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!