Homeschooling Teens and the Socialization Factor

I’m hoping to write this post so that others will post comments and ideas about helping to fill your teens’ needs for socialization while homeschooling them. They (not quite sure who “they” really are) say that the teen years are when they start to really crave and need more socialization and search for independence so that when it is time to leave the nest they are ready. I know I have one son who is more extroverted than the other and is happiest when he has had the opportunity to be out and about. That child feels the need to be verbalizing and interacting and do it with fresh faces (as the family members can wilt sometimes if they are the ones mostly interacting with the extroverted child.) The parents and the child do need a break, where the parents can have some time alone and the child can interact with fresh faces.

I want my children to grow to be well-rounded, independent thinkers, self-sufficient and confident. I homeschool them to raise them to walk with the Lord, offer the best education I can, and to raise a loving close-knit family focused on more intangible priorities you won’t see advertised most times in the media.

I feel homeschooling offers parents the opportunity to get to know the kids and families your teen socializes with. But, at the same time, depending on where you live, it can be challenging finding situations, other teens, and activities where your teens can meet and socialize with others. What I want to accomplish with this post is an exchange of ideas and thoughts that may benefit those of us who are embarking, in the midst, or ending homeschooling teens.

Things that I am working on doing in the rural area in which I live are making connections with groups within my area to find out what is already up and running to help teens meet and greet others. Not easy if you live in an area with a small population and alot of homeschoolers complete their education going to a local public or private high school. I want to bring my son to activities and events with other teens that meet rather consistently so that he can spend time with and get to know the same people and develop friendships without me having to drive over an hour each way once a week for each activity. Then, there is the issue of whether younger siblings are allowed to accompany you to the event because you have to stay while your teen mixes and mingles. If your husband or a sitter is not available to stay home with the younger sibling, you have a problem.

Another type of event to get your teen out, socializing, and yet pull in character building is to consider some kind of volunteer work. Is there a local food bank where your teen can stock shelves or fill boxes with other volunteers? A local senior activity center or a soup kitchen? Here’s an opportunity that gives teens an opportunity to do some good, learn skills, and focus outward toward others (instead of teens’ tendencies to worry about their world).

Some suggested teen opportunities that we’ve experienced are boyscouts, 4-h, church youth-group, monthly teen night activity group, teen night at a local planetarium, a monthly book discussion group or classes. Some areas maybe lucky enough to have debate clubs, organized sports teams, bands, theatre or dance groups. We have tried assorted sports and other groups where there were teens, but no other homeschoolers and the environments were mixed results. For us, it was easier to meld into groups where there were other homeschoolers that understood more about homeschooling and we held similar house rules. There have been a number of times where my kids got tired of explaining why they were not allowed to do different things or watch or play certain games and then were looked down on or told they were being sheltered.

It was a good learning experience and reaffirming to know that my kids can tell others, “This is the way we do things. I respect you following your family’s way of doing things, I expect you to show the same respect.” When this didn’t work and the kids persist in arguing with my children that there is nothing wrong with doing “so and so” and you need to convince your parents that you are old enough now to make these decisions on your own and you can handle it – my children have decided that perhaps this friendship may have too many differences that make it beneficial for everyone.

So, mingling with others can be a character building experience toward independence by strenghtening their ability to stand up to peer pressure. Do I want them to do this in the environment for 7-9 hours a day at the local public school where it would probably be an onslaught? Probably not. But in manageable doses without the constant pressure, it can be positive. I feel like I’m still giving my child the time, opportunities, and space to figure out who he is without negative pressure from other children who are still figuring out who they are.

What about one of the latest trends that wasn’t around when I was a teen? Sure, we had the phone and my parents always gave me a 15 minute limit (which in my eyes was ridiculous, because how can you possibly have a conversation about anything in just 15 minutes). Nowadays, we have the internet. That brings a whole new avenue to socializing. There is email, chat groups, online games, and classes. How much time is too much time developing friendships in this manner? Is it good at all? Does it take away from a teen’s ability to develop social skills you need when spending time with others face to face? Does it give teens the feeling that they can say things or act in a way that they would find uncomfortable or even wrong if they were physically present with the person?

