Burning Issue for Homeschoolers: Socialization

 Why Is Socialization So Important?

The role of social interaction in children’s development is hard to underestimate. It is vital for any human being at any age. Actually, the ability to communicate with others and form a society is what makes us human, and our personal happiness and success in life depends on how well we can integrate in the society.

Interpersonal communication is the most essential need, but it is not an innate ability. Children start learning to communicate at an early age, in preschool environment, and they need a natural and diverse preschool family to practice their social skills. For many kids, a large part of this work is done at a preschool or primary school, so they are relatively comfortable with friends and strangers when entering their teenage years. The latter phase may be quite traumatic, so it is much better for a kid to enter it with no fear for social failures.

Missing preschool makes homeschoolers prone to anxiety, loneliness and even neurosis, if they can’t blend in when they grow older. Isolation may lead to serious lack or even impairment of social abilities, especially in early childhood. What is perceived as shyness by parents may be a sign of developing social anxiety. Fortunately, a child’s mind is flexible and responsive, and it is able to cope with various situations if there is mutual trust, support from relatives and teachers, and, of course, different social groups to join and interact with. If homeschoolers have these privileges, they are able to develop a strong and emotionally stable personality and integrate into society without a hitch. To make it possible, parents should realize social and communicative needs of their children and provide healthy substitutes for school life.

Homeschoolers and socialization

There is a number of social skills that kids learn early in their preschool age. Homeschooling provides opportunities to learn these skills, but it requires a detailed strategy from parents, as well as determination to follow it with their kids.

So, what are the most important skills that can only be learned in interaction with other society members?

• Learning the rules

Kids are obliged to follow social norms, no matter how creative or smart they are. Most of them easily understand rules that are set up by adults, but it is harder for them to agree, if they don’t really see the reason behind these rules. They need to realize the other side of bad behavior: frustrated teachers, offended friends or annoyed passers-by. Multilateral social interactions are important to foster this kind of understanding in preschool environment.

• Understanding the context

This is a very difficult task for a small kid to learn why some rules apply to one kind of situations and don’t apply to others. But it has to be done, for example, to distinguish formal and informal communications or to get a bigger picture of the social structure.

• Setting and defending borders

Sometimes, bullying may occur even in the most friendly social groups, including the kid’s siblings. Children have to learn how to deal with an aggressor and when to seek help from others. Sometimes parents choose home schooling because their kids were bullied at school. It may be a temporary relief, but after a child regained his or her confidence, he or she still has to get back to the real world and face new challenges of teenage and adult life.

• Independent thinking

There is a thin line between obedience and conformity. When children are only taught to obey and follow rules, they may face problems when dealing with a task on their own. Another type of problem arises from mindlessly following the crowd or a particular ideology.

How to help your homeschooled kid to socialize?

No need to say that children learn from parents, and not only when parents really mean to teach them a lesson. Parents can set an example of successful conflict resolution or respect for elders without even knowing it. What are the best ways for a parent to do it knowingly and help a child socialize well?

• Personal example

This is the most obvious and the best-working method of healthy social development, although it requires involvement from other family members. Easy-going, open-minded parents will always have better chances to raise socially competent kids.

• Expanding the horizons

Homeschooled children’s right to study should not be limited by home classes. They love to participate in educational activities with other children, like field trips, excursions and camping trips. Smaller kids practice their skills at playgrounds, and it never hurts to visit another one outside your direct neighborhood.

• Hobbies and cooperation

Sport teams and music ensembles are great example of social activities that bring together natural born leaders and outsiders and influence them in the most positive manner. Teamwork and project work is also a great way to learn how to interact with others.

Should a Kid Be Strictly Homeschooled?

The answer is “no” – children need to stay connected to the reality outside their parents’ house. Although some adepts may say so, homeschooling is not a universal cure for all problems of our society. It won’t protect children from darker aspects of life, but it can help them reveal unique talents and individual differences.

Some children respond to homeschooling better than others, but they also need attention and support, and not only in the study process. The point is to provide kids with examples of social interaction outside of their usual comfort zone, from different walks of life. A variety of different opinions in a naturally formed collective is the ideal background for gaining social competencies even if the child doesn’t attend school. A diversity of experiences will also help to develop critical thinking and understand that it is not always necessary to meet expectations of other society members.

Cooperation as a method of learning social skills is not only for homeschoolers – it should not be neglected by primary and secondary schools as well. Cooperative projects are not the most common thing in preschool education, but they are widely used by forward-looking teachers at Montessori and Reggio preschools. These preschools may provide a good starting set of skills for a kid whose parents have made the decision to teach him or her at home. Elder kids may attend classes at a high school to improve their chances to enter the university, and this will help them find friends with common interests and goals.

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