Kids love to be with other kids, and my kids are no exception. Homeschoolers understand the importance of this phenomenon, because it’s a natural one: it’s how God made us.
“Homeschool Socialization” is important for moms, too!
We weren’t created to be cooped in a house all day long with no outlets. It’s relaxing and a breath of fresh air to get out of the house for a bit, meet up with others, or have people over to our homes for fellowship. As a mom I crave the company of other moms, and my daughters are also extreme social butterflies. However, your child doesn’t need to be a social butterfly to have a basic need for socialization.
I can understand 100% when one of my girls feels a lonely disconnect from other middle school kids at her church youth group who are enrolled in a public or private school and have separate social lives in which my daughter is not included. I know what that feels like because I was once in middle school myself! Not only that, but as a mom I also need other like-minded moms to talk to . I need friends just like my daughters need friends.
Why do homeschoolers fight the “Socialization” question?
Truth be told, socialization means something different for each of us. If you have a large family, your definition of socialization is going to vary greatly from a smaller family, or families with an only child. I’ve heard moms of larger families say of their children, “they have each other”, and be completely satisfied in those experiences. If nobody complains and everyone’s happy, I take no issue with that.
But in my case, where I have only two children who are 5 1/2 years apart, I can’t very well say “they have each other”, and never make an effort to help my daughters connect with peers beyond the confines of our home. In our case, I have to make an earnest effort to make playdates happen.
And now that my middle schooler has outgrown playdates, she has been finding solace in extracurricular activities, enrichment classes, and group field trips. Once in a while when we’ll find a special family with whom we’ll connect at each others’ homes for additional peer outings (while the moms get to chat too, of course.)
For such a long time, the socialization question has thrown homeschoolers off our guard. We get this question from outsiders looking in who don’t understand what we do or how we go about doing what we do. But I’m finding this questions is not as common for us nowadays. More and more homeschoolers are finding social outlets and have become busier, sometimes, than many of their public/private school counterparts. Not to say that’s a good or bad thing. It’s just the way of things.
Finding balance is important.
Over the years homeschoolers have come to guard ourselves when the socialization question gets thrown our way. For families who have found ourselves at some point completely overwhelmed with activities, we might have decided to call it quits for a semester, or a year even. Slowing down is not such a bad idea.
However, I would like to caution against a complete removal of our social butterfly kids from the one meaningful activity that makes them happy. Let’s be careful to watch our kids closely and see what they really enjoy doing. For those of us with smaller families who can afford a bit of running around town, perhaps pairing down to one activity per child per week wouldn’t be so bad.
The issue with middle school kids and friends.
Once kids hit their teen and tween years (mainly middle and high school), many begin to crave the company of like-minded peers. Gone are the cutesy days of playdates, and suddenly our “little ones” are not so little anymore. They have socialization needs well beyond what they had just five years ago.
If you have girls, especially, it is important to pray that the Lord will bring quality relationships into her life with other godly young ladies. If you have boys, pray that he will find other godly guys whose influence will be a positive thing in his life.
The issue is simply this: our middle school kids are transitioning into high school and need to learn how to work through important relationships such as friendships. Many kids in this age group just want to connect. They want to fit in. They want to feel important among their peers. My daughter is the first to admit: “Mom, the social part of homeschooling is really important!” So I listen to her.
Enrichment classes are helpful.
Never discount the importance of a good enrichment class. We’ve enrolled our kids in a variety of programs over the years- from art journaling to sewing to music lessons. What we’ve found to be the most beneficial avenue for creating meaningful friendship opportunities are co-ops. This year, our group activity of choice is Classical Conversations. It gives us an opportunity to meet other Christian families- a real plus for newbie families like us who just moved to the area last year and who didn’t have any homeschool connections.
It is through this venue that my kids are able to make new friendships with other families of similar beliefs and are able to make meaningful friendships.
In my next post I’ll be talking more about how to prepare for high school while in middle school.
Let me know that you’re enjoy this series on homeschooling middle school! I’d love to hear from you.