As I sit watching "18 Kids and Counting" on Netflix, I'm hearing one question over and over in regards to homeschooling. What about socialization?
I think before I can answer this question for myself (and I truly believe most homeschoolers would answer in a similar way), I think I need to first define the term socialization. According to Dictionary.com (the definition was not found on the Merriam-Webster online dictionary), socialization is the process by which one acquires social skills. Socialize means to associate or mingle with others. Very similar definitions, yes; however, we are talking a difference between the learning of skills and the application of those skills.
I find in my personal experience that when I am asked the socialization question, what I'm really being asked is do my children ever get to interact with other children. As in, do they ever socialize with others? The answer is a resounding YES! Ask when and where this socializing occurs, and you'll get as many answers as there are homeschooling families. Here are my answers:
Karate Class - As part of our curriculum, my kids take karate classes. During class, they are not only learning self-defense skills and discipline, but they are running around laughing, talking, and playing games at different times. Also, every other week I drive a friend's son to class. The 30 minute trip involves plenty of talking, giggling, and good-natured teasing in the backseat!
Weekly Bible Club - They attend a weekly Bible club at their grandparents's church, where they not only learn more about our values and beliefs, but they are able to interact with kids from the community (many of which attend the public school system).
Children's Church - This takes place each Sunday at our church. We attend a different church than either of our parents in a different town than where we live, so this is a whole different group of kids that they see each Bible club meeting. Again, they learning core values/beliefs, playing games, talking, laughing, etc. with kids who attend either our private church school or the public schools of that community.
Homeschool Group - Once a month, our homeschool group gets together for field trips. Our group is very diverse as far as beliefs go. The only thing some of us have in common are the fact that we educate our children at home. We live in different communities ranging in size from miles away from anyone else to cities of 60,000 people. Of those that do attend church, very few of us actually attend the same church, and our denominations vary from LDS to Baptist to Pentecostal to non-denominational. Family sizes range from 2 children to 11 children. Some homeschooling moms have education degrees (up through masters) while others have high school diplomas. As you can see, we come from different walks of life and are raising our children with different beliefs in different communities.
Neighborhood Kids - Our neighborhood is full of kids, and my family is the ONLY one who homeschools. Come 3:00pm, our doorbell often starts ringing asking for play dates. This is probably our least diverse group of kids when compared with each other but still very different from our family. Most come from single parent homes, are of mixed race, and do not attend church of any kind. They are all great kids, and my kids love playing with them!
Library Activities - Each week, we attend storytime. The two age groups are pretty small, but it is another opportunity to get the kids out in the community and playing with other kids.
Misc Community Activities - We do our best to keep an eye out for different camps and fun days. In the past couple of years, we've participated in kids games at community events, education camps put on by the regional education service center, cheerleading camp put on by the local public school, back to school bash put on by the local public school, community VBS celebrations, and summer sports teams.
As you can see, there is no shortage here of socializing that my kids get. As I initially said, this is the application of the socialization (the learning of social skills) they receive from Mom and Dad through watching us, family discussions, character education, etiquette education, etc.
This is how we tackle socializing in our family. How do you make sure your kids get in socializing? How do you handle this question when asked?