Socializing the Only Child

Homeschooling an only child isn’t easy.  I’ve shared many advantages and struggles of homeschooling an only child.   However, the most common question I  hear is, “… but what about socialization?”  Today I’m sharing with you several ideas that meet any socialization concerns you (or others) may have.

Looking for more information about how to homeschool an only?  Check out our resource page for homeschooling an only child.

Stop stressing over it.

When we first started homeschooling, my parents continually asked me what I was going to do about keeping him social.  I laughed.  He’s a social kid by nature.  He loves playing and has never had a problem meeting new kids.
So, why worry about a problem that he doesn’t really seem to have — or at least one that most people perceive as a problem with homeschooling?

Socializing is a part of life.

My son is with me wherever I go.  When I’m at the grocery, he’s talking to the cashier while I check out.  He inquires about the location of books at the library.  He orders lunch for himself at a restaurant.  He asks historians questions about exhibits at the museum.  He plays with friends at the park, or makes new friends at the Lego store.  He works with teammates on the field.  He’s happy and inquisitive around others; socializing is experienced naturally while living life.

Teach your child to respect.

The one downfall of having an only child is that he does not learn how to share or cooperate with siblings.  Instead, I’ve found that I must teach him to respect himself as well as others and their things.  If he respects himself, he will have self-confidence.  By learning to respect others and their things, he values others and their feelings.  Isn’t this our true intentions of socialization in the first place?

Fighting loneliness.

It’s common for only children to develop a sense of wanting to be around others.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to send them to school to fulfill that need.  Instead, we’ve learned to have a best friend, especially one that we can get together with on a regular basis meets that need.  We often get together with neighborhood kids, cousins, and another homeschooling family that also has an only child.

Ideas for involvement:

1.  Join extracurricular activities, which can include mental and physical activities such as:

  • scouting program
  • sports teams
  • local library summer reading program and group activities
  • Art, music, theatre programs
  • local 4-H programs
  • nature clubs or homeschool groups

2.  Set up playdates.  Be intentional about getting together with other kids of various ages.  This could include:

  • kids in the neighborhood
  • cousins that live close by
  • other children on the playground or at the local splash pad
  • meet church friends for a craft-and-share time

3.  Volunteer.  There’s no better way to teach children how to have a servant’s heart than though volunteering.  Here are a few ideas:

What other ideas do you have for socializing your only child?  I’d love to hear them!

Are you homeschooling an only or thinking about homeschooling an only? See these other great resources for homeschooling an only child.

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  1. Thank you. You covered some great points. My son always seems to be lonely and I have struggled with helping him balance his need for social interaction while learning to be happy just being on his own. I enjoyed it very much!

    1. Thanks, Sarah. I used to be worried about socialization, but after seeing him walk up to the wedding planner to discuss details of the rehearsal (when all the other kids were sheepishly sitting there), I’m not really worried anymore. Whenever I start to sense that he’s lonely, I always try to plan a playdate with his best friend within the next day or two. HTH.

  2. Thanks Leann for the post. I see you have “an over-active 6 year old. Well I am a grandmom to a very over-active and extremely gifted 5 year old. His social skills are beyond belief, he can talk to and does talk to anyone he meets no matter their age. He actually has more trouble talking to children his own age because they think he is ‘weird”, but older children think he is a “baby”, so he generally does better with adults. There are no children his age in the neighborhood and our homeschool groups leave a lot to be desired in the “actually showing up” category. So it’s the beach and the park and the kids he does not know that he interacts with. he does not seem to mind that he will probably never see them again, but I would really like to get him together with someone who could become a “best friend”. Any other suggestions, sports are out, he is not good at them, “no attention span”, library, sort of out, his reading level is above the other children so he does not enjoy it, scouting was an option except that there are a lot of fathers there and my grandson’s father is non-existent so he feels the loss more at those times. would love to hear if you have other suggestions.

    1. Hi Mimi. My son is also gifted but overactive. And he can strike up a conversation with just about anyone. I would encourage you to continue placing him into playdates, especially with kids of all ages. Personally, I’ve found that my son admires older kids (tweenagers), so maybe you can find a few kids for him to become friends with. The tweens can be difficult, but a well-mannered one will not consider him being a baby. Maybe even have just 1 or 2, instead of a large group of boys. I’d also encourage you to not give up on sports. My son is not athletic; however, we encourage him to play sports. Not a week passes that he doesn’t have lessons for one (or two) sports. I feel that this helps him build up his body strength and helps him to understand team dynamics. He’s also learning perseverance…. we are not always good at things when we first try them, but by working hard, he can get better. Finally, I would encourage you to check out homeschool events in your community. One of our local historic homes offers a once a month “history club,” which gets him involved with other kids, gives me have a break for a few hours, and he’s learning all at the same time. The same goes for our local zoo, science center, and several other community centers.