Share your thoughts about this latest trend, please. I would enjoy hearing from others how you’ve used the latest technology to benefit your teens. Also please share any ideas of teen social opportunities that have worked for you. Have you started a group so that your teen can socialize or share a particular interest with others?

Thanks for your input!

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16 Responses

  1. I am a mom of three little boys so as a parent I am not yet in your shoes. I have however walked in shoes similar to those of your teens as I was once, not “too” long ago, a homeschooled teen! I was quite fond of using the internet as an avenue for socialization. My parents kept our computer in a public part of our house and we weren’t allowed to be on chatting if nobody else was around. Those ground rules helped keep us in-line. We also took various classes online and the friendships we formed in those classes were a strong pull to do the homework and be able to participate in the “discussion” portion. I know of many friends who have been able to meet their classmates in person and have formed great and lasting friendships. Those classes and “chatting” sessions coupled with youth groups and co-op style classes were my social life through highschool. It was enough for me. My husband and I have just begun to homeschool our boys and we decided this year to join a Classical Conversations in our area. As I am watching my young extroverted boys grow I am wondering how soon I will be faced with some of the questions you are asking!:)

    • Thank you, Sarah, for your valuable input as a former homeschooled teen. I enjoy hearing about those kind of experiences and the perspective of homeschooled teens now that they are adults.

  2. I cannot find the “about” you page here and was wondering how old your teens are?

    They certainly do crave fellowship with others when they get older!

    What we’ve done is get involved in our local church. We are in a very rural area. Population about 800 in our small town. We drive about 15 minutes to a church. It has taken me years to find a decent one we all could be happy with. But they have a lot of teens there. After we got to know the families, I began feeling comfortable with them all. So I have a 14 year old who is very involved in their activities. She attends Sunday School, Bible study and youth group at two different churches (two different nights of the week). The other church is about 15 minutes away in the opposite direction. My other children, who aren’t interested in going, stay home with Dad or the Grandparents. When I have to stay and wait for her, I bring a good book or a hand-sewing project.

    I also have her in Classes – piano and dance. She has met a lot of good young people through this.

    Blessings
    Mrs. White

  3. I started a group for my younger boys by sending out a message on the local homeschooling (yahoo) group. We are still meeting a year later. I plan to do this again as my children form specific educational or extracuricular interests. Others have done it successfully as well by forming drama clubs, lego clubs, etc. It’s a bit of work to “host” the event but you can always choose parks or find community buildings to host your meetings/events. With our playgroup (for early elementary / preschool ages), the others have joined in planning field trips and take turns hosting. Luckily, this has happened naturally since there were times when I couldn’t host.

  4. I agree and see some homeschool parents who never allow their kids room to grow and breathe. Too much isolation can promote a judgmental thought life in some kids. Socialization is one thing our family and friends don’t worry about us with. Every member of our family is a social butterfly and we thrive on our friendships and community projects. :)
    Your post is added to the homeschool carnival at my blog.

  5. I just came across your blog and enjoyed this entry! My kids are 14 and 11 and are definitely extroverts. We live in a town of about 2000, but since we live right in town it hasn’t been too hard to help them find ways to make friends. My daughter takes chorus and art at the local high school while my son takes band at the middle school (both of them can walk). We also volunteer at the local Senior Nutrition Center. Our family is also heavily involved in church activities. We are part of a homeschool support group, but we don’t do as much with them anymore because of scheduling, etc. Anyway, I’m quite happy to have my kids interacting with neighborhood kids. I tell them it’s time to learn to use their “power” (being extroverted – lol!) for good and not evil!! But, seriously, they won’t live at home forever, so they need to learn how to behave properly even when Mom and Dad aren’t right with them and how to stand up for their beliefs. Thanks again for the great post!

  6. We won’t be there yet for quite awhile but enjoyed your post and hearing from a previously home schooled home schooling mom. What a mouthful.

