It’s often thought that children who are homeschooled are robbed of a plethora of opportunities—especially when it comes to developing essential social skills and forming meaningful, interpersonal relationships with peers.
However, it’s important for society to know that not all children are delayed in certain milestones. It depends on the person’s genes, life experiences, and environment.
Though we don’t know for sure if homeschooling hurts or helps a child’s social development, we do know that children who are homeschooled can still socialize with others and have friends.
So while YES, there may be children who are homeschooled who also fall into society’s definition of “socially awkward,” there are also plenty of children enrolled in the standard education system that displays the same, or similar, social/emotional behaviors.
It is hard to say that homeschoolers have increased rates of “social awkwardness” because the two are not mutually inclusive.
We must also pay attention to how we utilize and interpret the term “socially awkward”.
Many children may, in actuality, be learning how to navigate complex learning disabilities, mental health conditions, developmental disorders, or genetic disorders. As a result, they may face challenges that are outside their control. But others might say they are “socially awkward” because of this.
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How Does Homeschooling Affect Socialization?
Studies show that homeschooling does not show a direct correlation with socialization. In fact, homeschoolers may be more socially competent than their public school peers.
Research suggests that homeschoolers are no less social than their public-schooled peers, they simply have a different approach to socializing. Since they are not bound by the schedules of the school system, they have more opportunities to engage in social activities outside of school.
Studies also show that socialization can come from many outlets. Sports, church organizations, going to the park, and real-world experiences are all examples of these outlets.
According to studies from the Human Flourishing Project from the University Of Harvard, homeschooled children often grow up to be more family-oriented, more empathetic, and better at self-motivation than their counterparts who attend public or private schools.
Homeschool vs Public School Social Skills
According to research, children who were homeschooled had significantly better social skills than public school children. In a separate study, the researchers examined how gender and age affect youngsters’ emotional socialization. Differences were most noticeable for females and older children.
The majority of this research indicates that being homeschooled has no negative effect on children’s social skills development, as measured in these studies. In fact, some studies indicate that homeschooled kids achieve higher levels of socialization than their peers who go to school.
Homeschooled students typically outshine their public school counterparts by 15% to 30%. The reasons for this dramatic difference are many, with some research suggesting that these children learn at a more accelerated pace than the typical academy student.
- Less likely to feel pressured or ridiculed by their peers
- Kids have the opportunity to learn at their pace.
- Less risk of experiencing bullying.
- The opportunity to enroll in other activities involving other homeschooled kids of various skill levels and ages.
- Real-life skill-building is stronger in home-based learning.
- The ability to get personalized attention when learning can lead to higher confidence.
- Education in a broader range of skills like finances, nutrition, personal growth, meditation…
- A wider range of activities and opportunities to make friends.
- Easier to meet and connect with other students who share interests and passions.
- Easier to make friends because there are more people their age to interact with.
- Connections made at school can lead to connections later on in life (i.e., college).
- Easier to participate in school programs like sports.
10 Simple Ways To Improve Your Child’s Social Interactions While Homeschooling
School is not the only way kids can learn to socialize. In fact, homeschooling can provide your child with ample opportunities to socialize in a variety of settings.
Here are 10 simple things you can do to help improve your child’s social interactions:
- Join the National Home School Association – The NHSA is a great way to meet other homeschoolers and connect with the people who have been through what you’re going through. You can join social networks, take part in talent showcases sponsored by national-level groups, or even start up your own local chapter!
- Volunteer at Local Organizations – Volunteering is a great way for your whole family to build connections. You could have them volunteer at the local community center or an adult living facility. Look into petting zoos where kids can interact with animals outside their cages! Volunteering is also a great way to teach kids important emotional skills like gratitude and giving back while helping those who might not be as fortunate as they are.
- Attend Homeschooling Conventions – There are tons of homeschooling conventions that are either regional or national in scope. Check with your local homeschool group about which ones would be best for you to attend, as many conventions have a variety of activities that cater to all types of learners.
- Attend Kids Events Like Outdoor Movies – There are tons of outdoor movie screenings, festivals, and other events happening during the summer months. Find out what’s going on in your area and take your kids! It’s a great way for them to get out and do something fun while meeting other kids.
- Get Involved in Homeschool Athletics – If your child likes sports, getting involved in homeschool athletics can be a great way for them to socialize. Most states have homeschooled athletic organizations that your child can become a part of. These organizations include other homeschooled kids just like your child, so it’s easy for them to find friends.
- Play Dates and Outdoor Activities – Kids love to play, and it’s a great way for them to communicate with one another. Why not take your kids to the park for some supervised play time? They can have fun on the playground or in the sandbox while you relax and let them socialize. It can be as simple as a sleepover with some of your child’s closest friends.
- Attend Area Festivals – Are there any festivals happening in your area? Your kids are sure to have a great time at these events! They can pet exotic animals, play games, and enjoy some delicious food. It’s a great way for them to get out and explore their community. Plus, they’ll make some new friends along the way!
- Attend a Local Church Event – If your family is religious, attending church events can be a great way for your kids to socialize. Most churches offer a variety of events throughout the year that are open to kids of all ages. These events can range from Bible studies to family picnics. Take advantage of these events and let your kids socialize while they learn more about their faith.
- Start a Neighborhood Club – If you have a bit of extra space in your yard, consider starting a neighborhood club. This can be as simple as forming a group with some other parents in your neighborhood and getting together once a week for some fun activities. Your kids will love getting to know their neighbors while they play tag, have a water gun fight, or just play together with some toys.
