One of the biggest concerns that new homeschoolers address is socialization. This is addressed in many ways: coming up with ways to prove to others that it’s not a concern; finding groups to ensure that we have access to field trips, classes, and other activities; finding groups to ensure that our kids have other friends who are “like them.”
After a few years of homeschooling now, I’ve come to find the other side of this coin.
My kids and I got up, like so many others, early this morning to see the lunar eclipse. Our home is surrounded by trees, by forests actually, and this meant that we had to take a short drive to find an open area where we could easily see the entire moon.
As I’m driving, my oldest asks me, “Is anyone else from our homeschooling group doing this?”
This is not the first time I’ve heard this question. In fact, I’d say the only time I don’t hear this question is when we are eating dinner or I’m using the bathroom. There seems to be this idea now that if our homeschooling group isn’t somehow involved, the activity isn’t valid. Instead of “pictures or it didn’t happen,” my kids have developed a “homeschooling group does it, or it’s not valid” mentality.
Having this happen at the ridiculously early hour that we got up, after I went to all the trouble of setting an alarm, making sure everyone got to bed early, and finding out the best places for us to go to see the eclipse, was a real eye opener for me.
I made an impulsive decision, but one that I think was necessary – and maybe not so impulsive as it seems at first glance. I think the idea has been knocking around in the back of my mind for a while now, and the question that was asked this morning simply cemented it in place and made me decide to do it.
We’re going to cut out the social activities. Not completely, of course. We will still go on some field trips, and to some other events and activities that our group does, but we’re going to limit what we do. Well, I guess I should say that I am going to limit it, because we all know my kids won’t. So, I am going to start taking a good, hard look at the things we are invited to do, and stop accepting every invitation out of concern that my kids won’t have enough friends, or spend enough time with friends, or get enough interaction with other kids. When we reach a point where we can’t do a family activity without there being questions about who else from our group might be doing it, there’s clearly no more worry that they aren’t getting enough time with their friends. It’s obvious we’re now in oversaturation mode here.
Don’t get me wrong – I like our friends. I like the people we’ve met through our homeschool group, and I enjoy spending time with them. But I also still enjoy spending time with my children, doing things as a family – and just a family.
Some people might say that this is an indication that the kids need more social interaction with others – they want to get together several times a week with friends and groups. For them, and their children, it may be true that this would be an indication for more time. But for us, it’s a clear sign that it’s too much.
As new homeschoolers, we often find ourselves on the verge of panic, desperate to prove to others (family, friends, neighbors, school officials, etc.) that we will ensure our kids get the socialization they so desperately “need.”
As a more experienced homeschooler (only 4 years or so, but not the newbie I once was), let me give you a bit of advice if you are new at this: don’t do more than you want.
I’m not saying you should hole up in the house and only come out to get groceries and check the mail. But if you feel that you need to keep your kids focused on the academics and limit the social stuff to once a week, or even once a month – then do that.
If you know your kids are introverts who would rather stay home than go out and meet new people, then don’t try to force it. Yes, obviously, you should ensure they get some interaction and have opportunities to make new friends, but don’t drain your little introverts and exhaust them to prove a point to someone else.
Don’t let pressure from others influence you either. We all have that one friend who wants to get together all the time. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing – you could be using the toilet – and she’s all in, ready to get together with the kids and spend quality time together (no, really, I can wipe myself, thanks). She’ll try to tell you that you need to get the kids out more, or she’ll tell you how her kids need to see their friends every day or they’ll go crazy, or she’ll cite all the studies she’s found that back up her claim that kids need X interactions with other kids every week or they’ll explode/implode/turn to dust and fly away. Don’t let her pressure you. Stick to your guns.
I don’t know how long our partial hiatus will last. Maybe not very long at all. Maybe longer than I would expect. I don’t know. I just know that we need a break, and we’re going to take it.
Have you ever felt the need to take a break from homeschool social activities because it was too much? Or do you wish you had more involvement, or more time for involvement? What do you do to try to get that break or increased involvement?