As a homeschool parent, or a parent considering home learning, you’ve almost certainly heard or seen someone argue that homeschool kids are ‘weird’ and have no social skills. Needless to say, that is an alarming idea. Most parents homeschool because they want to have a more direct hand in their children’s education, to provide them with higher quality learning and a better opportunity to have their needs met. The notion of antisocial kids is the furthest thing from that goal. Is it a real problem? Should you be worried, and more importantly, how do you prevent it? Fortunately, social skills are developed through healthy interactions with other people. The notion that you could only possibly get that in a traditional classroom is frankly ridiculous. It’s an unrealistic model. Healthy interpersonal communication doesn’t hinge on thirty same-age people following the directions of one person three to ten times their age.
Does homeschooling negatively affect social skills? Homeschooling does not negatively affect social skills. You can create a problem if you isolate children and don’t allow them to have any social connections. Most homeschool families strive to prevent that sort of problem through groups, outside friends, and loving supportive interactions. By fostering healthy social activities, you build a normal (or better) behavior model. for life.
Socializing Homeschoolers During a Pandemic
One of the most challenging problems of our lifetime is going on, and it has led more families than ever before to turn to homeschool. It’s hard to find constructive opportunities to socialize when you want to keep kids safe and practice sensible social distancing. Luckily, humans are a crafty and creative species with vast problem-solving skills, and for every new challenge, we rise to the occasion and make solutions.
There’s no reason that social skills like conversation, listening, sharing, and teamwork have to be worked on in person. Staying away from dangers isn’t enough to prevent a determined and dedicated parent or guardian from finding people for their home learners to talk to. You can hire a tutor online or sign your kids up for live online language classes. They’ll get new skills, an outside perspective, and another person to practice social development with all in one. Plus, parents get a much-needed break.
The result of this global risk has ultimately benefitted homeschool families in unexpected ways. Through Zoom calls to grandparents, online group activities, internet playdates, and other virtual options, there are more ways than ever to talk to friends and family. Of course, you can always pick up an old fashioned landline and make a call as well.
For those who don’t have anyone to ring up, there are still many other homeschool families to ‘meet’ if you know where to look. Websites like Meetup and a2zhomeschooling.com help connect homeschool groups by region or state. Older kids will often enjoy playing online MMO games as a way to share an interest, do a fun activity, and build a group of friends all in one place.
Inevitably the Covid situation will end in time. At the same time, no one can predict when that will happen. Still, the fact remains that there will be future options for social skill building. When that happens, here are a few great ideas for how to get your kids out of their shells and integrating those skills with more people again.
Group activities like clubs and interest-based extracurricular classes are always a nice place to start. From scouts and 4H to taking dance at the local community center, these types of more intimate group settings offer chances to listen, talk, and build friendships.
Socializing At Home
Although we don’t always think of it, the home is also a great place for socializing. From learning about manners and public speaking to practicing how to ask people in the community questions, there are lots of ways to use conversation and play around the house. For example, when you play grocery store or restaurant with a younger child, they learn about interacting with cashiers and waiters.
Older children don’t typically need these basic lessons. However, you can always engage them in a spirited yet polite debate. Having older homeschool kids do presentations about various topics they’ve studied helps improve their confidence and organizes thoughts into a useful form of communication. Doing these things will help them socialize in a college or work environment.
Storytime is another way to improve early reading and speaking skills. Have younger children read to you. Similarly, those tweens and teens can use a family event such as celebrating a holiday at home to talk about the traditions behind it but not only as a passive presentation. Ask them questions.
Another way to work on those important bonds and interpersonal communication is through phone calls and letter writing. Ask friends and family, such as similarly aged cousins, to call you once every week or two and have them talk to the kids. Finding penpals either for paper writing or online is easy. Use websites like kids.com or Penpals Now to help your children safely make new distance communicating friends. These people will give them an outside perspective they couldn’t get in any other way.
Considering Your Child’s Personality
Everyone needs human contact, but we don’t all socialize the same way. When planning ways for your child to socialize during a pandemic safely, consider their personality. A quiet, book-loving kid may not have as much interest in putting themselves out there to meet new people. This doesn’t mean they lack social skills, but rather that they aren’t as socially motivated, which is not a problem.
For the wild children who need to be the center of everything, talking to everyone, and feeling like the star of their own reality TV show, the lack of outside social activities can weigh on them more heavily. So why not make them the actual star of their own show. Start a Youtube channel, or let older kids install TikTok on their phones.
A podcast is also a great way to work on social presentation and clear thought communication. Have your kids write a script for what they want to talk about. Please encourage them to make daily posts and share something they are passionate about. However, it would be best if you took the time to read their comments section to ensure they aren’t getting bullied. It’s vital to monitor virtual interactions.
If you’re feeling especially motivated, or possess the necessary license already, you can also look into ham radio. Unlike CB, the content tends to be a bit less risque. However, it’s important to understand that you (and the kids) cannot transmit until you get a license. This can be a fun family activity.
Alternatively, you can look into walkie talkies and use these as a new way to communicate. If the children have friends in the neighborhood, consider giving them a walkie as well. It’s an inexpensive and safe way to stay in contact without screens.
When To Worry About Social Skills
A lack of communication skills is a worrisome issue. There are some things to keep an eye out for in homeschooled children, especially during this pandemic. As a concerned parent or guardian, it’s important to keep an eye on your kids’ mental health and seek help if they aren’t behaving or adjusting normally.
Social distancing has had an impact on our children. It’s critical to understand that the lack of previously normal activities affects everyone, and it does raise stress levels. This can lead to depression and other similar mental health concerns.
Acting out is the most obvious sign, but some people choose to isolate and become overly introverted instead. Children who aren’t interested in activities the way they used to be might be distressed. While some changes in what fascinates them are certainly normal, a lazy, lax, and disinterested attitude can be a red flag for parents. That said, teenagers react differently, and some petulance and distancing are par for the course during puberty.
If you are worried about your children’s behavior, please don’t hesitate to discuss it with a professional. Everyone needs a counselor sometimes, and there are plenty of virtual consultations available. Utilizing an online therapist or even discussing techniques for handling these feelings and reactions with other homeschool parents can make a huge difference.
When your kids get depressed, the most important thing is to build a strong supportive network and help them as soon and often as possible. Remember that everyone acts and reacts in their own way and be patient with your home learners.
It is normal to worry about properly socializing homeschool kids. Especially given the current issues going on and need to distance ourselves socially, it’s a reasonable concern. However, what doesn’t make sense is the assumption that the only way to learn healthy social interaction comes from a traditional school desk.
Homeschool children tend to grow into thoughtful, community-minded adults who form deep friendship bonds with other people. Likewise, they are less concerned about age restrictions on their social circle and integrate well with a wide variety of people. Just as there is no single way to homeschool, there isn’t one ideal approach to learning social behaviors.
With love and forethought, you and your homeschoolers will find ways to get plenty of social interaction, and they will turn out just fine. Instead of worrying about rumors that home learners are weird, focus on making sure yours has what they need to behave normally.