One of the most frequent questions that homeschoolers have to field is, “How are they going to get “proper” socialization?” First of all, I’m not sure what “proper” socialization is. I’m fairly confident that all parents have a preference for what kinds of friends their kids make and with whom their children are spending their private time. Homeschoolers are no different.
When others push that we should do things THEIR way, my typical answer is this… “Well, sure. I’ll send my kids to institutionalized learning just as soon as you homeschool yours for the same length of time you’d like to tell me how to educate my own children”. As you’ve probably guessed, I get two responses. The first, and most typical, is complete indignation as though they can’t even imagine that I’d think that was OK. (yet, it never crosses their minds that my choices are JUST as valid as theirs) Or response number two is that they’d never even realized they were pushing their views off on me and judging me without having a clue about me. They just assumed because I was the one educating in the less traditional way that I MUST be the one who was “wrong”.
Now, hear my heart. I believe just as strongly about how I educate my kids as the parents who strongly disagree with me. Statistically, homeschoolers are getting a better education, so we can just skip over that part and address the socialization issues that seem to plague people who do not even homeschool. (that’s weird, right?!) But, I do agree that not every parent should homeschool, nor would ever think to push that view onto someone who wasn’t homeschooling. I genuinely believe that homeschooling is a ministry that only the Lord can call you into. Otherwise, you’d never stick to it.
With all that being said, let’s cover the number one place that many homeschoolers across the United States get that all important…SOCIALIZATION. …insert dramatic music there, if you’d like…
Let’s establish the actual definition of socialization before we go another step together: The process of learning one’s culture and how to live within it; The act of interacting with others, of being social. Simply learning the language of our culture, as well as writing and simple math, is the first step in socialization. I’d say, based on current test scores, that homeschoolers are ahead of the game on that one, so we can move to the next step of interacting with others and actually BEING social.
Homeschool co-ops are a very popular, and active, part of many homeschoolers lives. It’s a shame that the MSM doesn’t focus on them more, instead of the wife swap stories that currently hit the news. Homeschool co-ops are widespread within the homeschool community, so I’m not sure why they don’t get more press, actually. The one that my kids attend has as many as 120 kids involved each semester. They range from nursery age kids, all the way up to high school age students. Last year, my sons high school classes had 18 homeschoolers in them. My youngest had 22 in her K-5 class. That was actually bigger than I’d like the class to be..but, I digress.
Most co-ops meet weekly and cover a diverse range of subjects. Some homeschool co-ops cover academics, while others are more arts driven. Here are websites of two co-ops that we love: http://starsco-op.com/default.aspx and fcehomeschoolers.webs.com . The first is a more academic minded co-op, while the second is strictly an arts based one. Each meet weekly, and each have a fee to join, as well as class fees. Both hire outside teachers, as well as have parentally run classes.
Co-ops provide the kids with class instruction, as well as the opportunity to make friendships that last for years. My oldest, whose almost 16, has known most of his friends since he was in elementary school…just like institutionalized learning. They get invited to birthday parties, go on field trips, and share Facebook and email accounts to chat all afternoon.
My children have learned Spanish by a lady who lived in Spain for 3 years as a missionary. They have played with Polynesian children, mixed kids, black kids, Latino children, etc… They aren’t missing out on cultural diversity, nor being raised to believe that only Caucasian children exist. They have sat down with our County coroner and learned the horrors that drinking and driving bring. They have served their community by picking up trashy roads, and serving those less fortunate. They have witnessed parents with plenty, and those who struggle on a single income because they truly believe that God has called them…and He always provides.
They have friends who head to Dominican Republic or Guatemala every summer as missionaries and friends who man the counters of fast food restaurants to pay for their insurance. They have visited aquariums with groups of 40 and played at an apple orchard with a group of 5. They are aware of life around them. Co-op has given them much of this.
So many people who oppose homeschooling are completely unaware that something like homeschool co-ops even exist. Again, I’m not sure why the media hasn’t covered this aspect of homeschool as much as they cover the homeschooling mom who never teaches her kids, but sleeps until 11 and hangs out with them while watching soaps all day. As I’ve stated in other posts, I’ve never met a single mom who “homeschools” this way. Not one. And yet, I’ve met hundreds of homeschooling families via homeschool co-ops. It’s a conundrum why they single out the worst, and never reveal the much more popular, and common, best.
Homeschool co-ops can be large, small, academic, artsy, fun or serious. The best thing about them is they can be whatever your children need. You can bet that if you need it, so does another homeschooling family. Co-ops are the opportunity that so many non-homeschoolers know nothing about.
I sincerely pray that this has helped and encouraged someone. I also pray that this post will open the eyes of any who say that homeschooling closes children away from the world. In fact, homeschooling does just the opposite…but, I’d say that post may have to wait for another day!
Me and my youngest daughter on a homeschool day!
Homeschool band at Converse College…my boys are trumpet players and my oldest daughter will be a flute player next year!