Homeschool socialisation is a topic many parents consider prior to commencing their homeschooling journey. Here we explore how some of the ways Wolsey Hall Oxford families find to ensure their children’s social needs are met.
Many parents worry that home education will isolate their child. It’s a question we often hear voiced: but how will it affect my son/ daughter’s social life?
This concern is common amongst prospective homeschool families, but in our experience it tends not to be shared by those who’ve been home educating for some time. We do have a community area with clubs to showcase your activities, and also several social media groups to enable networking between our students in a safe environment. Do get involved in those! We also recommend local events or centres which may help you.
We recently spoke to several Wolsey Hall families about their views on the homeschool socialisation issue, hoping to come up with some advice for prospective home educators.
The responses we got were overwhelmingly positive. The bottom line is that there are plenty of ways you can help your child maintain an active and healthy social life while educating at home – and indeed you may discover hidden benefits.
‘Mixing socially with all age groups’
One excellent example is the Newbury family, who have lived on a remote farm in Belize since 1999. Their children have always been home educated. As mother Yvette points out, there are plenty of ways for her sons to cultivate social relationships. Although they’re quite geographically isolated, they interact with others online and regularly visit with friends at the local library. Moreover, Yvette says,
“Homeschool socialisation is not just about children mixing with their peer group – it is about children mixing socially with all age groups. I am proud to say my children will hold their own in a group of adults, as well as with children much younger or the same age as them.”
This is an important sentiment, and it’s echoed by several other Wolsey Hall parents. Vinita, for instance, who’s based in Mumbai and whose daughter has been home educated for 9 years, points out that children can often feel isolated even in school. But the issue isn’t just about making sure children interact with other children:
“For developing a normal social life, it’s important that the child interacts with people of all ages, which is often not possible in a classroom.”
And Zara, based in Zambia, reports that her daughter “is a well adjusted child who is happy to chat to and engage with adults, her peers and younger children. I think home educating helps children socially – through gaining confidence in learning and exposure to all age groups.”
So home education can actually have a positive influence on the social lives of children. It allows them to broaden their social horizons and interact with people from all generations and walks of life. But none of this is to say that parents are therefore absolved of the responsibility to organise social opportunities for their children. As Vinita observes, “as parents, we have to take an active role in creating opportunities for our kids to interact with people.”
There are plenty of ways you can do this. What works best for you will of course depend largely on your child’s interests and abilities, as well as geographical factors – there’s no “one size fits all” strategy. Some of the more general suggestions offered by current Wolsey Hall parents, however, include:
Playing with other kids in your area;
Interacting and planning activities with other home educated children;
Visiting family and friends;
Using the internet to connect with others who live further afield – pen-pals for the modern world;
Participation in community activities;
Enrolling on short educational courses during holidays.
Engaging in sports or cultural pursuits is another great way to make sure children get enough social stimulation. Zara’s daughter Maddy, for instance, is a gifted horse rider, so, Zara says, “I teach her and a few other kids at our yard. This keeps her in touch with other kids. She also goes off to a French community centre to learn French – a slight tangent to her usual group of friends.”
There are plenty of other good resources and accounts online that deal with socialisation and the home-educated child – here are just a few:
“Will my child be socially isolated?” – FAQs at Home Education UK: “Many older children who have been home educated for a while develop substantial networks of contacts and use Instant messaging facilities of friends they have made both locally and at camps.”
“The “S” Word, Socialisation” – Home Education UK article: “Most home educated children spend a considerable amount of time using the resources they find in their community. This more open approach provides home-educated children with the interpersonal skills necessary for them to make the most of such encounters…it promotes a sense of personal responsibility to education and life generally along with an attitude to learning which encourages life long commitment to self-improvement.”
“What about socialisation?” – FAQs at Education Otherwise: “Interacting in a mixed age group and the habit of teaching, learning from and helping others are natural to home education.”
“Home education and socialisation: Why it’s not a matter of one or the other” – Tania at Larger Family Life: “There are even summer camps and festivals for home educators to get together each year including the popular and ever-growing HESFES.”