Homeschool & Socialization: How to Keep Your Child Connected

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Whether you are just starting your journey of homeschooling, or you have been at it for some time, probably the number one question you get asked (or you ask yourself) is about socialization: How will your kids be properly socialized if they are learning at home rather than in a school environment?

It's an understandable concern. After all, most of us spend our childhoods in more traditional educational setups, attending brick and mortar schools, where we are surrounded by other kids daily, and where social interaction is an intrinsic part of our educational experience. How can this be replicated if we are teaching our children at home?

While socialization certainly looks different for kids who are homeschooled (or who learn at home through a distance learning modality), most parents will tell you that their kids who learn at home are doing just fine in the socialization department.

Why? Well, it’s partly because homeschooling usually doesn’t take place exclusively at home, and homeschoolers actually interact frequently with others. But it’s also because homeschool parents usually make an effort to bring socializing into the mix, with positive results.

Let’s look at how homeschoolers, or kids who are otherwise educated at home, ensure that socialization happens so that kids form meaningful relationships with their peers, are well-rounded—and most of all, are happy.

What to Know About Homeschooling and Socialization

No one can deny that socializing with other children is an important part of child development, especially as your child moves through the elementary school years, and into secondary grades.

Interactions with trusted adults—such as parents, other family members, and teachers—can be enriching too, but children are meant to play and explore with other children.

But it’s not just about having playmates. Socialization also teaches your child how to handle and resolve conflicts with others—and how to do basic things like sharing, cooperating, respecting another child’s personal space, and being generally respectful and empathetic.

School environments also teach children how to follow directions from others, be good listeners, and take turns when speaking—all of which don’t always come naturally to young children.

What Does The Research Say?

Research about homeschoolers and socialization is, unfortunately, not abundant at this time. However, the research that is available does point to mostly positive outcomes when it comes to socialization and homeschooled children.

For example, a system review of the available research on homeschooling, published in the Journal of School Choice, found that not only do homeschoolers fare very well academically, but also appear to be well adjusted, and well socialized.

As lead author Brian D. Ray explains, out of 15 available studies that look at socialization of home educated kids, 13 out of 15 showed “clearly positive outcomes for the homeschooled compared to those in conventional schools.”

In fact, two studies showed an even more positive outcome for homeschooled children as opposed to conventionally educated children.

Ray points to research showing that homeschooled kids are less likely to engage in risky behavior such as alcohol consumption. An older study cited by Ray (from 1992) found that homeschooled kids had fewer behavioral problems than their conventionally schooled counterparts.

Richard G. Medlin, PhD, a Professor of Psychology at Stetson University, published a review of homeschool research in the Peabody Journal of Education. He came to similarly positive conclusions as Ray. Here’s what Medlin found:

  • Homeschooled children have stronger relationships with their parents and other adults in their lives
  • Homeschooled children are generally content, hopeful, and report high levels of satisfaction with their lives
  • Homeschooled kids are ethical and are more likely to take social responsibility than conventionally taught kids
  • Homeschooled kids are well behaved and experience less “emotional turmoil”
  • Homeschooled kids who attend college are as social as their peers who were taught more traditionally
  • Homeschooled kids are open minded and like to try new things
  • Adults who were homeschool as kids are “civically engaged” and well adjusted

What Do Homeschool Parents Report?

According to Medlin’s research, parents of kids who learn at home report positive outcomes about their children’s socialization skills.

Richard G. Medlin, PhD

The research indicates that homeschooling parents expect their children to respect and get along with people of diverse backgrounds, provide their children with a variety of social opportunities outside the family, and believe their children's social skills are at least as good as those of other children.

— Richard G. Medlin, PhD

If you talk to any veteran homeschooling parent, they will likely agree, explaining that their children generally have uniquely diverse experiences as homeschoolers, interacting with kids of all ages, having many experiences with other adults in public situations, and generally learning how to be a respectful, thoughtful, and empathetic member of society because they are schooled at home, and not despite it.

How to Keep Your Homeschooler Socially Engaged

Most homeschoolers will tell you that the thing to keep in mind about homeschooling is that only a small portion of it happens at home.

