus, and attention to detail. Xbox live doesn’t need to be a ‘bad word’ as long as you are around to limit screen time within reasonable expectations and keep an eye on things. Best of all, you can play too and spend time bonding over shared adventures.
Ham radio operators can be very young. So long as they study and pass the test, this platform tends to be a lot less foul-mouthed than CB radios, and it opens up a whole world of people to talk with. Similar unique activities can include learning to fly drones and obtaining that license or meeting with groups who race model cars, boats, or planes. Model railroad builders and miniature lovers come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. There is a lot to learn from diverse hobbyists.
While it is a myth that homeschooled kids are uniquely awkward, every young person feels this way sometimes. If you grew up without sharing something in common with most people your age, then it might cause a moment of discomfort when you couldn’t share in that reminiscence. However, as you get older, these occasions tend to happen less. Most importantly, not having some things in common is different from being incapable of interacting healthily.
Homeschoolers can learn respect for authority figures without answering a morning roll call or raising their hand to answer a question. Your kids can play with other children without being obligated to spend six hours a day in the same room with thirty of them. Plus, schoolroom interactions can be more divisive than helpful in many ways. Avoiding those problems isn’t the same as skipping out on basic human interactive strategies that apply to your adult life.
Instead of spending energy on the concern that your home learners will fail at a social life, provide them with opportunities to have one for themselves. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how similar it is to learning anything else at home.