Locked in a Closet

Friends and "Family"If you’ve ever come across the numerous blog posts written by ex-homeschooled kids, you will notice a trend. Generally speaking, the complaint lies in socialization. It seems they did not have enough friends, go on enough outings, or have the privilege of attending prom. To their way of thinking, they might as well have been locked in a closet.

While we’ve discussed the silly myth of socialization among homeschooled children, it does seem there is a certain percentage of children who are not enjoying enough interaction with other people.

As a parent who truly does want my children to enjoy meaningful friendships and have lifelong relationships, how then do I go about the act of socialization? I think there are numerous ways in which this can be accomplished:

  • Church
  • Sports
  • Co-ops
  • Family
  • Fellowship with Friends
  • Ministry Opportunities

I am sure the list could go on; however, I doubt it is necessary. To be honest, I believe opportunity is not the issue. There are more than enough venues to offer socialization if one simply makes an effort. Perhaps the problem lies somewhere deeper… a lack of relationship with our children.

As parents, it is our responsibility to pay attention to our children; to understand their needs and provide for them. If my children are expressing a desire for interaction and fellowship, it would behoove me to listen and help them in this area of development.

Is this going to mean a little more work for me? Possibly. Will this mean I might taxi people around a little bit? Perhaps. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely!

Through careful study of my children, I can begin to encourage and help forge those relationships which would be of benefit. With an observant eye, I want to offer plenty of opportunities for my littles to meet new people and build lasting friendships.

It doesn’t take a public school to socialize a child. It does take an involved parent with a heart to meet their children’s needs and guide them into meaningful fellowship.

Time to Chime In: How do you teach your children the fine art of socialization? Which venue has best met that need?

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34 thoughts on “Locked in a Closet

  1. And this is why I am advocating a distinction in terminology: Many home schooled children are home bound, where as, truly unschooled children move in an out of the home-base, interacting with the broader marketplace as the extended location for educative experiences.

    Good point, though. Family is the God-ordained location for true socialization. It is the place where interacting with a range of ages can be safely explored, and then tested and proved in the wider community. If there is no relationship with mum, dad and the other siblings, it does not matter what environment the child is placed, home school, community school, whatever, the child will struggle with social relationships in every context.

    Enjoyed the blog!

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  2. Great post – and I also know PLENTY of kids that go to school, that also never attended prom, and have no social skills whatsoever. I am speaking of a complete lack of courtesy and manners! While its true that some home schoolers are kept prisoner by their parents, these are by far in the minority. But isn’t it always the negatives that get the most attention? The media does not want to hear about happy home schoolers, and what delightful people they are.

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    • I certainly never went to the prom but managed to learn social skills eventually in spite of public school. My kids were isolated at first because we’d just moved. Later on they got to know more people thru our ISP and clubs etc. They have very few friends now either by choice, mood issues or lack of paternal bonding. They have pretty good manners in public and know how to dance and behave at work and at parties. How much more could you ask for with boys?

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  3. Love this topic. I can’t tel you how many times I get asked about “socialization”. sage_brush mentioned that even kids that go to PS may never attend Prom or have social skills. This is true because each person is an individual. My two oldest sons enjoy meeting people and making friends. We move a lot so they have made friends in the neighborhood or homeschool groups. My youngest is an introvert. He prefers just one friend over a group and I have had to work with him on his social skills. We have talked about how to say “hi” and ways to strike up conversations. I have actually gone as far as giving him $1 to play with others just to get him talking to others. (I know, it sounds bad)

    I want to say that while we are not unschoolers, my three sons are out and about like how the gentleman mentioned unschoolers are. Maybe it’s where we have lived but when the sun is out, we get out doors. When an activity or event is happening we are there. We have attended activist rallies at the State Capitol, court hearings, garden shows, farmers markets, car museums, theatre and the list goes on. My sons have worked on professional theatre productions, concerts, logging, landscaping, child care and animal care to name a few. They have met Native American Elders, Mayors, Governors, play writes, designers, engineers, and farmers.

    I will have to say through our Boy Scout Troop in Juneau, Alaska my sons were able to do and meet some amazing people.

    But the friendships grew out of our homeschool groups. For my youngest, he has one best friend in a different state and he says that no one will take his place. But at least now he will play with others ( : with out having to pay him.

    Sorry – this got a little long.

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    • Your comment was just fine; not long at all!

      I would never consider us ‘unschoolers’ either – more eclectic really – but our methods have never stopped us from constantly being out and about. We have many venues by which our children are able to interact with others.

      My heart goes out to those children who have no such outlet. I truly feel they are the minority in the home school community, but none-the-less. I pray their parents would hear the hearts of their children and make more of an effort to re-bond that relationship.

      It really does start at home, no matter how you choose to educate your children.

