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Socialization and Homeschool: Debunking the Myths

by David Engle | Jul 25, 2023 | 6 min read

More and more families across the globe turn to homeschooling as an alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar education. And that makes the topic of socialization and homeschool more prevalent. New or prospective homeschoolers are curious about the dynamics of socialization and homeschool. Current homeschoolers roll their eyes at the mere mention of the “S-word”. The topic of socialization rises to the surface during any argument against homeschooling…”How can you homeschool your child? They won’t have any friends or be able to socialize!”

The thing about that argument is…it’s simply not true.

Social Interaction with Others

Let’s just get this out of the way now–in no way, shape, or form do homeschooled children lack social interaction. However, this viewpoint may differ depending on how you feel about homeschooling. For “traditional” education parents, their idea of socialization probably consists of kids hanging out in the hallways, playing together at recess, separating into groups at lunch, participating in after-school sports and clubs with their classmates, and going to parties. This is what they grew up with so this is what they consider normal.

But to say that homeschooled kids, because they don’t socialize in this same environment, don’t socialize enough, or isolate themselves from others is simply false. Among the approximately 3.7 million children homeschooling in the United States, the majority of them participate in clubs, volunteering, activities, co-ops, homeschooling groups, and other forms of socializing. And they actually interact more with children outside their age range (as well as adults) as many of these activities include kids of all ages. So, making a general statement that homeschooled children do not adequately socialize is both inaccurate and unfair.

There is overwhelming evidence that homeschoolers are socializing as much, if not more, than their non-homeschooling counterparts. There are nuances to this discussion. But to make a blanket statement that homeschoolers are not given the opportunity to socialize is simply incorrect.

Myth: Homeschooled Kids Don’t Get Enough Socialization

This is an easy argument for a non-homeschooler to make. Why? Because socialization, as it pertains to traditional school, can be defined in any of the following ways:

  • Number of friends
  • Chats on the bus, at the lunch table, on the playground, or in the school hallways
  • After-school activities and clubs
  • School sports
  • Outside-of-school get-togethers/parties with friends
  • Familiarity with pop culture and trends

Understandable…but that’s only because this is the only form of socialization that non-homeschoolers know. In reality, homeschoolers are actually participating in many of the same types of socialization, just in a different setting.

For example, local homeschool groups and co-ops offer kids the opportunity to make quite a few friends. Only, instead of chatting on the bus or in the halls, homeschooled kids can do so during their frequent get-togethers–without all the surrounding noise. This provides children with the chance to form real friendships, relationships, and bonds. And while traditional students tend to socialize with their specific age group, homeschool groups and co-ops have students of all ages. This gives every child the important opportunity to learn more about different age groups and how to socialize with older or younger people. In fact, one study concluded that homeschooled students often maintain higher-quality friendships as well as better relationships with their parents and other adults.

There are also plenty of extracurricular activities in which homeschoolers can participate. Local libraries generally offer all sorts of clubs and activities that any student is welcome to join. Plus, many homeschool groups and co-ops participate in frequent field trips–exponentially more than public schools can offer. Not to mention, many school districts now offer homeschooled students the opportunity to participate in public school athletics (in some states) and extracurricular activities. And established homeschool or independent sports leagues and activities are just about everywhere.

Myth: Homeschoolers Are Isolated

Fact: A home is not a jail cell. In fact, homeschoolers have more freedom than traditional school students. While it’s true that lessons and classes may be solitary or in small groups, one of the beauties of homeschooling is the flexibility it offers. So, while there may be two hours of individual work or lessons in a given day, the next three hours might be spent with a co-op group or at a local theatre production or at a farm. That’s not considered isolation.

Sure, public and private school students are surrounded by larger groups of peers. But ask yourself…how many of those kids are actually friends? Are kids really talking much anyway during class? Do they even have time to chat in overcrowded hallways in between classes? Is there even enough time at lunch to have a real conversation? More to consider: traditional school kids must be in a certain class for a prescribed number of minutes each day, they must learn certain specific topics and subjects, they must take standardized tests, and they may get a brief period of recess and/or physical activity. Compare these last two paragraphs and decide for yourself who’s more isolated.

Myth: Homeschoolers Are “Odd” or Have Emotional Problems

Not according to studies of homeschooled children. In fact, according to these findings, homeschooled students tend to have higher self-esteem and engage in fewer antisocial and self-destructive behaviors than a matched group of traditionally schooled students. One study of adults who were homeschooled as children showed that they were more likely to be involved in civic affairs and less likely to be convicted of a crime than the rest of the population. Other studies have shown that homeschooled children develop more leadership skills. One oft-referenced study found that “homeschooled children’s social skills scores were consistently higher than those of public school students” in the areas of cooperation, assertiveness, empathy, and self-control.

A study by Richard G. Medlin determined that homeschooled students are generally happy, optimistic, and satisfied with their lives; possess moral reasoning that’s at least as advanced as other children; exhibit less emotional turmoil and problem behaviors; and are more likely to act unselfishly than their peers.

Of course, social skills and personality traits are not black and white. They’re difficult to measure through tests and surveys. Experts agree on the need for more (and different) types of research. But based on the evidence that exists today, both scientific and real-life, homeschooled students are normal, well-behaved, stable kids.

Myth: Homeschooled Kids Lack the Necessary Skills for the Real World After Graduation

Public school kids can take a 45-minute home economics class a few times a week. Homeschool kids can learn how to cook, bake, balance a budget, pay bills, clean, shop wisely, and do laundry as much as they want–even as part of their lessons. Homeschool kids can volunteer at nursing homes or food banks or other charitable organizations as part of their school day. And during these experiences, children learn how to communicate with adults (who aren’t their parents or relatives), see how these organizations operate, and gain a greater understanding and respect for what the real world actually looks like.

Homeschoolers learn how to work independently, as some of their workload is self-driven rather than instructed. But they also learn how to work with others thanks to co-ops and homeschool groups. All of these experiences, which occur on a far more frequent basis than a traditional student might participate, give homeschooled students a strong sense of social responsibility as well as the valuable life skills they need when they’re ready to take the next step into college (where they are shown to be socially involved and open to new experiences), employment, or elsewhere.

Homeschool and Socialization Myths Debunked!

It’s easy for those outside the homeschooling community to look at these students as “different” or “unprepared” or “socially awkward.” But much of that sentiment results from simply not having any real knowledge of what homeschoolers actually do. Homeschool parents don’t shackle their kids to a desk in the basement. They’re learning in their living rooms, at museums, at libraries, and at hospitals with fellow students. They’re experiencing real-life situations and conversing with professionals, older students, and other adults. They play Little League and video games, they text friends, and they join clubs.

Homeschoolers simply learn a different way. But at the end of the day, they’re regular kids who socialize as much, if not more than, kids in traditional schools. Those who argue that fact just aren’t aware.

To speak with someone at Bridgeway Academy about the socialization opportunities we provide our students, call us at (888) 303-7512.

David Engle
Hello, and thanks for reading! I’m David Engle--dad, husband, sports fan, and writer/editor. As a father for the last 18 years (father of two for the last 14), I consider myself to be pretty well-versed in all things related to education, childhood, and parenting, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share some insights and knowledge with fellow parents. I have been a professional writer and editor for a quarter of a century (it pains me to admit that) and have been writing in the educational space for a number of those years. I reside in southern New Jersey with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and three cats. Never a dull moment.
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