Whenever the topic of homeschooling comes up everyone’s concern is usually socialization. Whenever someone says, “I like the idea of homeschooling but I have one concern.” I know it’s going to be the issue of socializing their kids. Every single time.
I had an acquaintance message me a month ago with this concern. After some talking I realized her concern was more about cultivating a heart for people in her kids rather than them being socialized. Having a heart for people and being socialized are two different things but my answer for both concerns is the same. The answer is very simple. The answer is you, parent. You socialize your kids. You raise them to have a heart for people.
Before I get too far into that I do want to say the same thing to you that I said to my concerned acquaintance: I think the most important thing to remember is that God has given each of our children a purpose and no matter what you do as a parent, no matter what decisions you make, God will remain faithful to His plan and purpose. While parenting and education certainly influence a child’s life a great deal, God is sovereign and every person makes their own choices. What I mean by this is that you can socialize your kids but if they have a shy personality or are more of a loner then socialization isn’t going to be a big deal for them. And you can teach your kids to have a heart for people but they will grow up to make their own decisions about how to treat people. They will either be convicted of what you taught them or they will choose their own way. As parents, we should parent to the best of our ability, remaining faithful to the calling He has placed on us, while knowing that our children are their own person. They won’t necessarily grow up to be the person we want them to be or live as we envision.
With that said, I typically respond to the socialization concern by pointing out that socialization is low on the priority list. I’m more concerned with giving my child a good education and godly worldview. I would rather they do well in those areas than in socializing. I would rather that they know how to think well, speak effectively, and be saturated in God’s Word and Truth than have a lot of friends. I would rather that they learn how to behave around adults and be close with their family than do something stupid with their peers. Socialization isn’t as important as so many people make it out to be.
The bottom line though is this, it’s up to you to socialize and expose your kids the best you can according to each child’s unique personality. You want your kid to relate with the neighborhood kid who goes to public school? Let them play together. You want them to be active in all different kinds of activities? Open up those opportunities. Just because you homeschool doesn’t mean that they have to be sheltered and confined to one “type” of people. That’s really up to you. Set up community service projects, field trips, and mission trips that the whole family can be involved in. Expose your kids to the world but under your guidance and influence. Homeschooling is actually a really great way to socialize your kids in a healthy way if you do it well.
From my personal experience, I was very involved with other homeschoolers and public schoolers alike. Homeschoolers tend to automatically connect and stick together because we’re typically the odd man out. We have a lot in common so it’s easy to relate. But I was also exposed to other forms of schooling and other peers who were not homeschooled. We (my siblings and I) always had neighborhood kids over to play. And in most of my activities – youth group, working at a summer camp, mission trips, and dual enrollment at a community college – I was one of the few homeschoolers involved. I was exposed to all kinds of people and cultures, not just my little homeschool bubble. So homeschooling doesn’t have to equal “unsocialized,” “weird,” and “sheltered.” It’s really about what you, the parent, make of it.
And in case you are curious or are wondering yourself, once I discovered that my acquaintance was more concerned with having a heart for people than socialization this was my response to her:
There are certainly homeschoolers who have a “I’m-better-than-other-people” attitude. I’ve portrayed that attitude at times myself. But I see that as more of a heart problem than a form of education problem. You can cultivate that heart for people in your kids by being an example of that yourself and teaching them to love. The service projects and mission trips I mentioned in my last message are great ways to help kids (and people in general) to value people and express love. But truly, the biggest thing is that your kids see that heart for people in you! And pray for that for your kids!
I honestly don’t see public schoolers as having more of a heart for people than homeschoolers or vice versa. I believe that is far more an issue of the heart than it is an issue of how or where kids are educated.
So that’s really it parents. You want your homeschooled kids to be socialized? Then socialize them. Take them out into the world and watch for teachable moments. Enroll them in art, dance, or music lessons; whatever they show interest in. Homeschoolers actually have more time to devote to doing extracurricular activities which often involve being around other people. Socializing a homeschooler is not impossible, nor is it even a problem. If anything, socializing through homeschooling is the best form of socialization there is.