So, you've decided to homeschool your tween and don't know what you should be doing about social interaction? Maybe you're not new to homeschooling, but just curious about some methods other than your own. As a mom and homeschool teacher to kids in a wide age range, I've experimented with several different techniques. Learning how to keep homeschooled tweens social is not as difficult as it may seem. Learn how to keep homeschooled tweens social from a long-time homeschooling mom of 6.
The world is your classroom. Don't just teach at home. This is my number one rule as a homeschool teacher. Keeping my kids in public often has been the best method of keeping them social, hands-down. The kids and I learn in many different places. Parks, museums, the grocery store, the library, the post office, and so many more places in your city can all be your classroom. This enhances social skills, as well as helps provide a very diverse and well-rounded learning experience. Many homeschoolers follow this mantra. For this reason and others, some homeschooled tweens may actually have a more balanced daily social life than those in traditional schools.
Attend community events and other social gatherings. Most communities will have something going on just about every day. Also, remember that family gatherings provide great social experiences as well. Attend as many family and friend hosted gatherings as possible. If no one is hosting events, throw your own and invite as many people as you can handle. Look in newspapers, school listings, community bulletins and websites, and more to keep up with what's going o in your area. Attend as many of these gatherings as you can. Like the 'world is your classroom' mantra, this is much the same, as far as providing a well-rounded social atmosphere for your homeschooled tween.
Involve your homeschooled tween in sports. Athletics can be a great way for your tween to meet some new peers who have similar interests. Organizations like the Boys and Girls clubs and YMCA offer sports programs for tweens who are both homeschooled and in traditional schools. Your tween may be able to join sports teams from schools in the area, depending on your state's regulations and those of the school district. There are also leagues just for homeschoolers, church leagues, and other local leagues that anyone can join. Allow your tween to choose the sport that interests them the most.
Join a homeschool group. Most areas have groups and organizations created just for homeschoolers. Some involve sharing teaching duties, others may involve field trips and gatherings, and some may be a combination of both. Do your research and be sure to look for one that not only fits your preferred option, but also fits your educational style. Many homeschooled groups are geared toward a specific method or religion. For instance, you may find an unschooling group, a Christian Montessori group, an eclectic group, and more. It's important to know what a group is about before you join to avoid disagreements or heartbreak later down the road.
Invite your tween's friends over regularly. Just like any other tween, homeschooled tweens want to hang out with friends and relatives of their age group. Invite friends over whenever possible to help keep your homeschooled tween socially active. Slumber parties, friend fun days, and cookouts are also a good idea (when you can handle it) because this creates a larger social setting.
Keeping homeschooled tweens social is really about finding a variety of social and public activities to keep your tween busy with. Because homeschool is so versatile, it's actually quite simple to keep homeschooled tweens social. With some styles of homeschooling, it may just come naturally.
Some may assume that because parents homeschool, their children will not be social. However, this is generally far from the case. Being social is generally a part of a homeschooled child's daily routine by default. However, there are many ways to increase and enhance these skills on a regular basis. I'm a veteran homeschool mom who has been dedicated to enhancing social skills in my kids for years. Many of these methods will come easy because they are simply an extension of your child's daily learning and activities.
Take elective courses, such as art and music at a separate location from your home. You can even do this in a group of homeschooled kids or a co-op. This way the core subjects will still be taught by you and your children will get a little extra knowledge in something they love. Some community centers and private organizations offer these classes for free or at a low-cost.
Offer arts & crafts time at your house. If you cannot find a resource, consider becoming one. Chances are, other families have been looking for something similar. Try scheduling craft activities a few times per week for children the same ages as yours. If you don't know many people in the neighborhood, try posting about the events at the local library, schools, or anywhere else you are allowed.
Attend story time and other activities at your local library. Depending on the ages of your children and what's on the schedule, your local library could have a great deal to offer. Some libraries offer special classes on a variety of subjects. At the very least, there will be storytimes to take advantage of.
Take field trips often. Visiting parks, museums, zoos, and other educational venues can also help enhance social skills. Because these trips will naturally be a part of the homeschool curriculum, this one is simple to implement. Don’t just visit the places. Talk to the tour guides and other visitors. Take the extra informational courses, workshops, and special classes. This gets the kids interacting with people of all ages, which is vital to social development. When visiting the park, go during times many other children will also be there. Let the kids make friends and schedule play dates.
