Socialization: A Guide for Homeschoolers

I was sitting around a table discussing homeschooling with two missionary educational consultants when the question came, “But how will they be able to interact in the real-world if they’re homeschooled?”

The question didn’t come as a surprise. I had heard it over and over again as a child. No doubt it is a question that you have heard before too.

When we hear things enough times, sometimes we begin to believe them. Perhaps you have sometimes worried about whether your children will be able to interact in the real-world one day. Or perhaps you understand that homeschooling is conducive to learning social skills, yet you work hard to enroll your children in a variety of activities to make sure they’ll have opportunities to interact. Or maybe you’re wondering how you’re supposed to choose from the myriad of activities out there now for homeschoolers. You might even be finding yourself running from place to place and thinking surely there must be more to life than this.

Whatever your situation, we hope the resources below will help you sort out this important issue.

– Katherine

Resources

Real World Socialization

“How will they be able to interact in the ‘real world’ if you homeschool them?”

The question was one frequently asked back in the early ’90s when our family officially began homeschooling. My dad even wondered how we’d make it in the “real world” unless we went to school.

He came to understand, however, that the home was actually much more conducive to learning “real-world” social skills than a public school setting. Think about it for a minute. In a school setting, students are put in classrooms with children their own age. Yet in the workforce, people interact with others of multi-ages. You don’t see signs like, “Forty-one year olds work here; all thirty-year-olds should report down the hall.” In fact, almost everywhere you go you see people of all ages interacting. Again, in a school setting students are underneath one teacher whose job is to teach them academics, not how to interact with one another in a godly fashion. Thus, they end up learning social skills from one another, with the result that the typical teenager is not known for being good at interacting in a godly fashion.

In the home, on the other hand, children can learn to interact with multi-ages–their parents and younger siblings, as well as the various people they bump into around town as they help their parents grocery shop or go to the bank. Instead of learning bad socialization from their peers, they’re blessed with learning how to interact with others from their parents.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that, statistically, homeschool graduates end up quite capable of functioning in the “real world.” (See Homeschooling Grows Up.) The homeschool model lends itself towards equipping children with good, solid social skills.

Yet homeschoolers do not necessarily have a free ticket to interacting in a godly fashion with others. I have met many homeschoolers who did not know how to interact well with others. Some were abnormally quiet and stoic, while others were overtly rambunctious and silly.

Homeschooling itself is not the key to interacting well with others. God is the key. It is our relationship with Him that will enable us to interact with those around us in a truly God-honoring fashion.

Now this does not mean that everyone who has a good relationship with God will automatically be a social extravert who naturally sets everyone at ease. God created us all as unique individuals. For some of us, it is a chore to talk; for others, it is a chore not to talk. Interacting with others may look different for each one of us, but God can help all of us serve others and fill the role He has created for us to fill. He can work in our weaknesses as well as in our strengths. We just need to look to and depend on Him.

Ultimately, it is our relationship with God that equips us to interact in a godly manner with others. Our relationships with others flow out of our relationship with God. A pastor once pointed out that Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with one another when their relationship with God was correct. After they sinned against God, problems erupted in their relationship with one another. They were suddenly blaming each other for their sin. After Cain had brought an inadequate sacrifice to God, he went out and killed his brother. His relationship with his brother was a direct reflection of his relationship with God.

Parents, if you are concerned about your children interacting in the “real world,” I would encourage you to focus your energies on sharing Christ with them. That’s what really matters!

I’ve noticed so many homeschooling parents try to get their children into activities so they’ll experience “real world” socialization. I know that during our first few years of homeschooling, my mom worked hard to arrange play dates and activities for me so I would be properly socialized. But she discovered she didn’t have to carry this burden! She was called to train us to know and love God, and, as she did that, she could trust God to give us just the right amount of “socialization”–or solitude–we needed.

I found it amazing when I looked in the Bible that it never talks about children needing to be around other children. Instead, I found warnings against listening to peers and encouragement to listen to elders. And I noticed that God took many of His people (Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Paul, etc.) into the desert, away from other people, in order to train them and prepare them for their future ministry. It was the time alone with God that equipped them to be useable with others.