  7. We volunteer at the local community theater. It provides many avenues for friendships of all ages, from preschool to senior citizens. Not only that, but also friendships with people of different faiths and schooling backgrounds. It’s been fun to have teachers compliment me on my family. This is how we are best at being “salt and light”. They even have my teens in charge of adults, making sure all the actors get on stage on time. My two middle dc do a work study program where they help work at the theater and receive adult ballet once a week for physical fitness. My oldest (homeschool graduate and now in college) will be assistant to the stage director for the upcoming play, an apprenticeship position.

    Our local theater has been the biggest blessing to us. I am sad to say that it has provided what our local churches didn’t provide, which is an environment where everyone is encouraging and wants you to do your best in a nonjudgmental way.

    My dc weren’t very social before theater, and now they get up there and audition (even if they know they’re not the best) and give it a whirl because it’s fun, exciting, and good experience.

    This has also been the best thing for my extroverted youngest. He says “being on stage feels like home”.

    We do this as a family because we function best as a family unit. The community theater can use anyone willing to be involved.

  8. Oh my, I know this topic well. We have homeschooled for 12 years, but allowed our daughters to go to high school starting in 9th grade (we still homeschool younger sibs). In retrospect, it was a horrible idea and the onslaught wasn’t worth the “independence”. I agree that getting them involved in outreach type things are beneficial and a very positive outlet for socialization. Our 12th grader served at a missions camp this summer for underpriviledged junior high kids, most of whom who had never even been to church. It was an amazing experience for her, even though they worked (quite literally, their tails off) 16 hour days. She came home exhausted and exhilerated and she can’t wait to go back and do it again. If we had it to do over again, our daughters would NOT have gone to public school full time (maybe one class, or two) and we would have gotten them involved in similar outreaches, soup kitchen, food bank, etc. right off the bat at the junior high age, even before they were high schoolers. Our younger guys will not be attending public school, period.

  9. Great suggestions. We have a brand new teenager (that we’re adopting) and it’s been an adjustment trying to find the right balance.

    Thanks for your post!

    • Congratulations! Good luck to your family. We’re trying to find the right balance as our teen emerges into a young adult too and we’ve known him for thirteen years! It’l like a new extended personality in the house. It’s an adjustment for sure.

  10. Gee, I think you’ve covered pretty much all the suggestions I would have come up with!

    If you’ll allow me to say it, though, I find myself thinking that in your case this is less of a homeschool-related issue and more an issue of your faith and family values. As you rightly point out, if your children went to public school the same issues would arise.

    We have encountered a lot of similar issues because we have a special needs son who goes to public school. We frequently find that we have to explain, defend, explain again the choices we have made for our family. In his case, he is not able to speak for himself – at least not on an issue of this depth – and what we come up against is more often a matter of other adults wanting us to just fall into line and do things the way they’ve always been done. We expend a great deal of energy standing our ground sometimes; I’m sure you do as well.

    This is something for you to give serious thought to, but perhaps it isn’t so terrible for your teens to go to some of these more mainstream activities. In not so many years they will be adults & they will be facing the world with all the same values and practices they have now. If they are comfortable going at least some of the time, it could be a positive. Certainly others would learn a thing or two from their example regardless of what gets said about their choices in life.

    I’d suggest trying to get teens from your faith community to join in the local activities together, as well as perhaps organizing things together. Whether families choose public high school or to continue homeschooling, folks who share a common world view can get together evenings & weekends in order or the teens to socialize.

    Cheers!
    Ruby

  11. Thanks for this post. I really appreciated your insights and struggle with some of the same things. I also really enjoyed the comments. There were some good ideas there.

  12. I’m not quite there yet.
    i so much enjoy doing things as a family.
    I know one day they will be out and about with so many others; until then, I hope to establish firm roots.

  13. Concerns about whether I’m doing enough for my kids, socially, keep me awake at night sometimes (it’s 1:00 a.m. as I type this). We’re into our seventh year of homeschooling. My three kids are in 4th, 5th, and 9th grade. We’ve always been very involved in our area’s homeschool groups and educational co-ops. This is where they have developed most of their friendships.

