Homeschool

Are You Worried About Homeschooling and Socialization?

Do you know people who are still concerned that homeschooled children aren’t well socialized? Who believe that homeschoolers don’t know how to get along with others, have friends, and deal with real life? I’m here to tell you that it just isn’t true! In fact, the truth is that many homeschooled students are extremely well socialized. (I hate the term socialized! But because that’s the term commonly used to refer to how well children and teens do in social situations, I’ll use it here.)

Over my 20+ years of homeschooling, I’ve come in contact (both in real life and online) with many homeschooling parents whose relatives and friends are concerned that their homeschooled children aren’t properly socialized. They worry that these students won’t know how to get along with other children. That they’ll be awkward teenagers. (Imagine that!!) That they won’t be able to go to college and get married and have jobs in the “real world.”

Most homeschoolers are extremely well socialized!

The strange thing is that the majority of homeschooled students are extremely well socialized! In fact, I know more children who go to public or private schools who are socially awkward, extremely shy, don’t have many friends, and aren’t able to carry on a conversation with other students (much less with adults) than homeschooled students who fit this description.

Social awkwardness is not necessarily dependent upon whether a child goes to public school or is homeschooled.

Yes, there are some homeschooled students who are socially awkward and shy. However, there are also some public and private school students who fit the same description. In other words, people generally blame the awkwardness or shyness of homeschooled students on the fact that a particular student is homeschooled, yet when students go to public or private schools, they don’t blame those students’ social awkwardness on the fact that those students attend public or private school.

Homeschoolers are generally very good at socializing with people of all ages.

After having met and gotten to know homeschooling families all across the United States and in my local area, it is my experience that the majority of homeschooled students are able to get along with, talk with, and otherwise interact with people of all ages–not just those in their own peer group.

Think about it this way: Most students who go to public or private schools interact with students of the same age/grade level all day. This isn’t the case with homeschooled students. When we homeschoolers get together for field trips, co-op classes, sports, play days, book clubs, and so on, we usually bring all of our children with us. And of course we parents are in attendance too. This means our children are exposed to babies, toddlers, young children, older children, tweens, teens, parents, and grandparents on a regular basis.

It’s not unusual to see children of all ages chatting and playing with other children who are older or younger than themselves. They don’t think they can only be friends with other children who are the same age and grade level. One year at a family reunion, I actually heard a pre-teen girl complain repeatedly that she didn’t have anyone to play with that day. I looked around and saw ten or twelve other children there, so I pointed out that fact. She quickly let me know that she couldn’t play with those children because none of them were in fifth grade like her.

We’re preparing our homeschoolers for real life!

It’s not unusual to see tweens and teens helping to look after the toddlers and young children when we have a get-together. And it’s also quite common to see children and teens talking with parents or grandparents–their own and others’ too! Why is this? Because this is real life!

When our students graduate from our homeschools and go to college or get  jobs, they won’t go to college or to work with only other people of the same age! They’ll be expected to be able to work with people of all ages. They’ll be expected to get along with and communicate with others of different ages.

In fact, I have to share some examples from my own family with you. My youngest child (who has been homeschooled since the beginning) is now 17 years old. From the time she was about 12 until she was 17, she served as assistant to an art teacher in classes for children from kindergarten through about third grade. My daughter is a little bit shy, but she loves art and she loves children, and the combination of the two made her look forward to helping in those art classes for quite a few years! In fact, the art teacher was sad to see her go when she started her first “real” job and was no longer available to help teach the art classes.

And yes, that’s right. My poor unsocialized homeschooler started working at her first real job. (Haha!) She now works a couple of days a week at a locally-owned health food store. Because it’s a small store, she often has to work alone. She’s had to learn about many products, their uses, and where they’re found in the store. She has to talk with customers to find out what they need and to show them where to find products. She helps customers of all ages from teenagers to adults to elderly people, and she handles all of them very well.

She also helps teach children’s classes at our church, babysits on a regular basis, and fills in for the youth Sunday school teacher. And the truth is, being homeschooled is what allows her to do many of these things! Homeschooling allows her to build time into her schedule to handle these responsibilities.

It makes me proud that she’s able to get along with children and adults of all ages. It makes me happy that she enjoys the company of many other people–not just those of her own age/grade. And it’s fantastic that she has so many opportunities to build social skills in so many real-life situations. This should be the goal for all children–whether they homeschool or not!

