Homeschooling is something we may find is going to be our new normal. Not every parent or child is cut out to be homeschooled. Parents’ biggest concern is usually the social aspect. How can they make friends? Read on to find out how.
In the past homeschooling was stereotyped to large families in rural environments with strong religious beliefs. But in the midst of the 2020 pandemic with schools closed and the prospect of them not reopening (in a way we are used to) we need to examine the social aspect of homeschooling.
1. Don’t force friendships
2. Community involvement
3. Maturity / Responsibility
4. Online Zoom Education
5. The importance of Social Media
If you are considering homeschooling or being thrown into it because of the COVID pandemic it’s important of course to keep on top of school work. But even more important for your child to have friends in their life. Here’s how we have adapted to homeschooling.
Don’t Force Friendships
Just like in public school setting friends need to happen naturally. Not everyone gets on with everyone. I often found that when my kids were little my chatty daughter was put sitting beside the shy or slightly awkward kid while my gentle son was seated beside a more boisterous kid. I understand why this was done.
Teachers want equilibrium in a class so they pair kids accordingly. However, this doesn’t mean that they get on. The same applies to homeschool friendships. Just because you get on with a mom doesn’t mean your children will get on.
As I said when our kids were little they were very different. One very outgoing, one quite reserved but somewhere along the way they swapped. Our daughter is very happy in her own company, whereas we found that our son was actually quite lonely during the lockdown. You don’t want to force a friendship but you definitely want them to be engaging with kids their own age.
If homeschooling is happening because of COVID, then like my son, his friends are not allowed to come to visit because of the restrictions. Try and ensure they are engaging in some kind of face-to-face conversation. FaceTime or Skype. Snapchat and messaging are fine but it’s all very superficial.
My son is an archer (National Squad) and so has a large circle of friends within the sport. I encouraged him while at home to keep in contact with his archery buddies. As lockdown eased and we were allowed to move around a bit more he was once again able to meet up with them. As he was in constant contact with them it wasn’t at all forced or awkward. They need to find their own place in the world. Friendships need to be founded on common interests but that doesn’t mean they can only be friends with other homeschool kids.
Community involvement is a large part of the homeschool dynamic. It’s not all about textbooks and note-taking. It’s about being out there experiencing real life. Lots of homeschooling takes place out of the home in libraries museums workshops. These are all fantastic opportunities to mix and make new friends. It’s always easier to talk to someone if they have a common interest. It’s the start of a conversation that can lead to a friendship.
Being out in the community also gives homeschool kids the opportunity to meet people that public school kids may not ordinarily be exposed to.
Public school kids spend pretty much all of their time with peers the same age. Homeschool kids mix with people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.
This gives them a much more rounded maturity and a better understanding of people.
The current climate with the COVID pandemic is making being out in the community a little more challenging. It’s hard for kids not to be allowed out or go and do their normal routine.
It is an unprecedented time we are living through but we have to hope that we will get back to normality at some point in the future. Lockdown is probably more difficult for public school kids to cope with as they are used to being together with large amounts of people.
Homeschool kids tend to have smaller closer groups.
But they will be missing their community involvement. No visiting allowed in care homes or soup kitchens. Libraries museums and galleries all closed temporarily.
Everyone’s world has become smaller. We are meeting with fewer and fewer people. Homeschool kids spend a lot of time in their own company generally and are much better at self-soothing than most. They don’t need that constant online reassurance that most public school kids are hungry for. When buildings reopen (hopefully soon) they will be back out there mixing and socializing like before.
Maturity / Responsibility
As mentioned homeschool kids are generally much more mature than public school kids of the same age. They are set certain tasks and generally because it’s a subject that they have an interest in, they grab the baton and run with it. They are learning and questioning because they want to know why. This is compared to rote learning in most high schools which results in class boredom. Always the same kids answering or being asked questions by a teacher.
University professors continually comment on the maturity of homeschooled kids in freshman year. There is no handholding required. They just get on with the task at hand.
So what has maturity got to do with whether they have friends or not? It means they are less reliant on the constant reassurance needed by most teens about how they look or act. It means the more your child is able to self-soothe the better they will have coped with the lockdown.
Our current generation of teens has become quite obsessed with how they look and how they act but it is mainly driven by classroom dynamics.
Who is in charge of a classroom? There’s always one or two that people look up to who aspire to be or are just plain afraid of. In a homeschool environment, our kids don’t have to act or look a certain way to fit in. They can be themselves. This means when they are out meeting people they don’t need to pretend to be someone they’re not. This is quite refreshing in the 15 seconds of fame world we live in. It leads to more genuine friendships being established.
So what about responsibility? We have to be sure that they learn to be responsible while making new friends. In public school, we assume they are in a safe environment and for the most part they are. Homeschool can be a little more exposed to the unknown. It is our kids but also our, responsibility to keep them safe both online and in the community. Make sure you know who they are chatting with or who they are meeting.
We don’t want to become total helicopter moms, and completely freak them out or have them afraid to leave the house but they do require a sense of awareness that not everyone is a good person. Some people have ulterior motives for meeting and making new friends. They need to make good choices which in turn leads to good friendships.
Online Zoom Education
As I said before, you may be homeschooling not out of wanting but out of necessity because of COVID. So how is that going to work? It’s important to put a positive spin on whatever the new normal with back to school may be. It is always easy to run something down or criticize new approaches. This could be a crucial point in your child’s education.
They will definitely take the lead from you. We have to show a face of excitement and enthusiasm. My biggest fear at the moment is for our teens. That they miss out on the best education they can get and also that they become lonely and isolated.
Our new normal may be that we are to some degree homeschooling our kids. We have sat and discussed this with our son who is about to start as a High School Junior. Chances are a lot of his classes will now be from home in an online Zoom class or similar.
I thought it important that he was prepared for the prospect of online and that he needed to be self-motivated to want to learn. We set up a few online courses that we thought might be useful.
Generally, in Zoom or online courses you can’t interact with other people. The teacher or the lecturer is the only one talking (which is probably a good thing in most cases) but you can see everyone else in the online classroom and sometimes it is possible to message them.
Even though they are in their bedroom or allocated study area they are still interacting with a group and getting to know a group which I think is fantastic. How amazing is the technology we have in our world today that our kids can avail of? This leads me nicely to my final topic.
The importance of Social Media
In times past homeschoolers were probably a little lonely. They may have had siblings to hang with or other homeschool meet-ups through conventions, which is great but with the introduction of social media, they can now have friends all over the world if they like, from all walks of life.
It is important that we know they are safe online. Online predators are generally not the creepy-looking guys that we see in the movies. They look just like everyone else but with a very dark agenda. You need to ensure they are not allowing undesirables in your home (virtually or otherwise) because of naivety.
Talk to them about the importance of knowing exactly who they are chatting to online or more importantly organizing to meet. We don’t want to scare them obviously but they need to be fully aware of the possibility that who they are talking to may not be another 16-year-old kid but an adult.
In saying all of that, being on social media is part of teens’ lives. It is a way of staying in touch but also mixing with like-minded people through online groups with similar interests.
As I said my son is an archer and has connections with archers from all over the world because of social media.
Social media makes homeschooling even more interesting and broadens their education further.
More importantly, it allows them to have a huge variety of friends, from the kid across the street to the kid across the world.
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