by Michaela Roekle
Socialization…new homeschoolers research it. Homeschool skeptics question it. Your relatives worry about it.
As a second-generation homeschooler and leader of a homeschool organization, I have witnessed families struggle to find a balance of healthy socialization. Some families over emphasize socialization to the point of hindering their children’s academics, while others neglect socialization to the detriment of their children’s happiness. This may come as a surprise, but I don’t believe socialization depends upon how a child is schooled.
All parents must pick and choose which social activities their family will participate in. Today, I am simply writing to encourage you to prayerfully seek the Lord in your homeschooling choices, so that you and your children can enjoy your schooling years to the fullest!
I absolutely loved being homeschooled, however, as an extrovert, I craved being around people. My dad would call me his social butterfly! I participated in dance, competitive skating, played in a band, experienced dating, and stayed active in church. My husband on the other hand, grew up attending traditional school and was always an introvert. He stayed home, wasn’t active in hobbies or sports and had few friends.
In both traditional and non-traditional school settings, we find introverts and extroverts. Just because a child attends a traditional school does not necessarily mean they have a great social life. Likewise, teaching a child at home does not mean they are being deprived of a social life. Personalities and family dynamics are both determining factors for socialization. Since children pick up on the habits of their parents, we play a major role in creating a healthy balance of socialization.
Four ways my parents fostered healthy socialization in our homeschool:
1: They made a conscious effort to help me understand who I am in Christ. We read the Bible (a lot) and discussed topics including my identity in Christ. Knowing I was loved, chosen, and created by a heavenly Father who had a plan for my life helped me have confidence when meeting new people and trying new activities. I knew who I was and to whom I belonged. I felt accepted by God and my family. I will always be thankful for the time my parents spent pouring into my walk with the Lord.
2: They said yes, more than no. If it was a safe activity with good people, I was allowed to do it. My childhood socialization consisted of field trips, slumber parties, and park days. My teenage social life included formal dances, Christian concerts, hobbies, and working a part time job. I had my own car and I never felt like I “missed out” on life being homeschooled. Recently, my daughter (18 years old) thanked me for being a “yes” mom. Chances are our kids will be presented with opportunities that we never had. We can demonstrate our faith and trust in the Lord by allowing them to have fun participating in these social activities, instead of holding them back with fear and worry.
3: They allowed me to be myself. My parents viewed each of us as unique people and didn’t force us into social activities or classes that did not suit our individual interests. When selecting activities, it can be tempting to lump all the kids into the same sport or co-op class because it makes our lives as busy homeschooling moms a whole lot easier! However, I played tennis while my sister played softball. As we got older, we each had our own social groups. My sister and I were very close and we’re still the best of friends today, but we did not do everything together.
4: They shielded me without sheltering me. I was in the world, but not of the world. I had friends from church that went to public school and relatives who worked in public schools/colleges. My parents did their very best to ensure that I never felt inferior, academically or socially. I was shielded from drugs, alcohol and other public-school issues, but I wasn’t hidden under a rock. Not once was I picked out of a crowd as a homeschooler. We had television, radio, and computers; we discussed life matters and I was educated in politics and world religions. Being able to discuss things like current events with non-homeschooled peers helps build confidence in our homeschooled children.
Three additional ways my husband and I strive to foster healthy socialization for our children:
1: We prioritize life-learning. God’s great world is our classroom. We encounter people, places, and things from all ages, ethnicities, economic positions, and beliefs when we practice life-learning. We intentionally study from living books and regularly plan real-life experiences out of the home. California is full of diversity and a variety of cultures, but we can also learn a lot by traveling out of state! One of the many blessings of homeschooling is having the freedom and flexibility to learn away from the school desk.
2: We know socialization requires effort from us, as parents.
We drive, we host, we make room on the calendar and try to prioritize people so that our family can have social time with friends. Building friendships takes time and effort. Sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s totally inconvenient, but my husband and I have made a point to leave time for socializing in our family schedule. The house could always use cleaning and a mother’s work is never done, but we need to be mindful that we don’t become a “Martha” instead of a “Mary.” (Luke 10:38-42)
3: We don’t require that our kids spend every minute with us (or at home).
My husband and I have carefully chosen positive people outside of our immediate family to place in our children’s lives; these people help shape their lives. Mentors like a taekwondo master, youth pastor, and scout leader have had a huge impact on our kids. We treasure our time together as a family, but we also don’t prevent our kids from being out with others. It can be overwhelming and artificial to have every need in life met solely by your parents. Homeschool parents wear so many hats: teacher, bus driver, lunch-lady, guidance counselor, and custodian, but that doesn’t mean we can’t allow others to serve as coach, tutor, friend, and guide. Allowing others to take an active role in our children’s lives prevents burnout for both parent and child.
Psalm 133:1 says that it is GOOD and PLEASANT for brothers to dwell together in unity! I have come to learn that the relationships we have on this journey make all the difference in the world. Successful, thriving homeschoolers are not doing this alone. When we unify as believers in the body of Christ, we bring glory to God training up His children for His kingdom!
With Joy, Michaela Roekle
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Michaela Roekle and her husband Brad are CHEA’s new Inland Empire Regional Advisory Board Members. Homeschooling parents of three (a high school senior, an eighth grader, and a kindergartner), they run their own PSP, Grace and Glory Academy while filling their days with learning and opportunities for “socialization” for their entire family.