As I’ve said before, I don’t think the “S” word is a non-issue for homeschoolers. (That’s socialization for all of the rest of you.) My kids aren’t in school all day which has it’s advantages and it’s disadvantages. One disadvantage is that they don’t get to be with friends and other kids on a regular basis. Social times can happen, but I have to be intentional about that rather than just relying on the fact that they will see their best friends at lunch every day.
Community is something everyone longs for; I am convinced. One thing I’ve noticed in the past few years is that many adults find a community based on their kids activities. I know baseball parents and swim parents and Scout parents. Some of the parents I’ve met who volunteer for swimming or Scouts no longer have kids in the activity. It’s just that they have found their community. Other adults bond over some kind of volunteer work or a particular interest (garden clubs, library volunteers, a group of runners). For us, church is our main community. I think kids need community also. As a homeschooler, that can be harder to find and different from a friend who can come over to play. What I mean by community is a group of people with a similar interest and who are working together.
My kids have done a lot of activities: swimming, gymnastics, baseball, basketball, ballet, piano, Scouts, co-op, tennis, Tae-Kwan-Do, art lessons. (No, not all at once and not every kid has done all those.) I had high hopes early on that sports teams would be a great way for my kids to socialize and find friends. In reality, we haven’t found that to be the case. Even on sports teams where they practiced way too frequently (I’m looking at you, baseball.), the kids on the team didn’t really get to know each other very well. We’ve had teams with great coaches and where the kids enjoyed each other for that season but it never extended into any kind of friendship beyond the season. That’s ok, they have enjoyed sports for other reasons and they like being part of a team even if it’s not a means to developing true community. (The one exception is swim team, because it’s the same kids every summer. )
What I’ve observed is that the activities that really have led to community and friendships are those where the kids are working on a project of some kind together. For us this has been Scouts and Odyssey of the Mind. I’ve also heard people say the same thing about drama and theater groups. I didn’t really know what Odyssey of the Mind was two years ago. I still find it hard to explain to people but I’m now a Odyssey fangirl. Last year, John was on a team with 6 other 5th grade boys. They ended up winning our local regional tournament and going to the State tournament. This year, John and David were on the same team with most of the same boys. They had to move up a Division due to age but still managed to come together to win third place in our local tournament. Odyssey has taught them many things: creativity, teamwork, problem-solving, stage presence, confidence. But I think the most important thing it’s given them is a community. If you have a local team (or Destination Imagination which I believe is very similar) I would highly recommend giving it a try.
If nothing else, I can almost guarantee it will be fun. (Crazy hats optional but highly recommended.)