Let me put on my English Professor hat for a moment. No, I am not a professor of any sort, but my family may lovingly call me that due to my obsession with words and using them correctly!
The root word of socialization is social, which means of or relating to people or society in general.
To socialize means to associate or mingle sociably with others.
So socialization basically means the act of associating or mingling with, or relating to, people or society in general.
Now that we all understand, let’s move on. “Professor” hat is coming off, and “Homeschool Mommy” hat is on!
Is socialization really a homeschool issue?
I think the answer to that question depends on two things:
- To whom are you speaking
- What is the family’s situation?
For most homeschooling families today, I personally believe that ‘socialization’ is a non-issue. There are so many activities, classes, church meetings, field trip, co-ops, clubs, and service projects available specifically for homeschoolers, not to mention all of the other classes, sports teams, plays, and more available to everyone in any community, that it actually takes a concerted effort to stay home several days each week!
I am still surprised, even after 7 years of homeschooling, at how many times I am asked, or when I hear others say they are still asked, the big question, “What about socialization?”
I have my own ideas about why various people ask this question, but I feel that the main reason is because folks don’t know much about homeschooling and homeschoolers, and they just don’t really think outside the box enough before asking the question. I also think that it could be a common question that new homeschoolers ask themselves, and that is completely normal! Homeschooling is a huge leap of faith and involves much seeking to find answers about curriculum, methods, activities, legalities, etc.
What about those for whom socialization is an issue for their homeschooled children?
- There are some families for which socialization, or lack thereof, could be an issue. My family has moved several times over the years, so we have made a concerted effort, each time upon moving, to get involved with others right away. Otherwise, we do not feel connected to the area and tend to stay home all the time. This does not help us to feel like we are in community, and though we do socialize with one another, it will likely not go beyond our family without effort on our part.
- Sometimes families live far away from cities and other groups of homeschoolers. They may need to seek out opportunities to socialize with others, as well.
- There are also families which include children or adults who suffer from social anxiety or a special needs diagnosis which inhibits them socially. Our family includes more than one such child. I was an anxious child and needed to practice making a phone call for at least half an hour before placing the call, and still ended the call shaking like a leaf. Sometimes I made the call only to hang up once someone answered. And this was when I was 16 years old! I can also remember requesting, as a child, that my mom stop by Dairy Queen on the way home one evening to get me a burger. She pulled in, put the car in park, and waited. When I found out that she expected me to get out and order at the walkup window, alone, I refused. I let her drive away without ordering a thing! I attended public school and never received any kind of special needs diagnosis, yet I struggled to socialize with others, not because I did not want to, but because I could not bring myself to do it on many occasions.
What can I do to help my child learn to be sociable?
I believe socialization can be an issue in any family. It is no respecter of persons, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, religion, location, or educational choice. If you or your child struggles with this issue, here are some things you can do to help:
- offer opportunities to be around others
- find out what your child enjoys doing and find a group with which to pursue that interest
- meet with others in your own home to make socializing easier on your child
- ask your child what he or she thinks would be helpful
- work with your child, not against him or her
- encourage your child to place his own order when dining in a restaurant
- teach your child to answer the telephone and to make phone calls at an early age
- seek medical counsel if you feel the need
- recognize that your child may just need more time
- memorize scripture, specifically those that concern fear, confidence, and worthiness
- pray that God will show you the best way to work through the issue for your family
My comments here do not come from any degree I have earned in socialization or psychology. They only come from my heart as one who has struggled with a lack of confidence, fear, and a feeling of unworthiness for most of her life. Now, watching some of my own children work to overcome those same fears, lack of confidence, and unworthiness, I at least feel I am somewhat armed to help them. Through my experiences as a child and into adulthood, God has enabled me to walk with them through their social struggles.
I pray that He will also use this small part of my story to help some of you.
What kinds of things does your family do to socialize? Is it an effort or do you have to really try to stay home? Share in the comments!
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