An Unofficial and Irreverent FAQ about Homeschooling
Question #1: What about socialization?
I have probably been asked this, the most infamous of all homeschooling questions, more than any other. This is also the easiest question for me to answer because my DD spends a lot of time socializing with her peers. In the early years I responded to this query with more information than the unwitting questioner wanted or needed to hear. Then one day, while at my new gynecologist's office, I came up with a shorter reply.
He was going through the regular getting-to-know-you questions, chattering to make me comfortable in an intimately uncomfortable situation, when he learned that I homeschooled my daughter.
"Does she ever get the opportunity to go out and socialize with other kids?" He immediately asked.
"No," I said, "I keep her chained up in the basement. Except on Thursday. On Thursday she's allowed to look out the window."
He stopped what he was doing and looked up at my dead-pan expression. Then he smiled and said "Touché."
I am not always so sassy. I blame it on my conversational filters being down when the GYN is getting down to business. Still, with the right person, something like that can be the best answer. I mean, seriously, give me the benefit of the doubt. If that is the first question that comes to mind maybe it is safe to assume that in my quest to provide an appropriate education for my child that I have given this issue some thought as well. And that I am doing my best to address the needs of my child in this area.
But, if you are new to homeschooling or the concept of homeschooling and genuinely want to know, I have an answer for you too.
Almost every town has groups of homeschoolers that meet on a weekly basis at a park or playground. Large cities and towns will have several of these groups for you to choose from. Philly has over a dozen. It is a good idea to visit more than one because each group has its own flavor as well as times and locations that might be more convenient for you. Sometimes these gatherings are very large and might seem intimidating at first. But they are a good place to find friends and then you can invite people over for smaller "play dates" or hang outs. Kids AND parents get to socialize in these groups and they are a great place for new homeschooling parents to find out about local homeschooling classes, homeschool friendly events, and popular resources.
At homeschool co-op's the parents are the teachers, kind of like at home, but on a larger scale. They can be as small and informal as meeting in a parent's house for story time or doing science experiments together, or as large as a brick and mortar "school" with dozens of classes for all age groups. Parents can teach what they are good at, what they already know, or something that is new to them but that they are interested in.
Homeschooled kids can also do things without their parents too! Yay! There are many options in Philadelphia for homeschooled kids to learn, collaborate, and create with their peers. Again, you can choose from small informal classes taught in someone's house for an hour or two once a week, to full day programs in a dedicated building where your child can learn math, science, writing, or geography. Some homeschool classes mimic traditional schools, utilizing textbooks, worksheets, and tests. There are homeschool organizations educating from a variety of philosophies from methods that harken back to simpler times educating the whole child in a natural environment, to those applying concepts on the edge of educational innovation, to organizations that are implementing the best practices of of both.
Homeschoolers are great at figuring out how to meet their children's needs and great at creating communities. If your child wants to learn to sew, speak Spanish, ice skate, make animated movies or make cakes there is probably a parent out there willing to teach them if you get a group together and organize it. Better yet, an already established class that would be excited to have your child join in.
The vast majority of homeschoolers that I know are inundated with social opportunities and are more likely to bemoan that their child spends too much time socializing than suffer a lack of it. Homeschooled kids also get together for field trips, bowling, LEGO robotics clubs, chess meets, book clubs, laser tag, nature walks, and more. Homeschoolers typically have more free time during the week to spend with friends and on activities of their own choosing and enjoy a healthy social life that includes peers, family, people of various ages and walks of life.