I doubt there is a homeschooling parent who has not heard the following sentence from friends, family, and strangers when they mention they are homeschooling: “But how do you expect your child to socialize with other children?!” As a pastor myself, I always try to respond calmly and explain the many opportunities my son has for building his social skills outside of a school environment. Admittedly, there have been times when I just ask incredulously respond, “What on earth makes you think I lock my child in a dungeon all day and don’t let him communicate with anyone?” I do not recommend this response, however, I do understand it…
This week, as I was catching up with a teacher of mine from when I was in school myself, she asked how I was doing and I said, “Busy. My six-year old’s social calendar is fuller than mine.” She laughed and nodded, saying she understood as a mother of three herself. So far in the coming week, my son has the church, two playdates scheduled, indoor soccer, swim lessons, and cub scouts – all with peers his own age. Beyond this, we will go to the library at least once and if there’s a nice day we will, of course, hit up a park or some other outdoor play space. My son is learning social skills by interacting with people in the “real world.” He talks to librarians, cashiers at the checkout line, bank tellers, my work colleagues, on top of all the peer interaction he gets throughout the week in environments where generally he gets to be his lovely, wild, six-year-old self. In cub scouts and soccer and swim and playgroups, he gets to socialize plenty and build appropriate peer interaction that is so crucial at this age. Sure, he needs some prompts from me – but what six year old doesn’t occasionally need the reminder to say please and thank you or to ask their friend what they would like to do?
As many homeschooling parents undoubtedly come to know early on, our learning does not only takes place at home when it is just my son and I. Our learning takes place all over … on cool field trips we get to take with our local homeschooling group, in the car as we practice spelling and reading road signs, at the grocery store working on a budget for “want” items versus “need” items, and at the playground with other children. And all of these learning opportunities are social opportunities as well, which has been a gift to us. He is being exposed to the world as it is; not only is he exposed to same age peers throughout the day but all kinds of people from all over the world, since we live in such a metropolitan area. Yes, we do some of our learning at home of course, but by no means is my homeschooled child suffering from a lack of social interaction. He is getting to explore the world and all its diversity of people throughout his day in truly wonderful and exciting ways!
Melanie Ollett is a mom of one joyful little boy whom she adopted from foster care in 2018. She lives on Long Island with her son, dog, and two cats who all insist on sleeping in her bed more nights than she really prefers. Melanie is the solo pastor of a United Methodist church in the New York Annual Conference and loves working back home close to where she grew up with the support of friends and family to help support her crazy schedule.