Our Goal As Homeschool Parents:

What I really want you to take away from this article is that, even though the choice to homeschool sometimes leads people to (mistakenly!) worry that our children won’t be well socialized, the truth is that they are. They are being prepared for real life in a world with people of all ages. And as parents, that’s what we’re here to do–prepare our children to live their lives as adults. So next time a well-meaning friend or relative expresses concern that your children aren’t well socialized, remind them that you’re preparing them for real life. And you’re doing a great job of it!

If you’d like to read an article from the Home School Legal Defense Association on how well socialized homeschoolers are in general, you can do that HERE.

About the author

Wendy

Wendy is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms, Only Passionate Curiosity, Homeschool Road Trips, Love These Recipes, and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She married her high school sweetheart, Scott, 29 years ago, and they live in the South with their three children. Hannah, age 25, has autism and was the first homeschool graduate in the family. Noah, age 23, was the second homeschool graduate and the first to leave the nest. Mary Grace, age 17, is the remaining homeschool student. Wendy loves working out and teaching Training for Warriors classes at her local gym. She also enjoys learning along with her family, educational travel, reading, and writing, and she attempts to grow an herb garden every summer with limited success.

11 Comments

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  • Great post, Wendy! Our family has homeschooled our three children, and I agree entirely. For our family, academic time was fully focused on learning. After school hours was time for athletics and fun with friends, which went hand in hand. As a result, my two college sons are playing tennis for their colleges and having so much fun with their teammates. Thanks for educating the world about the social benefits, in addition to the academic benefits of homeschooling!

  • Absolutely! My daughter is still a toddler, but she is extremely social and sociable with other children and adults. I don’t understand why people feel that sitting silently at a desk for several hours per day makes you more “socialized” than children who have the ability to direct their own education.

    I think it is wonderful that your daughter is teaching a class. Those are the kinds of opportunities that I hope to provide for my daughter. Thank you for sharing.

  • I appreciate the fact that you pointed out there are kids who are socially adept, and those that are not, in any school setting. Thank you! An important thing to remember.
    I do want to put out a thought to everyone who reads this article– just being homeschooled does not automatically give kids all the social benefits mentioned here, however, as would be implied. We live in a rural area, with only 3 other homeschool families in our entire county– one of whom has one child, and although we got together a few times, our kids and he weren’t really interested in a friendship together. Another of whom won’t get together, though I have tried several times. Full time homeschoolers cannot participate in school sports or other activities, and there are very few other activities offered because we are in a sparsely populated area. Our closest homeschool co op (or other group) is 1 1/2 hours away, meeting early in the morning on Wednesdays– the same day our family is out late at night, due to church activities. So although we tried the co op for a year, we quit, because it created an overly rushed, worn out type of day. We attended a different social homeschool group for a few years, but literally everyone else in that group (there were only 3 other families) has now moved away (and that group was also 1 1/2 hours away, in a different direction than the co op.) For several years, our kids were literally the only kids at our church on Sunday mornings. Now, there are some preschoolers, but that is all. Yes our kids can learn to interact with them and be nice, but for teenagers, preschoolers really can’t be friends. Other than once a week at a youth group that is 20 miles away (because that’s the closest youth group there is), our oldest has no interaction with other kids. (We used to get together with another family that lived an hour away, on a regular basis so the kids could hang out, but again, they are now in the process of moving away as well.)
    Another situation I have personally witnessed is that of a child with Asperger’s who literally could not function in a group of children, or with children that they had not already created a bond with. This child lived in a rural area, and homeschooling exacerbated the social problems they had, because they NEVER were in a situation where they actually had to be in a group of children. Ever. This child went to a small preschool (7 kids in the class), and after a year of experiencing this type of situation, began to do better socially. This same child also went to a public school where there were 14 kids in their class– and although they did not like being there, this child got to the point where they formed friendships with several kids, they were able to tolerate being in a group setting, and eventually they even got to the point where they were could join in group games and even enjoy them. LIving in a small area where public school was LITERALLY the ONLY opportunity to be consistently involved in a group setting, this child was tremendously helped, socially, by not having homeschooled. Homeschooling would, in fact, have hindered them, socially, because they would never have had the chance to function in a group setting. And the only way this child could learn to do that, was to actually be required to do it (and yes, the family did try other ways of teaching this child to not fear stranger children and to not fear groups. None of it worked.)
    All that to say, yes, I agree with you that there are times and places where kids in homeschool are able to benefit from a wide variety of social opportunities, in part or in whole because they homeschool– and they flourish, socially, because of it. But please, let me “shout it to the world” that, though they may be the rare exception, there truly ARE situations where homeschooling is actually a detriment for a child’s social development– either the learning of social skills, or even just because it prevents them from having much social interaction with people– of any age. Please, everyone, let me assure you that there ARE times when it is legitimate for others to question whether or not a child who is homeschooled will be ok, socially. Not everyone who homeschools has access to the life situations and wide variety of opportunities that exist for many homeschool families. For some who homeschool, it truly can be– legitimately so–a lonely and somewhat isolated road.