  3. I’m not alone? There are other homeschool moms out there with onlies??? We live in Cincinnati and have yet to find another family that homeschools with an only child my sons age that we can play with. Your article gives me hope that there are others out there. Thanks!

    1. Hi Tina! YES! There are other onlies out there… and they thrive in homeschooling! At first, I tried finding a friend who also had a homeschooled only (and his best friend IS also a homeschooled only); however, one of his favorite places to go is the home of a homeschooling family of 3, with kids above and below him in age. So, I don’t think you have to necessarily find another homeschooler with just one; sometimes more kids IS more fun! It’s all about how well they all play together.

  4. I have to agree with Tina. I feel like a homeschooling mom to an “only” often feels like you’re alone out there in the “Homeschool World”. It’s nice and encouraging to hear success stories of others…especially regarding socialization.

    1. Yes, it does sometimes feel like every homeschooling family has 4+ kids, but there are lots of onlies being homeschooled! That’s part of the reason why I wanted to write a series of posts about homeschooling onlies! I’m going to edit this post to add the links to my other only child posts as well.

  5. I get this question all the time. I think it’s made worse because we live in a very rural area outside of a town of maybe 1,500 people. It seems isolated to most people. Between church, youth sports at the school, 4-H, delivery drivers, regular trips to town etc we have more socialization than we thought possible when we started. Some days he asks if we can just stay home because he needs a break LOL!

    1. I absolutely agree! I’ve often said that I wish I would have known that homeschooling meant you weren’t home most of the time!

  6. Tina, I feel the same as you. I too thought I was alone with homeschooling an “only”! We’re in Michigan and I have yet to find others homeschooling an only child within my child’s age group (or any age group really). It’s easy for my daughter to meet kids but no real friends that get together on a regular basis. I’m hopeful though!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have been homeschooling our only child since 2nd grade. He just started 5th. I have watched him grow beautifully as one who is sensitive and has an insight to the feelings of others that I hardly ever see in other children. He is the same when going out in the public, he doesn’t have all the emotional hang ups that other kids around him have…extremely confident and a born leader.

  8. It is nice not to feel alone. I too have only one child I am homeschooling and in the community we don’t really seem to fit in. My son is an early reader and has an extensive vocabulary. He would rather talk than run around and the other kids find him ‘weird’. The biggest place we take him to interact with other kids and learn the arts of sharing and compromise as well as working things out on his own is the YMCA in our town. Other than that we are 1 day a week at a homeschool coop, but it is very directed and not much interaction. Most of our pals started K or pre-k this year so we are trying to identify family with a younger sib that I might ask to schedule a playdate a week. Still nice to see others are in the same boat!

  9. Very thankful for your insight and also for the knowledge that I am not the only one out here with an only homeschooled child! We adopted out daughter and brought her home from the hospital. She has been our greatest blessing. My husband and I are “older” so we have chosen to only raise one child. There are some wonderful perks to it and yes, one or two downers!
    This is my challenge; my daughter is a 5 (nearly 6) year old vibrant, active, social little girl. She, like the other’s that have posted on here is not afraid to talk to anyone, anywhere. Our problem is that she does not know her limitations no matter how much we try to teach her. She over does it and it makes other children very uncomfortable. Our church we attend the kids really don’t want to be around her too much because they are somewhat reserved and she is overly friendly and well, a little over bearing. She loves big. When we go to the park she is the one who will talk to a child for a few seconds and then wants to love them forever. Her comments to me is that “they are my BEST friend”. I do get looks and such from other parents.
    I don’t want to stifle her love for people, nor do I want to discourage her. When I see the interactions take place I can understand the responses she receives from other children, but it is sometimes sad for me to see her be shunned. My husband and I both have little talks with her and we try to help her interact. I will say we have seen some progress but feel stuck in what to do.

    1. This is EXACTLY my daughter, nearly 6, as well. We also have the little talks with her, but she is who she is. I don’t know what else to do.