    My elementary kids’ social lives are a piece of cake for me to orchestrate. They’re still at the “wanna come over and play?” stage. Easy. They just run around outside and play!

    But, I’ve found the teen years to be more difficult to navigate, socially. I’ve observed my 9th-grade daughter’s circle of friends grow smaller as the years have gone on, and it causes me quite a bit of concern because I feel very responsible for the quality of her social life.

    This year, she goes to a homeschool co-op once a week, Sunday school and church youth group, a girls’ homeschool Bible study once a month, a home-school public speaking group twice a month, and she leads an elementary girls’ club once a week. On top of piano lessons and some private tutoring, this keeps her pretty busy. So, I feel like I’m providing the opportunities. And she has such a close walk with the Lord, those church-related activities is exactly where she loves to be.

    But being busy and having meaningful friendships are two different things. The truth is, she receives very few invitations to socialize with other kids her age, and it bothers me. If it bothers her, she never expresses it to me. Every once in a while I’ll ask her if she’s still happy with her choice to homeschool and she doesn’t miss a beat with a quick yes.

    So, ugh! Why does this concern keep me awake some nights?

    And before you answer that question, you have to know that she is NOT a stereo-typical socially awkward teen home-schooler. I can very objectively make that statement. She is an attractive young lady who finds it easy to strike up conversations with anybody (she’s the one putting those socially awkward ones at ease!). She has a warm personality, and is quick to offer a smile. She is extremely mature for her age (like a little adult), wise beyond her years; spiritually and generally. This unusual maturity, I think, might be the primary source of her isolation. While adults marvel at her and tell me how wonderful she is, teens her age don’t seem to connect.

    Have any of you experienced raising a son or daughter like this?

    How did you “let go” of the social worry?

    • Hi, Homeschoolin’ Mama, Do we ever really totally let go of worrying over things about our kids, especially the whole “teenage social thing?” I think if they were not being homeschooled, we would probably be worrying more. Does a concern now and then cross my mind? Yes. Do I wonder sometimes if my son would have a bigger or closer posse of friends if he were not homeschooled? He’d see them everyday at school, but I don’t know that he’d see them that much by invitation outside of school.

      These are the years where circle of friends do become smaller due to the fact that they are gravitating toward friends who share more similar interests and values, and growing away from those that they have less in common as they get older. This is natural and I think it is good. My son sounds a lot like your daughter where he can talk to anyone and he mixes and mingles with a lot of different kids at his activities, but does he have a lot of outside invitations – no. Does he have someone who is his BFF that he is attached to. No. But, he has friends (not BFF) to hang out with everywhere he goes and they are happy to see him. I think a lot of the outside invitations reduce as the kids get older because they do get so busy with activities and spend more time concentrated with those activities and the people involved in those activities. When the kids are younger, it’s easier to find someone who likes to play certain outdoor or indoor games and the friendships are formed faster and closer at a younger age, just because it is simpler and there aren’t as many outside organized and specialized activities like in high school.

      If your daughter feels comfortable with groups of people and can talk to anyone, that will take her a lot farther in life than if she is only comfortable hanging with one friend and doesn’t feel comfortable unless that one friend is with her at a social activity. (Think – those who feel the need to travel in cliques vs. those who are comfortable with themselves and can move from group to group to group and find people they enjoy socializing with.) Your daughter is just starting high school and as kids mix and find those who have common interests, she’ll find her niche. If you’re concerned about that, you can always find groups or start a group that does something that your child really enjoys. She’ll be more likely to find other people who share a common interest and passion. And she’ll feel at home there and in her niche. It’ll also give her something to look forward to and give her a boost of self- confidence where she feels good about “being good at something.” We all need that feedback once in a while.

      So, unless your daughter says or seems upset about things and she’s happy, I don’t think I would lose sleep if I could help it. But, as mothers, we do that any way:) I would also add that if you do wake up or even if you don’t, the power of prayer is a great comfort when you worry about something, especially our children. We can put it in God’s hands and trust Him.

      Thanks for asking this universal question that most mothers have on their minds from time to time!

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