Be sure that your child also has many opportunities to play with friends, attend birthday parties, attend family gatherings, and other social activities. The next time you go to the grocery store, let your child do the shopping and have the child ask the store associates for help when an item cannot be found. Also ask the child to pay. Maybe your child is a baker. Have a bake sale and sell baked goods and lemonade. Plan a neighborhood block party once per month. You and the kids can volunteer to help out at a local church, soup kitchen, or other social organizations. This can help with not only enhancing social skills, but in teaching humility and caring.
Homeschooling offers so many more ways to be social than other schooling methods because of its flexibility. Just be creative and go with the flow. In the end, your child will grow immensely. When I first started homeschooling my children, I was worried about social skills. But I soon realized that my kids had more opportunities to enhance social skills than they ever did before.
The Social Scene For Homeschooled Teens
I have been asking readers their concerns about homeschool. Sometimes parents worry that teens educated in the home may miss out on prom and other activities. Layla Lair was wondering if I had any suggestions on things homeschooled teens could do to stay social and continue to develop relationships.
Like teens in a traditional school setting, homeschooled teens also can participate in team sports. Sports are great for social skills. Teens not only learn how to work with others, but they may also find lasting friendships. Many areas have teams for homeschooled teens. However, they also are often allowed to play on local high school teams or other co-ed teams that are open to all teens, regardless of schooling method. This actually gives a homeschooled teen more choices in some instances.
Volunteer work is not only a very noble and useful act, but it can also add to the social life of a teen. Depending on the type of volunteer work, teens may interact with people that are a wide range of ages, including their own. This gives valuable work and even friendship experiences. Plus teens will come away from something like this knowing they've made a difference in someone else's life. Homeschooled teens may have more options to choose from when it comes to volunteer work because their school schedule could be more flexible.
Afterschool Clubs & Organizations
Afterschool clubs and organizations are not restricted to teens in traditional school. Homeschooled teens can attend these social gatherings and activities as well. Organizations that provide great social, physical, and educational activities, such as the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club, are open to everyone.
Just like a teen in traditional school may get an afterschool job to earn college funds or simply to learn responsibility, so can a homeschooled teen. This not only provides valuable work ethics and experience, but it also can be a great social environment. In many job settings, teens will come across a variety of people every day.
Community College Classes
Because homeschooled teens have a flexible schedule, this leaves many open to taking extra courses at the community college. This is excellent for earning college credits, but homeschooled teens can also use this as an extra social opportunity.
Homeschooling allows for more flexibility as far as where school takes place. For many homeschool families, school is not always about the books. Of course, it has to be for some things, but homeschooled teens have the opportunity to learn things through doing them versus only reading about them in a book. For instance, when learning about certain things in natural science, a homeschooled teen could study the natural environment.
When learning about other things, the teen may go to a museum tour, take an extra course outside the home, or the parent may hire an expert to give a lecture. Children in traditional school do this with some things as well, but a homeschooled teen has more freedom and opportunity to do this with many more lessons. In doing many of these things, there will be social interaction.
Church Clubs & Activities
If the homeschooled teen happens to be one of certain faiths, he or she may belong to a church. Many will have classes, activities, clubs, and events that the teen can get involved in. Some of these might include choir, praise dancing, drama, Sunday school, or even volunteering. By joining church activities and clubs, the teen can add another opportunity for social interaction with peers.
Prom and Other Teen Activities
Many worry that their teen will not have a prom or be able to attend school games or other events if they are homeschooled. This does not have to be a reality. Not only do many homeschool organizations and groups hold events like these for homeschooled teens, but they may also get invited to the events at the local high schools. A homeschooled teen may have friends that attend the local high school and most will allow students to bring along someone from another school. This includes homeschooled kids.
Homeschool Group Activities
Some families who homeschool choose to join homeschool groups. These are groups of people who also homeschool their children. They meet a certain number of times each week or month for social activities, field trips, events, and more.
Homeschool co-ops are when parents of homeschooled children hold various classes for the children at scheduled times. One parent is generally assigned to each subject and the group agrees to meet at a specified time a certain number of times per week or month. Some homeschool co-ops are meant as a supplement to what the children are learning at home, as well as a way for the children to socially interact with each other. Yet others are used much in the same way as traditional school.
