“I sure hope my friend is here,” mydaughter said from the backseat of the car, as we pulled up to one of our favorite breakfast places. One might assume she hoped to see another little girl, but the person she eagerly awaited talking to was not a child, but our favorite waitress, Tanya.
Tanya is in her late thirties and has a son who is twelve. She works most days at the family restaurant and we always look forward to her bright smile and her energetic nature. She and Tanya talk as we order our meal, as we eat, and then, just before we leave, Tanya hands over a handful of lollipops to my smiling daughter.
“Thank you!” she beams.
“Thank you, honey, for brightening my day,” Tanya replies.
Some may think it’s strange for a seven-year-old to befriend an adult, but for our daughter, friendship has no age restrictions. She is very friendly and will consider anyone she knows well a friend, whether they’re two years old or seventy-two years old.
This freedom to socialize in the real world, with various age groups, is one of our favorite things about homeschooling. It’s funny because so often a major critique from many outside the homeschool realm is the lack of socialization that homeschool children are presumed to experience.
Questions Homeschoolers Hear About Social Skills
Have you been asked any of these common questions?
How will she make friends?
When will she socialize?
What about being with children her own age?
How can you stand being home all the time?
Making Friends as a Homeschooler
“Want to be friends?” My daughter asks another child, while playing with blocks at the museum.
“Sure!” The other child replies.
Voila! A budding friendship ensues. I sound like I’m being facetious, but I’m really not. This is exactly how our daughter and many other homeschooled children make friends. I see it happen on an almost daily basis.
It may happen at a playground, or in a homeschool group, or as it did last week with my daughter at the beach when she met a little girl from England. They are now penpals and we all interact via the internet.
Homeschooled children have the wonderful opportunity of actively participating in life. They aren’t separated from it by a school schedule or a school building. They can learn and play anywhere they go, and it’s during these times that they get to meet all sorts of people.
My daughter has adult friends, peer-age friends, and friends who are younger than her. She tells her father and me that she has so much friendship she’ll never run out and can share it with anyone who is nice.
This is not to say that she isn’t sometimes shy. Sometimes she is more reserved, and that’s okay. We all have times like that. Some more than others. As an introvert, I definitely lean toward the latter. My daughter did not get her extroversion from me!
Socialization and Age-based Division
When I was in school and caught whispering to my best friend behind me, teachers always said disapprovingly, “We’re not here to socialize.”
So when I hear the argument about how homeschoolers can’t socialize normally, I feel genuinely confused. We weren’t encouraged to socialize in school.
Later, as a teacher, I sat on a committee to figure out the best way to minimize the time the kids had to talk in the halls between classes. Our answer? Three minutes. You read that right. Three minutes to go to their lockers, use the bathroom, get a drink of water, and get to the next class.
Schools don’t want children to socialize (and apparently they don’t want them to use the bathroom either).
Another thing I’ve noticed is that many people think children need to be with other kids their own age to develop social skills, but why exactly? What benefit is there to always being with kids exactly the same age, as opposed to being with people of various ages?
How has it become normal for thirty children to be in a room with people their own age except the one or two adults in the room, who happen to be the ones in power? As an adult, I can honestly say I’ve never experienced such a situation in the real world, outside of public school. Even in college, when I attended in my late twenties, my classes were of mixed ages and interests. The benefit? We had the input of so many beautiful and interesting perspectives for the topics we discussed.
An age-based division of children doesn’t encourage broadly applicable social skills. Many children who attend public school area hesitant to speak to adults, and they look down on children younger than themselves. It’s not any fault of their own. They’ve been trained to do this by not being given enough opportunities to exercise their socialization skills outside their own peer group.
Homeschooling Doesn’t Happen Only at Home
I don’t know about you, but we are not at home all the time. Who is?
There’s no rule that once you homeschool, you have to close all your doors, put on an apron and a bonnet, and lose all contact with the outside world. In our family, the world is our classroom. We can just as often be seen at a playground, or in the woods, or at a museum, as me might be seen concocting something in our kitchen, or watching educational videos online. For us, we chose to homeschool because learning isn’t confined to four walls. We didn’t want our daughter to think that learning only happens in a classroom, while sitting in a chair. If we had wanted that, we’d have chosen to place her in a government school.
Homeschooling opens up a vast array of opportunities for children to learn to socialize with many age groups and people of various backgrounds and experiences. It’s a beautiful thing and to be honest, it’s one of my favorite things about homeschooling. I can’t imagine how my daughter would be in the real world, if most of her experience was confined to her age group. I seriously doubt she’d be chatting with the young man in the coffee shop this morning, that’s for sure.
About the Author
Resa Brandenburg is a former teacher who is now passionate about unschooling her daughter. She lives with her husband in an old farmhouse by the river in Kentucky. Her favorite thing to do is spend the afternoon with her family, including her grown sons and two grandchildren. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and quilting.