      1. Heather,
        I am so glad you posted your comment! It is almost as if I had a sigh of relief that someone understands what I am trying to say. I am not the best at knowing how to get my thoughts from my brain to words on a screen!
        I agree that accepting who they are is so important! I KNOW that her personality will take her far once she learns how to manage her actions. I had someone tell me today that maturity will arrive and she will become a very good friend to people.
        We will continue to have our little talks and coach her. As you said not sure what else to do….except wait! Thanks Heather! You really made my day! 🙂

        1. You made MY day!! So hard with an only sometimes; we feel so isolated. Everyone seems to have this expectation she will be shy and withdrawn, even more so because we homeschool. Yes, people say it.
          She has such a big heart and wears it on her sleeve, and I don’t want her to ever feel that caring, empathy, and compassion are wrong! My heart aches when I see kids, and adults, being unkind to her simply because she is so kind! Makes no sense, right?! I woe the day when her naivety reveals how harsh people can really be. I guess every mother and father rues the moment their child experiences real heart break. Nowadays everything happens at such a young age! I feel like I must protect her from the lions. I just hope as you do, with maturity comes the wisdom, and her strong heart prevails.

  10. How interesting to read all of your posts on homeschooling an “only”- thank you! My son is in 2nd grade. He attends a small charter school and is in a combined 2-3 classroom. He loves school, spending the day with friends, is very adventurous and imaginative. His K-1 teacher used Waldorf methods to teach reading, writing and math; so, entry into a more traditional 2nd grade classroom (new teacher) is suddenly posing issues- teacher says he’s one of the lowest achievers in class. My son is smart and I believe he is struggling due to the many holes in his education, thus far. His teacher has already suggested a potential eval & IEP! This makes me livid and I’m beginning to wonder if we’re doing what’s best for him. My husband wants me to homeschool him (I’m a credentialed teacher), but I worry about… most everything that we moms worry about! Of course, we just want the best for him and feel he’s not getting that in this classroom. I’m putting a lot of trust in this teacher/school and don’t want to gamble on possible time wasted. So, I’m reaching out for support and good, solid advise from those that have been where I stand today. I look forward to hearing from you!

    1. Bear,
      I would remove him right now! If you say that you have teaching credentials, then you should have an understanding of what bad schooling does to good kids, especially in the younger grades. He is just now forming opinions on education and think about it from his point of view, he is getting a raw deal. Even if you did not have teaching credentials, you would make a better teacher.

      Find out what the laws are in your state and pull him out. If he gets an IEP it will live with him forever and he will wear that label forever. I have worked in the public schools and it’s very easy for teachers to see IEP and then equate that with less intelligence. Husbands usually know best and speak their mind only on important items. Are you going to subject your little boy to this teacher for the next school year? That is a long time and ground you will never get back.

      Our son attended a great (so we thought) private school from K-3rd grade, he was always in trouble for talking or looking out the window. When I brought him home I found that he was way above grade level and was totally bored. He had been plowing through his seat work at school and had nothing to do when he was done and others were working. I even asked the teacher to assign him more practice problems, but the teacher said that it was not fair for him to do that. But I guess it was fair to have him sit there all day long bored.

      I had homeschooled pre-school and taught him how to read and all the basics, so when he went to K he was bored since they were just learning to read and the basics. For 3 years our son begged me to homeschool him again. Finally my husband came home from work one day and said “Bring him home!”
      I regret not doing it sooner. Our son is now a high school freshman still homeschooled and glad to be.


  11. I am not sure how old this post is so I may not get a response and that’s okay. We had been homeschooling our son (for the most part, he had a short stint of public school in kindergarten) until this year. We enrolled him in public school for the fall semester this year. Let me explain what had been going on. First off, my sister died of breast cancer last December and it had become a struggle in the early part of the year to continue homeschooling for the time being. With that out of the way, I have some other concerns. My son has high functioning autism. He is totally NOT social. I worry about him though, because he will start to withdraw. He was almost to the point before enrolling him in school where he didn’t want to leave his room. When he is with other kids, he is usually in his own world (his teachers say that this is even happening at school though, even at recess). He is an only child and it feels like when we keep him at home, I have no way of keeping him social. Does anyone have any ideas? We cannot keep him in school as they are talking about putting him in a self-contained classroom (he has spit on classmates and will smack them….in the face). I Feel like I might be at the end of my rope. I was genuinely trying to do something social every day for him, but do you think that might be too much? Thanks

    1. Cheryl, I have a severely autistic child (now age 21), and it’s my opinion (without knowing much about your situation) that doing something social with your son every day is probably too much. I know it would be for my daughter. You might first want to start with doing something once a week until he becomes tolerant of that before moving on to twice a week, and so on. I would do something “safe” with him, like take him to the library (if he enjoys books) and let him look at books by himself but in the presence of others or something similar. Attempting to force social interaction on him is obviously very stressful for your son–as you’ve seen since putting him in public school. Start small and move slowly is my advice. And I would also check with a local pediatrician or some other trusted person to see if you can find a good behaviorist or doctor/nurse or someone who can give you advice and direction. It sounds like this is overwhelming for you (rightfully so). Sometimes the perspective of someone who is outside of the situation is helpful.

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