Most children are able to finish their lessons or academic work within a few hours, and still have several more hours free each day to do other activities—and most of these activities involve interactions with others.

In fact, many children do a large bulk of their academic schooling with others—such as in homeschool co-ops and through outside classes and activities aimed at homeschooled kids and families.

Really, the ways that you can keep your home learner engaged with others are endless, especially with a little planning ahead. Here are some of the most popular ways that homeschool parents give their elementary-aged kids opportunities for socializing.

Join a Homeschool Co-op

Homeschool co-ops are popular ways to connect with other homeschool families so that your children can play and learn with others. Some of these co-ops are primarily social in nature; others involve parents taking turns teaching classes, or hiring outside teachers to teach students. 

HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) is a good place to get started if you are looking for a local homeschool co-op or group.

Enroll Your Child In Extracurricular Activities

Just because you homeschool doesn’t mean you can’t participate in afterschool or weekend activities with non-homeschool kids. Some public schools even allow homeschool kids to participate in their extracurricular activities.

Sign your child up for martial arts, dance, cooking, piano, computer coding—whatever floats their boat.

Get Involved In Sports

If you have a sporty kid, getting them on a local sports team (even through your local school district if allowed) is a wonderful way for you to socialize your child. Sports involve many of the important skills you will want your child to learn, such as teamwork, communication, and managing “big” emotions.

Volunteer

Volunteer at the local zoo, a homeless shelter, or soup kitchen. Older kids can volunteer at a local non-profit, an animal rescue, or a local hospital. There are so many opportunities to get your kids involved in local civic organizations.

All of them are educational opportunities as well as ways to interact with others in meaningful ways.

Register Your Child for Classes

Even without enrolling your child in a full-day school program, there are academic-oriented classes you can usually find within your community.

Many non-profits, environmental centers, museums, and even local libraries offer educational classes for kids of all ages. These are also great ways for your child to get used to a classroom-like setting and engage with others.

Take Community College Courses

High school aged homeschoolers are often able to enroll in community college courses. This is a fantastic way to enrich your child’s education, teach them to be more independent, and give them opportunities to engage with others.

And of course, there’s the added bonus that they will get a leg up on their college coursework and tuition.

Go to Summer Camp

Homeschoolers often attend camp—day camp and sleepaway camp. This is a great way to make long-lasting friendships, and is also a good way to build grit and independence.

Get Outside

Whatever you do, get your homeschooler outside. Homeschooled kids need sunshine and movement as much as any child. But going beyond your own backyard offers more opportunities for socialization for your child.

Visit your local park frequently, go to the zoo and botanical gardens. If you visit these places during school hours, you might run into a homeschooler or two, and make fast friends.

A Word From Verywell 

Years ago, homeschooling was far less popular and accepted than it is today. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit this past spring, many families are exploring homeschool options for their children. And even if they aren’t teaching their kids themselves, many children are learning at home this school year as schools go remote—or become remote as a result of quarantines and shutdowns.

Socializing your homeschooled or virtually schooled child during a pandemic is certainly different than it would be in normal times. Many extracurricular activities have been postponed, and meeting up with other families has health-related risks.

Still, there are many creative ways to keep your child socialized, including social distanced playdates, and virtual classes for extracurricular activities which allow interaction between kids.

Either way, it can be reassuring to know that educating your child at home is not likely to be detrimental to their overall social development. With a little creativity and exploration, there are many ways to ensure that your home educated child thrives and forms meaningful connections to others.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ray B. A systematic review of the empirical research on selected aspects of homeschooling as a school choice. Journal of School Choice. 2017;11(4): 604-621. doi: 10.1080/15582159.2017.1395638

  2. Medlin R. Homeschooling and the question of socialization revisited. Peabody Journal of Education. 2013; 88(3).

Additional Reading
  • Medlin R. Homeschooling and the question of socialization revisited. Peabody Journal of Education. 2013; 88(3).

  • Ray B. A systematic review of the empirical research on selected aspects of homeschooling as a school choice. Journal of School Choice. 2017;11(4): 604-621. doi: 10.1080/15582159.2017.1395638