Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community
A flexible schedule, a customizable curriculum, and no time wasted on the noisy school bus. Families attracted to the benefits of homeschooling (to name a few) often pause in front of one concern: “How do you socialize your kids at home?”
It’s a valid concern. One of the primary objectives of education is social development, in the words of Responsiblehomeschooling.org, to ensure children “gain the social skills they need to effectively navigate the social norms and behaviors of the broader society.”
However, socialization doesn’t happen by osmosis. They add an important consideration: “The term socialization can also refer to the process by which children learn to be tolerant and accepting of differences in a multicultural society by interacting with peers from diverse backgrounds.”
So before assuming that homeschoolers somehow lack the ideal socialization that public school kids automatically experience, let’s take a deeper look. As part of our efforts to create Prisma, a home-based learning community that includes daily socialization in its fabric, we researched what kids need to develop the social skills that will help them in real life — and how to make a learning environment conducive to such development.
Here’s what we learned.
When people worry about socialization for homeschooled kids, they often start with the misconception that traditional school offers ideal social interactions. But, consider the following:
Now, let’s look at how homeschooling lends itself to social opportunities.
There’s no question that homeschooling parents need to make an effort in seeking out social opportunities — but the opportunity to be more involved in their child’s education is one of the main reasons people homeschool in the first place. Here are some ways to ensure your child socializes while learning from home.
Encourage your child to try activities that match their interests and give them a chance to bond with kids who share those interests: a sports team, gymnastics class, or a book club. If your child likes music, look for ensembles rather than private lessons; theater clubs and community choruses are great ways to break the ice. Look for a group that meets (no less than) weekly so that kids can have the benefit of routine to foster their connection.
Throughout the country support groups for homeschooling families host museum days, playground hangouts for young children, and more. Search for a local Facebook homeschoolers’ group or start a group yourself. For a smaller commitment, host a one-off event, like a playground meetup.
Expose them to a range of options, but once you find a good fit, make a commitment to see it through for at least a season — if not more. Friendships take time to develop, and if you hopscotch through activities, you’ll inevitably skip crucial steps. By the same token, don’t over-commit your child with back-to-back high-energy activities only to find them too exhausted to make meaningful connections.
Not all interactions need to be in-person to help develop children’s social skills; our children’s friendships may look different than ours did, both because their personality may be different and because communication methods are so rapidly changing. At Prisma, we find learners develop authentic friendships through the online clubs we host, as well as our daily lounges and opportunities to connect; parents have told us they find their kids socialize more through Prisma than during a traditional school day where kids largely sit quietly and receive instruction.
Online socialization can take a variety of forms. Kids can take classes from organizations such as outschool.com, play videogames together on servers with friends while chatting (which research has shown is a positive for socialization), or Zoom with a buddy who lives across the country. Consider online socialization a tool in your kids’ toolbox — one that they’ll continue to use throughout their life, as remote or hybrid work becomes an integral part of society.
Some children do best with a host of friends, and some do best with a few close friends. Some make friends quickly, and some warm up to friends slowly. You may feel their social situation is not what you think it should be (especially if you have other children with very different personalities). But if they’re not telling you (or showing signs) there’s something wrong, maybe they’re getting what they need. Kids’ internal realities are in flux; an ongoing conversation will be the best way to ensure they’re meeting their needs as they grow.
As you and your child explore activities and situations, use their personality as a guide. If your child relishes a crowd and needs to burn off energy, go for sports teams and big group activities. If your child prefers one-on-one interactions, they’ll likely prefer individual playdates. That said, kids change so rapidly that it’s never too soon to try an activity that once seemed improbable: the shyest introvert might relish the camaraderie of an Ultimate Frisbee team, while even the most social of butterflies can benefit from one-on-one time. Whatever their personality, build in decompression time after activities so they don’t get overstimulated.
As you develop your homeschool curriculum, incorporate community-based projects or even part time employment for older children. Remember, socialization is not just about getting along with peers. The ability to engage with people of all ages, in a variety of scenarios, is essential to becoming a capable, adaptable adult. At Prisma, we encourage learners to develop ongoing relationships with members of their community, whether its fellow volunteers at the local garden or residents at a senior home.
As you explore your local resources, try taking a project-based approach, so that you choose settings that are meaningful to your child and that provide real-world learning opportunities. Look for places that welcome volunteers and school groups, such as museums, animal rescue facilities, farms, arts collectives, or nature preserves. Find an interesting initiative in your town — a food pantry, a popup event, a community resource — and speak to the organizers to find out if they would be willing to involve your child in some way (if they’re old enough, have your child reach out themselves).
Homeschooled students come from a range of backgrounds; according to the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschoolers are demographically diverse, in terms of race, religion, class and parents’ educational background. That means that when you explore homeschool groups and resources, you’re already likely to find a mix of people.
But don’t forget to venture outside these groups; seek social situations such as summer camps that include children from all sorts of educational backgrounds. Make sure to sign up for after-school activities, in addition to daytime groups geared towards homeschoolers.
When you choose to homeschool, you assume more responsibility for your child’s education, from their academic curriculum to their social activities. That doesn’t mean you can, or should, do it all yourself. Empower them to initiate playdates and select activities and you’ll be giving them an opportunity to develop independence, self-esteem and confidence - which goes a long way in allowing them to thrive as adults.
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