“You’re Homeschooled? Do You Have Any Friends?”
Establishing a Healthy Homeschool Social Life
The first time anyone really questioned the quality of my social life as a homeschooler was when I was eleven years old. I was backstage at my dance recital making small talk with the other girls, and when I mentioned that I was homeschooled, one of them asked the big question: “Oh, you’re homeschooled? Do you have any friends?”
My response was a very confused “huh?”
The question didn’t make sense to me at all. Of course, I had lots of friends! Why would anyone assume that I didn’t just because I was homeschooled?
Even though I didn’t understand it at the time, this girl was expecting me to fit the model of the stereotypical homeschool kid: sheltered, socially inept, and incapable of making friends because I never leave my house. But unknown to both her and myself, the reason this stereotype didn’t apply to me was because of a deliberate decision by my parents. Over the years, they put constant effort into keeping me engaged in social activities and programs where I could meet new people and make friends, something that parents of children going to a traditional school every day don’t usually have to worry about.
It’s true that going to school places children in a crowded environment, but whether or not that environment allows them to develop a healthy social life can vary from person to person. As the saying goes, you can be in a crowd of people and still feel alone. Being in a large group of people every day does not guarantee successful friendships. For some people, making friends comes naturally, and they have no problem thriving in a social setting. For others, though, it can be extremely challenging, and they constantly experience the fear of embarrassment and rejection.
Traditional schooling provides an excellent opportunity for social interaction, both positive and negative, but in the end, it’s up to each individual student to determine how their social life will develop. Of course, homeschoolers face the same types of struggles with social interaction as any other child, but they don’t have a crowd of other children around them for seven hours a day, five days a week. Even still, all children need social interaction in order to achieve healthy development.
So how is this accomplished for a homeschooler?
Parents must provide opportunities for their children to flourish socially by placing them in programs and extracurricular activities. There are numerous options available to homeschoolers for this very purpose. Shared interests are the foundation of any good friendship. Parents have the power to choose the extracurricular activities their children participate in according to the child’s personal interests. This, in turn, means the children are able to spend time with people their own age that share their interests and passions, making the likelihood of finding people they get along with much higher. In addition, when a student is in an environment where they enjoy what they are doing, the more likely they are to experience success in that area. This promotes self-worth and confidence, and makes “putting yourself out there” much easier!