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    • Hah! We used to bribe our shyest son with ice-cream. :o) We told him he could have ice cream if he would go up to the counter and order it. Usually, he’d forego the treat. Now he’s a wedding photographer. He’s overcome his inhibitions.

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  4. You asked two questions, hoping for feedback “How do you teach your children the fine art of socialization? Which venue has best met that need?”

    In our family (results may vary) we’ve focused on a strong marriage relationship first (so that our children have a strong emotional foundation that our family life, rooted in our marriage, is secure) Also, they see how we work together as mates, and how we relate to other adults in various contexts — that modeling of social interaction has helped them with both manners, structuring their social interactions to be appropriate to the situation (i.e. courteous, casual speech with the bank teller typically feels different than how you greet a close personal friend you haven’t seen in a long time, etc.) We pushed for them to be ready (at appropriate ages) to do things for themselves and made them practice — for instance, as early teens, they got checking accounts and debit cards, and from that point on they handled all transactions for their own purchases, banking, returns, etc. (we may coach them the first few times, but they have to practice dealing with the point of sale conversations like “do you want the service plan for your computer?” etc.)

    We’ve been willing to try many different venues of outside-home activities to find those that “fit” our children best. Just as the curriculum from brand x may work with the first child and be a total “dud” with the second child, socialization outlets vary in making connections with each child, too. Awanas, little league, VBS, Sunday School, “toastmasters”, bible studies, youth groups, scouts, martial arts, art classes, group skating/swimming lessons, group horseback riding lessons, WorldView Academy summer camps, family and group trips to museums, family and group trips to history reenactments,et.al. — some were a great fit for one child and not so great for the other, but we kept trying new stuff till we found good matches for each.

    Scouting has been a really good place for our sons to build self-confidence, take responsibility, practice planning and leading alongside a range of personalities, beliefs and attitudes. They’re exposed to working with adults (through merit badges, etc.) and get lots of exercise (metal, physical and spiritual).

    Perhaps some of the “grown and flown” children are being told that they “missed out” on “amazing” experiences like learning to get drunk, puke and laugh about it at public school the next day. While I was not homeschooled, when I arrived at college, almost universally, my peers were amazed at my relatively tame and sheltered life (in their estimation) and were relentless at trying to get me to engage in all the activities I had missed during junior and senior high. In reality, most of the stuff I missed, I had heard about from my older siblings and they had actually warned me off of the desire to be a wild child.

    Maybe it’s better to get them through to adulthood with values in place, alive and without scars — if they “hate me” for it, I know they still have some maturing to do, but I’m confident that I did right by them, too.

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  5. As a retired homeschooler, my children did not lack in opportunities to socialize. Some issues arose when they were teens, but these issues take place whether a student is homeschooled or not. As a child matures their interests change and sometimes they lose contact with friends. The more athletic kids tend to join sports teams and the more artsy kids tend to join drama teams or get involved in music.

    Another thing is when the population of kids is small, as in most homeschool groups, it can be difficult to find someone that you have something in common with. If that is the case, you may have to try different avenues before you find a place where you belong. And sometime one child makes friends in with one group and another child makes friends in another group.

    As I said earlier these are issues that all adults face and sometimes we as adults have a hard time fitting in.

    Anyway, I do agree with you and for the most part students who were homeschooled are some of the most socially well-adjusted young adults I know.

    If you don’t mind, I would like to write a post (or maybe a series) about some of my kids experiences with socialization and am happy to report that they as well as their homeschool friends are now well-adjusted adults who are contributing to society and I would like to link your post to it. Would that be ok?

    Blessings to you as you live through the wonderful journey of homeschooling.

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    • I think your doing a series would be an excellent idea! I am sure many families would benefit from your thoughts and ideas. Please feel free to include any links you deem necessary and keep us informed of your posts; we’d love to read along!

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  6. Public school can provide too much socialization. It doesn’t teach children how to socialize. It is the parents’ job to teach values and to monitor their children with their peers so when children are adults, they will know who they are and what kind of friends they should have. I have found Sunday School can be enough negative socialization!
    My children attend a Christian tutorial school once a week, I have 11 other students that come to our house for school 3 days a week, I’m involved in a MOMS club that meets regularly for playdates, we are involved in community theater, soccer, ballet, and homeschooling field trips. Thankfully our community is very big on homeschooling!

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  7. I agree, parents need to be involved. We had to adjust a lot when we moved to another city with our kids. They were growing up with a group of home schoolers their age back in our old church but when we moved, we had to find avenues for them to meet new people they can be friends with. It was challenging considering our church here is already huge when we moved here…we had to deliberately join a co-op and sign them up for classes.

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  8. “It doesn’t take a public school to socialize a child. It does take an involved parent with a heart to meet their children’s needs and guide them into meaningful fellowship.” All I can say is: AMEN! Well said!