- Take Them to the Library – A library is a great place for kids to socialize! Not only can they read books, but they can also participate in various activities like storytime or crafts. They’ll be sure to meet other kids that share their interests, and it’s a great way for them to build strength in their reading abilities.
There are endless opportunities for kids to socialize that do not involve school. The key is to get involved and find some activities that interest your child. This will keep them out of trouble and prevent boredom while nurturing their emotional and social skills.
What Are Signs Of Social Awkwardness?
The signs of social awkwardness in children are often hard to spot unless you’re close to your child. Social awkwardness in children is one of those things that typically come out when they are in social situations or out with friends. Here are some signs of social awkwardness that you should be aware of:
– Low self-esteem
– Problems making eye contact
– Excessive worrying
– Trouble relating to other kids
– Tendency to isolate themselves
If you see any of these signs in your child, it’s important to get them help. There are many options that can help social awkwardness, so don’t wait to seek help. Chances are, your child is already feeling bad about themselves and would benefit greatly from some kind of social intervention.
It can be as simple as interacting more with other kids or working on improving their self-confidence. Generally, the earlier you address the problem, the easier it is to correct. Over time, social awkwardness can lead to other issues like depression and anxiety if left alone.
Do People Think Homeschoolers Are Weird?
People are naturally curious about homeschoolers, so they may ask questions. However, most people are also respectful of homeschooling families and don’t ask questions out of line.
World changes like COVID-19 have made homeschooling even more popular and socially accepted. The stigma surrounding homeschooling is gradually fading. So, no, people mostly don’t think homeschoolers are odd. In fact, more and more people are interested in homeschooling their children for a variety of reasons.
Some people look at homeschoolers with a reserved curiosity. But the truth is that they’re just as normal and grounded in their beliefs as any other family. Home-based education provides parents more time for themselves. It also gives kids an opportunity to interact with people outside of school regularly, which can help to form lasting friendships skills later on down life’s road!
So, if you’re considering homeschooling your child or know someone who is, don’t be discouraged by people’s misconceptions. The benefits of homeschooling are vast and becoming more widely accepted. Do your research, talk to other homeschooling families, and make the decision that’s best for your family.
Frankly, it’s foolish to believe that homeschooling results in social ineptness when there are countless children who thrive academically AND socially throughout their home school education and who go on to be happy, well-adjusted, successful adults.
And hey, there’s nothing to be ashamed about if you notice your child just doesn’t seem to “fit in” with the crowd—homeschooled or not.
As long as they are happy, thriving, maybe feeling out a new niche or two here and there, you’re probably raising more of a leader than you even realize.
A Strategy for Social Success
Unquestionably, providing children with ample social experiences is critical for their overall development; but contrary to popular belief, the conventional school setting is not always the best location for sufficient social-skill building.
Due to time restraints, a structured classroom curriculum, and limited opportunities for free play and creative expression, schools can provide only a capped amount of social interaction with peers and professional staff.
There are perks to the continued social exposure and wide range of experiences found in the school setting. However, homeschoolers can achieve just as much social exposure (if not more) than their public school counterparts if made a priority by parents and caretakers.
According to The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), “When home educators socialize their children with different children in a variety of contexts, they can help ensure that their children will have the skills they need to succeed as adults.”
If you are concerned about how your child’s social development will be affected, here are some great ways to introduce a myriad of social experiences and social-skill building activities at home and on the go.
- Model healthy and safe social interactions for your child (bring them along to the grocery store, post-office, coffee shop, and dog park)
- Increase communication and problem-solving activities among siblings
- Try role-playing various social situations (stop and ask questions or switch roles)
- Begin an extracurricular activity (gymnastics, swimming, basketball, book club)
- Network with families who homeschool, but also with families who don’t
- Schedule outings for your child with trusted family members (restaurants, museums, and outdoor parks all make for great social experiences).
- Find a pen-pal
- Practice public speaking by giving mini-reports to family members (can be initiated in-person, on the phone, or through supervised virtual meetings via Zoom or FaceTime)
- Provide helpful resources for your child to learn about social skills further (utilize books, educational shows or movies, and positive reinforcement boards)
Follow Your Instincts and Trust the Process
If you’re searching for a one-size-fits-all answer to whether you should homeschool your child, unfortunately, I can’t provide that assurance. And, I’m not sure anyone truly can.
The likelihood for a successful home school experience is dependent on so many factors, but mainly a child’s individual needs: physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially; and ultimately, how well these needs are met in the home environment.
Still, rest assured that if you are leaning towards homeschooling your child, try not to lose sleep over them becoming “socially awkward” in the process. Contrary to the content your favorite mommy blogger just posted, or the assumptions you overheard from members of PTA at your local Starbucks, the two do not go hand in hand.
Furthermore, there are many strategies you can implement to ensure your child has countless opportunities to flex their social muscle!
It’s not always about the type of education received that sets up a child for success, but more so how they see the potential and possibilities alive around them.
There’s plenty you can do at home and on the go for your child to have a plethora of social experiences and learn how to be socially adept in various situations. As I mentioned before, this needs to happen throughout their development: physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially.
It’s also important for parents/caretakers to model healthy interactions with others, so children can see what appropriate behavior looks like. You know your child best; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise when making such a significant decision.