There were times growing up when God led our family into “deserts”–places where we had little to none interaction with other people. Yes, it was lonely at times, but God used those periods to teach us to make Him our dearest friend. The solitude forced us to get real before Him. It forced us to learn to get along with one another. And it taught us more about socialization than we could have learned in a room filled with people. God knew what we needed at that point in time, and I’m grateful my mom didn’t try to force activities when God had closed the door (although at the time I sure wondered why we couldn’t do more!).

God’s thoughts and ways are indeed much different and higher than our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:9)! Yet, as His children, we have the privilege of letting God transform our minds (Romans 12:1). As you look at the area of socialization, I would encourage you to examine what the Bible has to say about how to really prepare for the “real world.” Keep in mind that we don’t want to “fit in” with the world–but rather be salt and light.

My parents came to realize that much of what they were doing to “socialize” us wasn’t inline with the principles God gave in His Word. God’s Word urged us to fellowship with one another–we were involved in many activities that were just about having “fun” instead of really building each other up in Christ. God’s Word urged us to listen to our elders and parents–we were spending too much time with others our own age, leading us to pull one another down. God’s Word warned us that bad corrupted good and not the other way around and that God sent His disciples out two by two–so what were we doing thinking a nine-year-old could evangelize neighbors all on her own?

Our lives began to change as my mom (and later my dad) began to take the activities we participated in before the Lord. And, as they did, God began to truly prepare us for the “real world.”

Sorting Out the Options–A Short Guide to Sorting through Activities

Have you ever noticed how quickly our calendars can fill up? Awana, ballet, field trips, gymnastics, coop, art, piano, orchestra, woodworking–how are we ever to pick from the myriad of activities out there? How do we sort through the options?

If you’re like me, you’d like a formula to follow, something like, “Attend x number of activities per child each week, and all will go well.”

But there is no formula! Not only did God create us all as unique individuals, but He wants us to depend on Him, not merely follow a rule. As His children, we have the privilege and honor of seeking Him to find out how He would have us handle the different activities that arise. We don’t have to settle for the world’s mold–we can run to God and ask Him to transform our thinking on everything, including socialization.

“Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2 (KJV)

In this article, I’ll be sharing with you four questions I’ve found helpful in sorting out activities. Along the way, I’ll share some examples from our family’s experience. Please, please, please (did I say that enough times?) don’t take what I’m sharing as a rule or simply try to copy what worked for our family! My prayer is that what I share will serve as guideposts, pointing you to the Lord and encouraging you along the way as you seek His will for your particular situation.

Examine the Heart Attitudes–Why Am I Doing This?

Three-year-olds are often accused of asking why. But I’m convinced that my mom rivaled any three-year-old. Over and over again, she would question why we were doing something. Why did we want to participate in that activity? Why were we participating in that activity?

If we honestly ask ourselves “why,” we’ll often discover that we’re doing things for the wrong motives. Oh, we usually have a host of good reasons on the surface, but deep down there’s often something we need to let God address before we’ll be able to clearly see His light on the situation.

Some heart attitudes to watch out for are playing to others or striving for other goals beside’s God’s goals. It’s very easy to rush into something just because other families–even other godly families–are participating in an activity, or to do something because we’re striving for the wrong goal. Education, while not wrong in itself, becomes very dangerous when it becomes our goal. Knowing and loving God needs to be the goal, not education. If we’re striving for education, we’re going to be blinded from seeing the harm in some educational activities that just might not be what God has for us right now.

Sometimes we might do things just out of discontent. I know quite often when I would start to complain about not having friends, it was because deep down I was discontent with the family and friends God had given me.

We can also operate out of fear–fear children won’t turn out if they’re not socialized properly, fear of what others will think, or fear of being lonely. We need to remember we don’t need to be a slave to fear (Romans 8:15). Our heavenly Father has us safe in His hands.

I’d encourage you to start sorting out your activities by honestly laying your heart before God and asking Him why you’re doing what you’re doing. Let Him show you His perspective.

Examine the Time You Have–Do I Really Have Time to Do This?

I don’t know about you, but I find it very easy to over commit–it’s much easier for me to say “yes” than to say “no.” Yet if we get ourselves too busy doing things–even good things–we miss out on the other things God has for us. We neglect what’s really important.

Just a few weeks ago, I was rushing around frantically trying to finish quite a few projects. All of them were good projects–projects designed to encourage parents. Yet I allowed the tasks to consume me. God had to lovingly show me through a sister in Christ that I was missing out on the other things God had for me–I wasn’t spending the time just being still before the Lord, or ministering to my family, that I needed to. I had gotten overcommitted.

