The first concern that comes to mind when considering homeschooling is social skills? I’ll share how we combat the social skills and why you shouldn’t be concerned.
Does homeschooling affect social skills? Homeschooling, in itself, doesn’t affect social skills. The lack of social interaction affects social skills. Homeschool presents the challenge of finding age-appropriate social interaction. Homeschool also presents the opportunity for kids to have meaningful realistic social interactions based on their interests that are not seen in other learning environments.
We are going to explore how to build healthy social skills. I think it’s important to understand what healthy social skills are versus just having social skills. Everything isn’t healthy to have. I also want to share how my family obtains social skills as a homeschooling family and specific ways you can make sure you are getting your social skills. Lastly, I want to touch on how you can master social skills in a rural town.
Building Healthy Social Skills
So, let’s talk about social skills. What are they? How do we get them? And which ones do we want our kids to have? How is it all related to school?
Social skills are a person’s way of interacting with other’s around them. It’s how we meet new people, how we maintain our friendships, and who we present ourselves to others. Also, our social skills affect how we resolve conflict and persuade others.
Social skills are obtained by interacting with other people. Yes, we can learn skills by being lectured to, but mostly we learn when we experience. This is especially true for conflict and persuasion because emotions can make us forget everything we’ve learned.
As parents, we want our kids to have positive social interactions. We want them to leave social sitting feeling safe, heard, not taking advantage of, and personally I don’t want my kids to replicate other kids’ poor behaviors. On the other hand, I do like when my kids’ are around other children who are exhibiting negative behavior and my children aren’t influenced and stand-up for themselves.
So here are my thoughts about social skills and school. I’ve had a child in public school and now in homeschool. I think it’s important for every parent to realize that we are their teachers, coaches, and leaders. At different times in life, they need different aspects of each one of these roles. In our house, the coaching role is used most for building social skills with my homeschoolers.
Here are a few ways to build social skills for all kids not just homeschool kids:
- Be aware of the environment that your kids are in and the type of personalities they will be around. Make sure you ask questions about their day and not just how their day was. What was your favorite part of your day? What wasn’t the favorite part of your day? Tell me something funny someone told you, today. Did anyone say something that made you want to know more?
- When your kids tell you about a social interaction that was negative, become the coach. Ask them how it made them feel. Ask them what they think they could have done differently. My daughter was very quiet and I often had to coach her to understand what wasn’t okay for others to do, without saying it directly. So, I would do things like create a definition of a good friend with her (What does it mean to be a friend? What are things that a good friend does?) and then go back and analyze the “friend’s” behavior. Then I would teach her about why we have to be careful about who we call friend and how much access to ourselves we give others.
- Roleplay – I am the mom of a shy yet outgoing child and oh boy have we roleplayed.
- Observe and keep quiet. I can’t tell you how many times I sat and watch my kids play with other kids (cousins too). When I noticed negative social interaction I would coach my daughter about it later. With a daughter who preferred to ignore things because they were “no big deal” it wasn’t always easy. So, I gave her real-life examples of why it was a big deal. If something happened that was major, I would call her away and then coach on the spot. I tried not to use this often because most things you need to wait it out to see the true interaction.
- As leaders, one of the best ways to build healthy social skills is by demonstrating them. When we model good behavior, our kids learn healthy behavior. So, we have to be careful about how we react to conflict and interact with our peers (in the presence of our children).
Homeschool students are often thought to have difficulty building social skills because they aren’t believed to be around peers daily as in traditional schools. This is ignorance. How many kids in public schools are written-up for failing to adhere to the restrictive rules of being in a classroom? In my opinion, homeschool kids build social skills in natural settings were they socialized based on their interests. The same way adults do. In the next section, I’ll show you how we make it possible.
Finding Social Outlets
Here is a list of social outlets for homeschool kids to build healthy social skills:
- Weekly children’s church. I don’t know about yours but our church is open for 2 weekly services per week and has children’s church. A great way for kids to interact with their peers while developing the principles we value most.
- Co-op groups. This is a group that parents and kids attend with other homeschoolers. Every co-op is different, some provide full curriculum and frequent in-person classes. Others like the one we are apart of meets weekly for learning opportunities and socialization (park day)
- Online outsourced classes. Even though these classes are online students are still able to build socialization skills because they can see one another and speak to one another.
- Extracurricular classes. We have taken everything from arts/crafts, robotics and sewing to swimming, horseback riding, and tennis as extracurricular classes. These are great for developing personal talent, discipline, and sportsmanship. These classes often meet at least once per week.
- Meet-up groups. There are so many groups out there that meet up for kids to play.
- Library and community centers have calendars and offer a host of kids activities.
Social Skills for Rural Town Homeschoolers
Rural towns present the problem of fewer activities; however, hope is not lost. The task may be a little more challenging, but definitely possible. Here are a few ideas for finding social outlets in rural areas.
- Talk to neighbors and see who else is homeschooling. Sometimes neighbors are far, but they are the closest options to having frequent interactions.
- Make friends with neighbors who are in school as well. Consider hosting Tuesday night crafting and invite the kids or some other weeknight fun activity your kids love.
- Go to the park. Most homeschoolers will go to a park at some point to get out of the house. This is a great way to find homeschoolers. The library is another way to find homeschoolers (and yes sometimes this may be far). If it is far, make a school day out of the library day. Take your schoolwork and complete your tasks at the library. Try to schedule a park day with other homeschoolers after the library event.
- Online classes and webinars. Now, I’m not saying online school. I’m saying online classes where kids can see and interact with the other kids in the room.
- Homeschool pen pals. Supervised of course.
- If your district allows it, several do, compete or participate in public/private school sports and clubs.
- Public speaking opportunities at home with friends and family can build skills like making eye contact or organizing thoughts. There are so many opportunities to guide social skills just through living everyday life.
What percentage of parents homeschool? 3.4% of American families homeschool their children. This is according, to the National Center for Education Statistics. However, it is important to remember that not every family completes census and not every family is required to report homeschooling of children who have never entered school.
What are the negative effects of homeschooling?
- The decrease in household income, because many households decrease to one income.
- Exhaust and burnout of being with your kids all the time if you don’t balance your time and promote self-care
- The need to seek out socialization opportunities