Given the rapid rise of alternative schools and the ever-growing interest in homeschooling, many parents are considering home-based education for the first time.
Some parents ask, “will my kid become socially awkward if I homeschool them?” Even with 3M+ homeschoolers in the US in 2022-2023, the stereotypes about homeschoolers die hard. And they have a point – kids tend to socialize one another. Will homeschooling or an alternative model cost your kid those social exposures?
Only if you really make an effort to isolate them.
Any social interaction is an opportunity to build social skills. The classroom doesn’t have a monopoly. And there are sports leagues, interest groups, study groups, discussion groups, and many other ways to expose your kid to the community.
Besides, interacting with children from all age groups is a much more natural way to socialize. We were designed to grow up in mixed-age, whole-village environments. The same-birth-year-collectives is a modern invention.
If anything, traditional school’s rigid grouping of kids their exact age is a recipe for cliques and bullying. Mixing ages leads to teaching, mentorship, intricate play (older kids guiding younger kids), reciprocity, and, ultimately, better socialization.
Here are five easy ways to socialize your kid without traditional schools.
1. Sign them up for sports leagues
Not only do sports give kids opportunities to interact with one another, but they also model good behavior for the rest of their lives.
Studies show that people who played sports as kids tend to be more successful. They impart benefits that can never be taught in a classroom:
Aiming at a common goal
When to compete
When to cooperate
For example, a kid who is only interested in winning (at the expense of other participants) will not be invited to play more games. That makes them unlikely to win more games in the future. Perhaps a better definition of a winner is someone who never lets losing make them bitter.
To help kids socialize and learn social interactions, let them play in sports leagues.
2. Join communities of similar interests
The rise of social media has parents concerned for their kids, but it also presents opportunities like never before.
Kids naturally admire people who achieve things they too want to attain. Notice who your kid admires. Look for communities built around that person or pursuit. Allow your kid to join interest groups and have discussions with other people in that community.
These groups can take many forms: a Harry Potter book club, a robotics-building collective, a YouTubers club, a game design Discord, a writer’s group, an online message board for aspiring programmers, a group of friends who get together and work on cars – to name just a few.
All of these provide much deeper and richer socialization than just being crammed into a classroom with a random assortment of kids their own age.
3. Let them share their interests online
When kids are passionate about something, they have an infectious energy. School often crushes this – but home-educated kids have an advantage, because their freedom allows that energy to be harnessed.
Encourage your kids to share their interests on whatever platform best serves them. Allow them to experiment with storytelling around the thing that lights them up. As is age-appropriate, let them start a Twitter account, a blog, a YouTube channel filled with vlogs about their topic of interest. Notice the feedback it attracts.
Nothing helps build a tribe of like-minded people more than honestly sharing what interests you.
Traditional schooling forces kids to conform to what the most popular kids think, and to hide or suppress what really matters to them in order to fit in. Homeschooled kids have the freedom to let their passions run wild.
A kid leading with their interest can build a community on their own terms in which they are already popular. It's a proactive way of interacting with the world which makes them feel empowered, knowledgeable, and included.
4. Help their neighbors
Join community groups or neighborhood apps and offer to help people.
Maybe your kid can mow the lawn of the elderly woman down the street, walk the dog for someone going out of town, or babysit for the new parents looking for a night out.
We used to live in tribes where helping one another was a given. These days, we can seal ourselves off in our homes, watch TV, and never interact with the outside world. Kids going to traditional schools usually come home and do exactly this. Don't let this happen to your kid.
Show them how good it feels to be out doing real-life things for other people–and not just indulging in instant gratification the moment they’re done with homework.
Less homework, more real-life.
Many organizations are actively looking for volunteers. You probably already know of a few. Little hands can be a big help for a religious group, community foodbank, or trash pickup project. The options are endless, so get them involved in something.
Get them volunteering wherever they’re interested: retirement communities, local libraries, animal shelters, clothing and food drives, or at a for-profit company where they’re interested in shadowing and learning more.
Homeschooling or alternative school will only make your child socially awkward if you take active steps to isolate them from the world. And many of the ways that traditional schools “socialize” do not make for happier or healthier kids and communities.
These five ideas are good places to start, but if you’re looking for other options, here are our 57 favorite things to do with kids – at home, online, and out on the town.
There are lots of options.
With your support and guidance, your homeschooled kid could be socialized better than traditional schoolers ever could be.
Thanks for reading,
Taylor + rebelEducator team
What we’re looking at:
Quotes we’re pondering:
“Kids don't need more stimulants, they need more stimulating learning experiences.” — Dan Zakon
The more you fail, the more likely you are to succeed." — Alberto Giacometti
“The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake. You can’t learn anything from being perfect.” — Adam Osbourne
Any perceived socialization disadvantages to homeschooling are greatly balanced by the real disadvantages of institutional schooling. My husband and I were both gifted kids who felt imprisoned by school - and we both became truants! LOL. Regarding socialization - the hyper-social sports, dating, gossiping school life irritated and overwhelmed me. Especially male attention and clique-mentality. The negative social aspects of institutional school life would be a good article.
This is all good advice. But, it's good advice for any child whether homeschooled or not. As a teacher who has received homeschooled students in my classroom after 8 plus years of homeschooling, I can assure you the transition is very difficult and these students lack the socialization skills despite the best efforts of the parents.