Encouraging Involvement When Your Kid is Not a Joiner

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Some people believe that homeschooling creates unsocialized children who prefer to keep to themselves.

Wait. What?

Most—if not all—homeschooling parents wholeheartedly disagree with that belief. Spend a decent amount of time around a group of homeschooled children, and it’s clear there are just as many introverted homeschooled kids as there are homeschooled kids who can sell ice to an Eskimo.

However, having said that, I do think that in some instances homeschooling has the potential to make it easier for kids who don’t like to get involved to stay uninvolved.

Is your kid a joiner? Not all kids are. If you find yourself with a kid who doesn’t like to get involved, there are a couple different ways to deal with it—but first you have to understand the reasons for it.

1) They don’t get involved because they don’t know what to get involved with.

Some kids prefer to stick with what they know and don’t want to branch out. Sometimes this is because of their own preferences, and other times it’s because of parental preferences.

While it’s nice that homeschooling can give you time to explore the things you’re interested in, it can also leave you with blinders on to the rest of the world—which is something to be aware of, because there can be a very fine line between the two.

Is your child stuck on what to explore or what to get involved in? Here are a couple ideas for things to try.

Strew, strew, and strew some more.

Strewing is the art of scattering things about that your kids might be interested in, with the understanding that they may ultimately not be interested in anything you strew about. Go ahead and put out books, set up projects, let YouTube videos play, set out new games—all based on random topics, not necessarily anything your child knows about or has shown interest in. The point here is not to add to an interest your child already has but to introduce your child to something they’ve maybe never thought to explore.

Your child might not currently have an interest in trains, electric guitars, three toed sloths,18th century China, or a certain political party, but after setting out an art project, book, game, or some other activity centered on that topic, you may spark a new interest for both your child and yourself.

And who knows where that will lead? Interests can send your kids in all sorts of directions towards many different opportunities, some of which you would have never guessed.

Take on new experiences as a family.

If you find that your child (or your family) has become too comfortable in what they know, it could be time to get out of that comfort zone with a challenge of sorts. What would happen if:

  • You stopped at the very next business you hear advertised on the radio?

  • You studied the country that you hit with a dart on a map?

  • You chose what to make for supper by creating a meal of foods that start with a certain letter and are under a certain dollar amount?

  • You spent a whole day only listening to music that was released before you were born?

There are many ways to make things different if your life at home has become same old, same old. Busting out of your comfort zone and changing things up is the first step in learning to be okay with involving yourself in things you don’t know about.

It’s a big wide world out there, and that’s exciting!

2)  They don’t get involved because they simply don’t want to get involved.

Encouraging Involvement When Your Kid is Not a JoinerYour child may not be a joiner because he's an introvert and needs a lot of alone time to recharge. Your child may be a perfectionist with a fear of failure. Your child may have some reason she just doesn’t want to meet new people or try new group activities.

But here’s the thing. For all the things that homeschooling can do for your children, it should not make their world smaller.

If you’re dealing with a kid who just doesn’t want to get involved, there are a couple ways to handle it:

Have someone else suggest opportunities to your kids.

Sometimes parents have an inkling about something their kids might enjoy, but are frustrated because their child flat out refuses to try it.

Oftentimes when Mom and Dad present an opportunity, their kid won’t look at it the same as if someone outside the immediate family would have mentioned the same thing. You may tell your child that they might like getting involved with archery or dance and they might roll their eyes. But if Aunt Missy or Mr. Chapman suggests it, suddenly it’s a whole different story.

Don’t be afraid to ask an extended family member, a friend of the family, a neighbor, or someone else in the community to talk to your kid about getting involved. A suggestion (and the encouragement to follow through) that doesn’t come from a parent can make all the difference.

Give them a choice about what to get involved with, but require that they get involved with something.

At some point in your child’s life, it’s time for them to get involved in something bigger than themselves.

  • You don’t necessarily have to force your kids to join 4H.
  • You don’t need to require that they sign up to be volunteers at the city cleanup.
  • You don’t need to coerce them to join the basketball team or the church choir.

But explaining to your kids that there are a lot of benefits in being a part of something larger than themselves as individuals—and then requiring that they find something to be a part of—can sometimes be the push to get them to look at opportunities that are team based or take them a bit outside of their comfort zone.

Not everyone is a natural joiner, and that’s okay. But it's important to remember that homeschooling has the unrivaled potential to expand your child’s world. Challenge your child (and yourself) to step out of the comfort zone and explore new things. The world is big and wide, and as homeschoolers, we have the opportunity to experience so much of it in ways that others can’t. Let’s take full advantage of it!

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Amy Dingmann

About the Author

Amy Dingmann lives in Minnesota with her husband where they have been homeschooling their two sons since 2007. Her hobbies include filling up her sons’ bottomless pits, drinking a lot of strong coffee, and smiling. Her least favorite subject is math. Her favorite subjects are everything else. She likes talking to other homeschooling parents and assuring them that even though they worry they’re totally screwing things up, they actually totally and completely rock.  Amy blogs at The Hmmmschooling Mom, and works as an author/speaker on homeschooling and parenting/family topics.