Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Homeschooling and Socialization

The most common complaint I have heard about homeschooling from well meaning non-homeschoolers is...what about socialization?  If your children aren't in school surrounded by 25 other little children their exact same age, how will they ever make friends and learn to be social?

I admit that sometimes this can be a problem.  But since I don't live in the middle of nowhere with only crickets and bears for company, we haven't personally encountered this yet.  We go to the grocery store every single week and see the same three checkout people.  My kids have built up a rapport with the employees and always have conversations with them.  We also visit the library weekly and see the same people over and over who my kids like to chat with.  My kids go to Sunday School and play on soccer teams.  Right now my kids are in the middle of their annual swim lessons where they've had the same teachers for the past three years--they beg to do swimming with Mr. Marty and Ms. Nyla.  They love their swim teachers.

Socialization is not a problem in our house.  My kids will socialize with the neighbor, the girl that runs past our house every single day that we affectionately have named Runner Girl for lack of knowing her real name.  The middle-aged couple across the street with the big black dog.  They will talk to anyone and everyone.  They are very socialized.  Almost every homeschooled child I've come across has been extremely friendly and will talk to anyone--child or adult.

What I think these well intended critics should really be asking is...what about friends?  While my kids are socialized, they have a distinct lack of daily interaction with friends.  We live in a neighborhood with few children.  Things are slowly turning over as new families move in, but so far my kids haven't made any real connections with the kids around us.

Their closest friends live about five minutes away by car--across two main roads that would make biking there more than I am comfortable with just yet.  I do my best to arrange semi-regular play dates with said friends, but time slips away from me and I just forget until one day I realize that a month has gone by since their last play date.

It can be challenging to keep up meaningful friendships when your kids don't go to school every day.  When their best friend doesn't live right next door like mine did when I was a kid.  It doesn't mean it's impossible, it just takes time and effort.  I can't just kick them out the door to go play with the kids next door.  I have to call up the mom, set up a time, and then drive them there.

In the mean time, my children have formed different relationships due to this.  We are fortunate to live right down the street from my parents, my grandma, and my inlaws.  My children, rather than spending all their time with friends, spend most of their "friend time" with their grandparents.  Yesterday they went to my mom's and had a tea party.  Last night David went running with my father-in-law.  They beg me daily to go see one of the grandmas as they call them.  To see if one of their grandmas has any work for them to do.  To see if someone will play a game with them.  In the evenings to see if any of them will go on a walk with them (they all like to go on evening walks).

My children may not have age-appropriate friends in the neighborhood, and I do wish they did, but they are building very strong relationships with their grandparents--and I think that in the long run, it is probably even better.  One day when David is a surly teenager with parents who "just doesn't understand," he will have five grandparents right down the road that he can talk to instead.  People who will give him good, Godly, appropriate advice.  I have serious doubts that they would get similar advice from same-aged school friends.

Every time Hubby and I talk about moving, we always come back to--we love living by our family.  Would we give that up for the sake of living closer to other kids?  We don't have any plans to move in the near future, so I think we've made our choice.

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