The topic of socialization is always a huge point of discussion for homeschool families, although I imagine it is not as big a deal now that we’ve been living through a pandemic for the past eight months! People are starting to realize that they can survive without all their usual activities and without seeing people all the time.
But the question remains: what do you do about socialization when you homeschool? How do you ensure that your children are interacting with their peers on a regular basis and developing the necessary skills that come with friendship, compromise, play, etc.?
Socializing and Homeschooling
There’s no reason to think that homeschooling means you never see other people or socialize. If you have a large family, your children obviously have plenty of playmates. If not, you most likely have your kids involved in sports, co-op classes, church groups, scouts, music programs, or one of the many other activities that are available these days. So, your children are most likely already seeing other children, and they’re making and maintaining friendships.
Sometimes people comment that if your children don’t socialize with other children of the same age, they will be missing something, that it’s not normal. While it is important to spend time with peers, it’s not really the way the world works when you get older, is it?
When you become an adult and are in a work environment, are you surrounded by people of all different ages and backgrounds, or only by your peers? When you homeschool, you’re exposing your children to people of different ages and backgrounds on a regular basis. Your children are not sitting in a classroom with people who are the exact same age; they’re running errands with you, visiting with neighbors, doing volunteer work, taking classes, going to church---they’re interacting with people outside of their peer group. They’re also learning teamwork with their siblings and/or in co-op classrooms or on a sports team, and they’re spending more time with their parents, with whom they can ask questions and debate ideas. This is much more similar to the way they will live as adults.
In short, these experiences are invaluable and, I believe, some of the unique benefits of homeschooling.
Your children can socialize in a plethora of ways:
in sports (good for the mind and body)
music (choirs, bands, orchestras)
church or volunteer groups
other opportunities will come your way in the normal, everyday life of homeschooling!
Like with anyone, however, I would caution you not to involve your children in too many activities because you don’t want to over-program them.
While socialization is important and necessary, there is something to be said as well for silence. Actually, I believe there is way too little of an emphasis on the role of silence in our lives.
I consider myself fortunate to have been able to raise my children during an era without cell phones and the Internet. They grew up without distractions such as a constant stream of music, news, videos, and...noise! Because of this, they spent a lot more time in solitude.
Children fill much of their days with schoolwork, sports, friends, practicing musical instruments, and many other activities. They need some down time, too! I encouraged my kids to go to their rooms (or someplace quiet) and read, think, play with Legos, draw, write, etc. We have to allow our children to block out all the noise and simply be.
I recently finished a book by Robert Sarah (a Cardinal of the Catholic Church) entitled The Power of Silence. In it, he speaks about the strength of being silent in a time when technology constantly invades our lives and materialism exerts an extremely powerful influence over us.
He repeatedly states that the modern world generates so much noise that it has become more and more difficult to find moments of silence. However, these moments are essential to our lives because silence gives us an opportunity to hear God’s voice and our own thoughts.
Here are some of the gems that I took away from Cardinal Sarah’s book:
“Silence is man’s greatest freedom.”
“In silence – not in the turmoil and the noise – God enters into the innermost depths of our being. “
Noise is never serene and it is not conducive to understanding another person.
"Christ lived for thirty years in silence. Then, during his public life, he withdrew to the desert to listen to and speak with his Father. The world vitally needs those who go off into the desert. "
"Every day it’s important to be silent so as to determine the outlines of one’s future action."
Aside from aiding us spiritually, silence has other benefits as well: it helps to calm us emotionally (whereas noise makes us feel more stressed); it relaxes our bodies; it enhances our sleep cycles and stimulates brain growth; it helps us to make more informed decisions; and it leads us to be more creative.
In conclusion, while humans are social beings and have a genuine need to interact with others, we also need time to slow down, let our bodies and minds relax, and allow ourselves to think about the deeper things in life. If we want our children to grow to be thoughtful, healthy adults with a true sense of themselves and a close relationship with God, we should encourage them to be active physically, engaged mentally and socially, and to spend time in silence.