    • Thank you for your comment! Yes, there are times when it might be a better choice for a child to be in a school setting. Parents have to make that choice for their own children based on many factors. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok. But for parents who want to homeschool their children and who believe it’s the best option for their family, there are definitely many benefits, and the stereotypical belief that homeschooling produces socially backward children shouldn’t be the reason a family is afraid to homeschool. In many areas, there are many activities available to homeschoolers. And because homeschooling is growing so quickly, this is becoming more and more the reality. The main point of the article is for parents to know that it’s not true that homeschooling will make our kids socially awkward and that it is very definitely possible to have a very socially capable homeschooled child who will grow into a socially capable adult.

  • Excellent post!! I have two boys I homeschool. My youngest is 11. He has never met a stranger. He gets along well with most kids and adults, though he has found he doesn’t like what he sees happening within his age group. The preteen behavior of bullying, ostracizing those who are different, the demand to conform at all costs; he finds it exhausting and disturbing.
    I went to both a large public and a small private school through 8th grade, then homeschooled for high school. I’ve seen socialization through different lenses. Does traditional school provide some socialization with same age peers? Yes. And the small private school I attended was so small that kids from several grades could easily socialize. But it wasn’t necessarily healthy socialization. Cliques, bullying, and ostracism were daily occurrences. Yes, I know adults deal with these same things, likely due to the “socialization” they experienced growing up, but do our kids *need* to be thrown into these situations before they have the development and skills to adequately cope, with only the guidance of their same age peers who are also lacking the development and skills to cope, and hope they figure it out? I don’t feel the ‘sink or swim’ approach works out in these situations.
    Both traditional schooling and homeschooling have pros and cons, but the socialization aspect has been misunderstood for far too long. Thank you for speaking out.

  • One of the things i have never worried about as a home school parent is social interaction. We attend church and have a decent social network of family and friends. My 10 year old daughter has and can carry on a polite respectful conversation with anyone from age 2 to 99. I feel like this is something parents should be teaching not schools. Our children learn by watching what we do and how we act in social situations. So if people are so concerned with our homeschoolers being socially awkward they need to ensure that their kids are taught at home how to true be social instead of the more common tech social.

  • Great post! I am the parent of two daughters that have been through public school shy and socially awkward. My older daughter is in college, getting degrees in math & science education. She has learned to adapt and communicate when it’s required, lol, not any more than she has to. The younger daughter is a junior in high school and has a small group of friends she communicates with. She’s chosen not to go to prom and not to join National Honor Society because it requires volunteering with people she doesn’t know. I homeschool my youngest daughter and have given that choice to my junior girl, but she chooses to stay in public school. My youngest daughter isn’t shy, but has learning challenges that were not being met in public school… and they requested that I medicate her for adhd. So, like you mentioned in a comment to someone else, parents have to make the decision to homeschool or not based on what’s best for their child with all the circumstances involved.

  • 100% agree! I was homeschooled in the very early years of the movement (c. 1985), and there is SO MUCH MORE available now in the realm of opportunities for socialization (and in most other realms really) than there was then. I’m thankful for this as I take advantage of many of them for my own homeschooled children now. I would caution/encourage parents TO make a point of “socializing” (silly term, but…) their children regularly with their peers. The combination of early years homeschooling, a very small church, and an extremely introverted mother made for very little of that growing up, and I was in my mid-30’s before I truly felt comfortable around people my own age.

  • “Social awkwardness is not necessarily dependent upon whether a child goes to public school or is homeschooled.”

    When we first decided to homeschool, my siblings were concerned that my children would turn out weird. I reminded them that my children would probably turn out weird because they were my children and I am weird. Where are they going to school doesn’t matter. I went to public school and I am very socially awkward.

  • My children are very socialized. This article is true. Homeschooled kids are definitely involved in many activities and aren’t just cooped up at home. But honestly, it takes being “socialized” to get along with siblings. My kids go to coop, church, play sports, see friends, go to youth group, etc. so they are definitely around other people. Thank you for sharing the truth about homeschooled kids.

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