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  9. Reblogged this on Happy. Homeschooling. Housewife. and commented:
    I really enjoyed reading this post, as I think it nailed it on the head. Socialization does start at home and the challenge of raising socially confident and happy children is not just a homeschooling issue. Hope you enjoy this post as much as I did!

    As always, Stay Encouraged & Be Blessed!

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  10. Reblogged this on My Fictional Escape and commented:
    This is what I hear about the most. “What about socializing?” “Do your kids have friends?” No, we duct tape them to chairs and just bring them food every now and then. SMH. Seriously, if you homeschool your kids and feel they are not getting enough socialization, do something about it. Don’t let the kids feel left out.

    I’ve asked my kids numerous times if they wanted to attend a public school so they could hang out with some friends more often and they both say no. We were a part of a co-op for a while where we have made life long friends, but we also find socialization elsewhere. We are very active in our church and my son just went to church camp for the first time this summer. Both of my kids love drama and have been in numerous plays in the Kidz Krew at our local Art Center. My son is a 1st degree black belt in Hapkido. He also plays baseball and my daughter attends gymnastics and used to compete in dance. Besides that, they attend numerous social events with my husband and me around the area. My husband is the Chamber Chair and we are very active in clubs and charity events. We feel it important to immerse it children into that world.

    Socialization problems? I think not!

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  11. One of the myriad of reasons many families homeschool is to prevent their children from being influenced by the negative social behaviors that seem to flourish in our culture. But, on the other hand, we also have to be mindful that too much shelter is not beneficial either. It is a difficult (but wholly necessary) balance, and it takes loving, committed, sacrificial parenting to accomplish.

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  12. I’m lucky to live in a place with a huge unschooling/homeschooling community, libraries with homeschooling book clubs, regional parks with workshops and programs timed for unschoolers, and lots of wonderful science and exploration museums and other opportunities. One would have to be nearly homebound not to socialize, here.

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  13. We didn’t start homeschooling until 10th grade. Social activities were essentially the same before and after homeschooling: robotics club, classes, theater classes. The classes were a little more diverse in terms of age after leaving public school (community college, university, umbrella school), but otherwise there was little difference.

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  14. I have been home schooling for 25 years. I’ve seen some trends. Most of the post home school student articles I’ve read were more about domineering legalistic type stuff rather than lack of socialization. I think there’s validity to their complaints. Twenty years ago there was heavy pressure to “represent Christ through perfection”. It gave the false impression that if you were home schooling, your children would have no excuse; if you were doing it right they would be perfect obedient little robots. One got the impression that their own family was one of the few who just wasn’t representing well enough. Some of the speakers that were promoting this message have, more recently, fallen into some devastating sin. Alas, the perfection was all a facade — but it did it’s damage.

    Today’s parents seem to have a more realistic grip on the whole legalism thing. But today’s parents are busy, busy, busy! They may be involved in music lessons, sports, 2 or 3 co-ops, a few outside classes and church programs. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it all and home school.

    We’ve done all of the above things, but never all in the same year. I think our BEST social situations were in unit study co-ops with half a dozen other families. We’ve also been involved in an enrichment program that offers classes one afternoon a week and serves about 150 students. Additionally, we’ve done various types of book discussions in our home — especially when we got to the high school level. We’ve tried a few times to organize fun activities for teens on a regular basis, but it always fizzles because the kids are too busy with other stuff.

    Over the years I think our most effective method of socializing our children was to keep an open door. I long ago got past being mortified about the condition of my home and worked instead to fill it with loving welcome. Our kids have always felt free to invite their friends over. In fact as they reached their late teens, we’ve had the opportunity to have friends from other states and even one from Europe come stay with us for a week or two. We’ve hosted lots of gatherings and have been greatly blessed by the wonderful friendships we’ve shared. The clubs, co-ops, classes helped our children meet friends; our open home helped them develop those relationships.

    One final note. My grandson is having lots of social problems in his public school. I find it interesting that some of his best social experiences have been when he joins Grandma at home school events.

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  15. I went to prom as a homeschooler 🙂 My husband was non-traditionally schooled as well, but we both attended a few select classes at the local public high school (I took music classes and he took maths and sciences) and were able to take part in any extra activities we wanted (and were allowed by our parents) to. In our current area – for our children – there’s a homeschool prom, several different informal groups that meet for playgroups at various playgrounds throughout the week, co-ops, and church groups. Several local private schools also offer the option of homeschoolers taking their regular art and music classes for a small yearly fee.

    We also go to “adult” functions with our children. The first Friday downtown event on the first Friday evening of every month has a considerable number of art shows and other activities that we take our children to when we’re able to get out that way. Some weeks it seems as though we aren’t at home much at all, but that’s what whole life schooling is all about, right?

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