Family as Friends
Some teens may have one or more siblings or relatives they spend time with frequently. While these friends are part of the family, they still can be considered and do have an important role in social interaction. Whether a friend or group of friends comes from inside or outside the family, interacting with them adds to the overall social skills of a teen. The same is true for the parent-child relationship. Varied relationships and opportunities put together create a great social network for a teen.
Ordinary Teen Activities
A homeschool teen is still a teen, just like a public school kid is a teen and a private school kid is a teen. They are all individuals, hopefully not defined only by which type of school they attend. On that same note, teens do not have to attend the same school or even the same type of school to maintain a friendship. Ordinary teen social activities, such as hanging out with friends, going to the mall, going to movies, and more are all activities you might see a teenager doing.
A homeschooled teen is no different in this regard. If they had friends before starting homeschool, those friends don't automatically disappear. If the teen has been homeschooled all his or her life, there are (and likely already were) plenty of opportunities to make friends, such as at any of the activities listed above, interacting with neighbors, and much more.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
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Personal Experience and Research on Homeschooling and Socialization
As the concept of homeschooling continues to ease back into the mainstream, where it began, more and more questions and myths seem to follow. One myth that is very often assumed of homeschooled kids is that they do not have proper social skills or don't interact with others. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me about my children or homeschool in general in relation to socialization, I'd likely be rich. Unfortunately for my wallet, that isn't the case.
While at first thought, considering the fact that school is often assumed to be done only inside the home, it seems that a social environment may be unavailable. However, a homeschooled child may actually have more opportunity than others to gain positive social skills and interact with people. One reason for this is that because of the flexibility in class scheduling, as well as the unique opportunity to learn whenever or wherever desired, homeschoolers are often around a variety of people during the day.
In fact, in a study published by the NHERI (National Home Education Research Institute), homeschool students had scores in social skills that were higher than those of kids in public schools. As a homeschool parent, this study doesn't surprise me at all, as I observed positive social results from homeschool in my children who previously attended public school, as well as those who homeschooled exclusively at first.
One way children who attend a homeschool can interact is through activities. THis may include dance classes, religious activities (if applicable), Girl Scouts, 4H, sports, extra classes, YMCA, rec center memberships, and much more. Any activity available to a public or private school student is also available to a home school student.
However, homeschooled students actually have an advantage in this area because they can join activities that public schooled children also have available, as well as join homeschool-specific activities. These activities can be utilized at any time of the day because of the versatility of rearranging the academic schedule around them.
Some homeschooled kids also take academic and elective classes outside of the home. This gives them the chance to be around their peers and if the classes are taken in addition to classes they learn at home, it also gives them an academic boost.
Many homeschool families also plan a good amount of field trips. When homeschooling, there is the versatility of being able to plan a field trip for every unit of study, if desired. Field trips will generally involve a diverse public scene, which is great for socialization, as this is how the real world is.
A good number of homeschooling families opt for yearly passes or membership to museums, zoos, and other educational places. In some states, like Texas, home schools who are members of a homeschool group, association, or organization can get a teacher or educator discount at many of the field trip locations.
Speaking of home school groups, that's another way homeschooled children can interact with peers. These groups, associations, and organizations often plan parties, book sales, curriculum exchanges, field trips, play dates, fairs, and other social events where the children will interact with each other. According to the HSLDA, the average homeschooled child is involved in about 5.2 social activities. 98% are involved in at least 2 activities.
Many homeschooling families also get active in library events, such as story time, craft classes, and educational classes. A day time trip to the grocery store where a homeschooled child uses math to purchase groceries and communicates with the cashier can be a mini social event as well.
There are many events like these in a homeschooler's life, as many of them believe in using every opportunity possible to learn lessons and to communicate with others. Because of this, a child in home school is likely to possess excellent teamwork skills, which are very necessary in college and in the workforce.
As you can see, homeschooled children will be exposed to many social environments throughout their homeschooling experience. Because of the flexibility in homeschooling and the availability of so many activities and opportunities, homeschooled children will be around a variety of age groups, races, and other socioeconomic backgrounds, possibly more so than children in a traditional school setting.
Even the ones who do the majority of their schooling in the home are likely still involved in activities, as well as playing and interacting with friends and relatives, which still gives them social experience.
From all of the information above, as well as personal experience and study, I would have to conclude that homeschooled children actually have a social advantage over those in public or private school, not a disadvantage, as is often mistakenly assumed.
For those interested in homeschooling or just interested in finding out more information and research on homeschooling, I recommend that you visit the following links, do your own research, as well as talk to other homeschoolers to see what they’re doing.
