Without a doubt, the number one comment people offer to me when I say we homeschool our kids is this – Aren’t you worried about their socialization?
The second most common is something like this – You must be a saint. I could never do that. (The response to that is for another post. But let me assure you, I’m no saint. And if I can do this, anyone on the planet can do it.)
I want to share how I have seen this question/concern of homeschool socialization play out in our home over the last year. I’m in no way bragging on my kids or saying that our family has it all figured out and follow our example. I’m simply sharing a few stories with you that directly answer this question that 99% of non-homeschoolers ask me.
For those of you new to my blog, our family is entering our second year of homeschooling. Prior to that our kids attended a small, private classical christian school, which we adored, loved to pieces, and never thought we’d leave. But God called us to homeschool, so we obeyed.
Recently, we vacationed in Yellowstone. I walked outside the RV to join the family for an evening of cornhole. Steve and Jacob played a heated game, but Andrew and Zachary were at the campsite behind us visiting with an elderly couple. I feel the need to pause here and let that sink in. My 12 and 8 year olds were hanging out talking to an elderly couple who had no kids for them to play with. They were just hanging with them.
The elderly couple cleaned up and began to make their way in for the night. As they climbed the steps, the gentleman paused to tell us how much it meant that our boys came over to talk and visit with them.
The previous night at the campsite, a similar situation occurred. A friendly gentleman at the site next to us came out to look at a fox we spotted in the woods. The boys struck up a conversation. The next thing we knew, Zachary was hanging at his site, checking out his RV, and letting this man show off his new-to-retirement toy. Later that gentlemen said to us, “You sure have nice boys.”
The thing is – the boys did these things on their own. We didn’t ask them to or tell them they should. They just did. You may read this and think, “What’s the big deal?” The big deal is that this isn’t normal for my boys. Except it has become normal since we started homeschooling.
They have learned what they can’t learn in school. How to socialize and interact with adults. And this is a skill they will need for the rest of their lives.
Now that we are home together all the time, the boys are with me wherever I go. Last fall they joined me at a speaking engagement. They ran the book table. They processed credit cards, packaged up books, smiled, chatted, and sat through 40 minutes of me speaking.
They are with me when I meet with people. They are with me when we serve the community. They are with me when I have difficult conversations.
Last year before we moved, I was the Women’s Ministry Leader at our church. That position puts you in a role of having difficult conversations. Since my boys were with me, I no longer did my work away from them. They watched me at work.
A particular situation arose among the women which required my involvement. We were in the car when it became necessary for me to have a difficult phone conversation. The boys sat quietly and listened to my end of the conversation. After the phone call, one of my sons offered, “Mom, I loved listening to how you handled that situation. You were so calm. I would’ve been so mad and not able to talk like that.”
We had a rich discussion on the importance of communicating well. We discussed how people shut down in defense when they feel attacked and how to realize that most people are not looking at the situation from the perspective you are. So to communicate effectively, you have to put yourself in their place and think how they are thinking. When we do this, we realize often it’s not an attack on us, simply 2 people coming from different angles.
The boys were with me at meetings kids don’t normally attend. They heard ladies discuss how to handle dicey situations. They came away commenting about how they would or wouldn’t handle things which led to more real life conversations.
When we relocated, they were with me for every single aspect. Inspectors, appraisers, realtors, stagers, photographers. You name it. They were around adults in the real world. Learning to not only make eye contact and shake hands, but how to converse with them and learning from these people while watching our interactions in a day-to-day way.
Last fall, fear began in one of my boys. I signed them up for a speech/debate homeschool class and a Bible study for homeschoolers. Both had large groups of kids. Both were for a season. Then we moved, and it started all over again. Of course each sports season brought another new group of kids, but this wasn’t new to the boys.
My son said to me, “When I went to school, I was around the same kids every single day. They knew me. I was comfortable with them. Now I’m constantly in new situations and groups where people don’t know me.”
When they were with their friends, they knew how to socialize with kids their age who they already knew. Now they were forced to constantly join new groups of kids.
I don’t know how long we will homeschool. I don’t know if it’s for a season or for the duration. We are taking each year and child on a case by case basis. For the time we’ve had to this point, I can honestly say all three of my boys have grown tremendously in their social skills. For this I’m grateful and look forward to watching them grow even more confident in who God created them to be.
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