I’d encourage you to be careful about over committing. I’m very grateful my mom kept our activity level while we were children at a place where we would still have plenty of time for the things that really mattered.

Examine the Nature of the Activity–Does This Line Up with God’s Word?

Another question you may find helpful to ask is: Does this activity line up with the principles from God’s Word? Although the Bible never uses the word “socialization,” the entire Bible is filled with principles regarding relationships. Please see the “Socialization Scriptures” section for some principles to get you started.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Is this activity centered around God? What’s the purpose of this activity?

Is this structured in a way that tends towards godly interactions?

Is this amongst peers only or is it multi-age?

Is this putting the child in a good situation?

Examine If God Wants You to Do the Activity–Is This Really What God Has for Me/My Child Right Now?

Sometimes, there may be an activity that passes all the other tests. It’s something you have time for, and there’s nothing wrong with the activity itself. It might even be something that God used to bless your family in the past! But it may not be what God has for you today.

It’s all too easy to just go ahead and do things because they worked last year–or last week. But God wants us to trust and seek Him for today–and His game plan might be different now.

Conclusion

Bottom line, when examining the different activities in which we could participate, we need to remain on our knees seeking the Lord. It’s not so much about making the “right” decision on an activity as it is about our relationship with the Lord. God will use whatever we’re in to teach and train us as we look to Him.

For those parents reading this, know that the way you sort through activities is teaching your child a lot more than you might think. As I watched my mom begin to examine the things we were participating in, I was learning about the Christian walk. She was modeling in front of me the transformation process–the process of taking our thoughts to God and letting Him give us His thoughts.

My mom’s willingness to begin questioning activities–seeking God to transform her instead of just settling for the world’s mold–taught me volumes. It laid a foundation for me to take things before God and seek what He would have.

Parents, the way you make decisions is teaching your child how to make decisions. The way you interact with others is teaching your children how to interact with others. Our natural tendency is to do things like our parents did. Just by the decisions regarding activities and socialization that you make, you are leaving a legacy for your children!

So I’d encourage you–make decisions by taking things to the Lord. Know that you won’t always make the right decision, but that God will use it ALL to work in your life and your children’s lives as you just sit at His feet and trust Him. Dig into His Word and let Him transform your thoughts. And as you do, you’ll be laying a heritage for your children and children’s children.

Socialization Scriptures

Fellowship Is With God

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:3

God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9 

Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Psalm 37:4 

Interactions with Others Flow out of a Relationship with God

Adam and EveAnd the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. Genesis 3:12

Cain and AbelAnd the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. Genesis 4:6-8

We Are Not Here for Ourselves

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Ecclesiastes 4:10 

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15 

Bad Corrupts Good

Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. 1 Corinthians 15:33

Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee. Exodus 34:12

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. Proverbs 13:20

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?2 Corinthians 6:14

Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father. Proverbs 28:7

Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go. Proverbs 22:24

Elders Teach Youth

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Titus 2:3-5

But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him. 1 Kings 12:8

Parents Called to Train Children

Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons. Deuteronomy 4:9

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.Deuteronomy 6:7

Additional Resources on Socialization

The Socialization Trap

The answer you need to the constant question, “What about socialization?” By Rick Boyer

Homeschooling Grows Up: HSLDA’s synopsis of a new research study on adults who were homeschooled, conducted by Dr. Brian D. Ray

Homeschoolers Grown Up: What Do the Facts Show? – Based on Research provided by Brian D. Ray, Ph.D. National Home Education Research Institute.

Mr. Safeguard – A short online movie with a powerful message about socialization. You can view it by visiting www.biblicalview.com and clicking the “Watch This Online Movie” button at the bottom of the page.

Socialization Workshops – We offer several workshops on socialization. Please see our workshop page for details, and contact us if you are interested in having us do a workshop for your group or convention.

Homeschool Tips – Many of our homeschool tips address various aspects of socialization.

FREE Homeschool Newsletter – Our free periodic newsletters offer support and encouragement to help you keep looking to the Lord in all you do. We will not share your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Each newsletter typically includes an update, thought, story, homeschool tip, and hymn/poem.
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