This is a valid question, and probably one of the most asked, especially in our early days of homeschooling. It was also the issue I was most concerned about as we considered home ed. As I was scrollling through photos to put on this page, I wish I’d had one of the hundred plus kids and adults at our homeschool sports day, or of a chatting group of teen boys sitting whittling while we were camping, or of older girls teaching younger ones gymnastics, or of a whole group of teens sitting round a fire roasting marshmallows and playing games. All home schooled kids. The list is endless.
While I have met a few home educated children who struggle a little more socially, the vast majority are confident, kind, can hold intelligent conversations and are fun to be with. I particularly noticed this when we joined our lovely home ed group. Living in the country, and generally being the first in our vicinity to walk the home ed road, I was keen to know that continuing through the teen years wouldn’t mean socially inept students at the other end! And on meeting the families with older children, nothing could have been further from the truth. I was reassured beyond all my hopes. And we have continued to be hugely blessed whenever we spend time with any of them.
Due to our location, we’re not generally involved in thier regular activities, but for those who live within the city, there are endless activities they are involved in; sports, music, co-ops, playtimes for younger children, swimming lessons, nature study, Shakespeare study, writing groups, IGCSE learning groups….and I know I’ve just touched the surface. Oh…and all the parties and special activity days like Matin Luther Day and Magna Carter Day. So, they have ample opportunities to learn to relate to other kids.
Another thing I’ve noticed, is how well the mixed age ranges of the children work. In the “real” post education world, we have to relate to people of all ages, so it seems natural and beneficial to be living and learning within this social context. I’m also always struck by how calm these kids generally are; there can be large numbers of them in one house, and they just seem to get along and play or chat very easily. And finally, the real test for me was the teenagers. And, as I’ve said in previous posts, they are a confident, happy bunch of young people, with strong faith who really don’t seem to have many of the self esteem issues I’ve seen elsewhere in my years of doing volunteer youth work.
This may all sound too good to be true; but another great thing about this group is the honesty of the mums. I feel I can tell all my parenting dilemmas and children’s misdemeanours, and know it won’t be put down to the fact they are home schooled. And other mums are equally honest, which is reassuring. So, I know it’s often a daily round of sibling squabbles, toddler tantrums, stroppy children and hormonal teens. But, when I look at the older kids in the group, I’m absolutely convinced it’s worth it.
So, for us, living in the country and not having an immediate home ed group around us, it’s been a bit different. I’ve always prayed for good friends for our children (much wisdom in Proverbs about friendships), and have to intentionally give opportunities for this to happen, I’m sure more so than if they were at school. They have all done an asssortment of clubs; beavers, cubs, scouts, explorers, brownies, football, rugby, sailing,tennis, swimming, ballet. And I enjoy having their friends round and try to make our home a place other kids like coming to.
We’ve always had birthday parties for each child, Christmas and Easter socials, campouts, cookouts, field days, movie nights, sleepovers (but limited to when they’re old enough to actually go to sleep!), and lots of everyday visits to and from friends. We are fortunate to live in a small community, where our amazing friends have accepted our different life style and choices, and still want to know us anyway! I’m so grateful for them, and I know our home ed journey would have been lonelier without them.
As in all parenting, there are no guarantees. And our daily life certainly testifies that we all still have lots to learn. But, with much prayer and some intentionality on my part, and within the secure base of parents and siblings who love them, I continue to trust that our kids will grow into adults who are kind, confident, rooted in their faith, able to have good friendships and one day marriages, contribute to their communities through work and in other ways, and will take the good news of Jesus out in practical ways to our nation.