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The Most Common Argument Against Homeschooling
Are homeschool naysayers right about the lack of opportunities for homeschooled children to socialize?
In some cases, the answer is yes. But probably not for the same reason that they suspect.
While children in traditional schools often have one or more best friends by the end of first or second grade, homeschooled children can struggle to have even one close friend by this young age.
The Well-Intentioned Mistake
But it’s not because kids outside of school don’t interact with other children. In fact, when my homeschooled daughter struggled to develop close friendships, she was interacting with an average of sixty other children each week during extracurricular activities outside of our home. Few to none of those children were homeschooled, and she was spending from eight to ten hours each week at these activities.
The problem wasn’t the fact that I wasn’t exposing my daughter to other children, or that I was sheltering her from her peers who attend school.
Rather, the reason that so many homeschooled children struggle to build close friendships in their early elementary years is often because we as parents are eager to provide them with opportunities to socialize with other kids. And instead of focusing on the quality of those relationships, too many of us focus on the quantity.
How Kids In School Make Friends
Kids who attend traditional schools spend six hours each day with the same group of thirty children. And they do this five days each week. 180 days each year. That’s 1,080 hours each year with the same children. It’s no wonder it’s typical to make a few very close friends by the time a child in school is six or seven years old
What Homeschooled Kids Do Differently
Now compare that to your efforts to socialize your homeschooled child. You enroll each child in one sport every season. Add in karate, ballet and gymnastics for good measure. And then there’s church, Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.
Your kids, like my own was, are probably spending time with sixty of their peers each week. But while they are surrounded by potential friends, they spend only one or two hours a week with each one. Not nearly the amount of time that a traditionally schooled child spends with classmates. And not enough time to develop true friendships.
Three Ways To Help Homeschooled Kids Make Close Friends
- Participate as fully as possible in every extracurricular they enroll in. My daughter takes karate lessons, and since adopting this policy she attends the maximum number of classes that she is allowed each week. She participates in every tournament, attends every holiday party, raises money at every kick-a-thons, performs in every demonstration. This means that she is spending as many hours as possible with the children in her class. Since she has been attending class for over two years, she has developed some wonderful friendships.
- Nix activities that conflict with others. If soccer practice takes place on Mondays and Wednesdays, and gymnastics class runs on Mondays as well, you need to ditch one. Because signing up for both means not participating fully in either. And full participation is the key to making friends. But how can you decide which to ditch?
- Stick with what your children love. We bond best over things we enjoy, and our children are no different. If one activity conflicts with another, decide which to drop by continuing only the one that your child enjoys the most. The friendships your children make will be deeper, because they will develop over a genuine shared interest.
Are your children enrolled in every activity you can afford? Mine were too. We meant well, mama. But your child’s social growth does not depend on your crowded calendar.
Imagine your daughter’s excitement to call her best friend with the news that she got a new bike. Or your son eager to hand over his other walkie-talkie to his partner in crime.
How about your social life, mama? What will you do with your time once you stop trying to fit three sports teams, choir practice and Mandarin classes into your schedule?