Recommended Research and Info Sources:
NHERI (National Home Education Research Institute)
NHELD (National Home Education Legal Defense)
HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association)
HSLDA 1997 Study on Social Skills in Homeschooled Kids
NHERI Volume 17 Study on Homeschooled Childrens’ Social Skills
I am also available for many homeschooling questions at Ask Lyn.
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**Questions? Have something to say or add? This author welcomes feedback and discussion in the comments section below.
***I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
A New Look at Socialization Skills Within a Homeschool
For so many years, choosing to educate children from home was looked at as stripping away their social interaction. However, many homeschooling families will argue with that fact, and for good reason.
How Can Homeschooled Children Make & Find Friends?
Some people might assume that because children homeschool, they will not have any friends. This is simply not true. Friends can be made from your neighborhood, an extra class, at the park, at the museum, within your own extended family, and various other avenues. A public school is not the only place one can acquire a friend.
Homeschooled children are allowed to call and play with their friends, just as a publicly or privately schooled child would. It is no different. There are birthday parties, slumber parties, shopping trips, and more - all the activities traditionally schooled friends do as well.
How is it Possible to Get Social Interaction During Homeschool?
In many homeschooling families, extra steps are taken to be sure that socialization is included, which means there is researching to be done on the parent's part for the methods and sometimes extra classes that will provide this.
This research often leads to finding solutions that focus on positive interaction with others because any good method will focus on the positive, rather than the negative. Social interaction is also given special attention, thus making socialization greatly important to a homeschooling family.
Positive Social Skills VS Negative Socialization
This special attention mentioned above often isn't given in public or private school because it is sometimes assumed that since the children are with other children all day, they are socializing well. However, this assumption shouldn't always be made. All socialization isn't positive. It can be negative as well. This is a fact looked over by many.
While some teachers do provide some great character development and social instruction in public school, which they are to be commended for, the children are often greatly influenced by each other. This comes naturally, as they desire to fit in. Also, it is simply just fun for them to relate with each other, which is certainly okay when that relating isn't negative.
During recess, the children are within sight of the teachers, but not always within earshot or in immediate reach, which can lead to some of them using inappropriate language or behaviors. The others either tell them they don't like those words or actions or they repeat them.
Now all the children that were in that general area have heard that language or seen that behavior and some will want to use it -- and they will. This, in turn, spreads the negative action to even more kids, cycling and creating a viral pattern. Pretty soon it will get to most of the children who are in the same age range.
Another reason that viral cycle happens is that once a certain number of kids are doing something, others begin to view it as okay. It becomes more accepted because they are used to seeing it and it doesn't even cross some of their minds that it might be wrong.
Perhaps if children were taught from the beginning how to interact positively, rather than negatively, some of these problems wouldn't exist later in life, which brings me back to homeschooling.
Extra Effort Can Make a Difference in the Quality of Social Skills
The main difference I’ve seen with homeschool socialization and public school socialization is the fact that in homeschool, much more effort is put into developing social skills, because of the fact that children may not be with other children all day (unless they have siblings). The fact that parents know other children aren't present -- and the effort put in to make up for that -- often makes for a child who is more likely to interact with most people in a positive way.
One more reason that positive social interaction is often more readily learned in a homeschool setting is because homeschooled children will be exposed to people of all ages throughout the day. This makes for a much more diverse learning experience.
Importance of Mixed-Age Grouping for Social Skills
Even better, when there is more than one child in the family, working together is often a huge part of the schooling process, even in siblings that range in age. Some homeschooling families even teach from a mixed-age perspective, leading to a great deal of cooperation with each other.
Group cooperation is an important skill needed throughout life. Many colleges actively seek out home schooled children because of their exceptional social and educational abilities.
Making the Right Social Choices for Your Child Specifically
In closing, I will say that not all public school interaction is negative and not all homeschool interaction is positive. Ultimately, it is up to the parent to examine what situations are best for each individual child. Many children make it through public school fine, as do many in homeschool.
People should come to realize that socialization isn't about whether you choose school at home or utilize public school or other options, but about whether a positive environment is created for the child. If the social environment your child is in right now is not a positive one, it is time to consider other options.
Those options may or may not be completely switching the child's schooling style. It could be just doing it in a different way or finding creative ways to incorporate positive socialization.
Whatever method you choose, be sure it is one both you and your child will feel comfortable with.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
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