Hands down, one of the biggest concerns about homeschooling is the fear that homeschool students are not learning effective social skills or are not being properly socialized. The presumption is, the best way to socialize your child is to do it through large gatherings of same-age peers, and without having those regular interactions, children will somehow be missing out on important learning experiences. Where does the truth meet the presumption, and how does homeschooling really impact a child’s social skills?
The answer lies in defining “social skills.” If what you are seeking is an environment where self-awareness and self-acceptance is determined for your child by an outside set of teenagers, or if you are seeking the ability for your child to function well in an artificial environment of only similar-aged people, then it’s true. Homeschooling may have a hindering effect on your child. Public and private schools can have many advantages, but social skills development is not necessarily one of them unless you seek the limited situations described above.
True social skills are the abilities to develop habits and tools that allow individuals to function in the society around them for the betterment of the community and in meaningful relationships with others. That definition has nothing to do with the confines of a school setting. Rather, that definition is all about the character of the individual as they live out their daily life, and as homeschoolers will tell you, character training happens all day, every day in a homeschool environment. Thus, one of the primary sources of true social skill development is the family itself.
Social skills are developed as students interact with others of a variety of ages in their own families, and as they witness what goes on in their communities and where the needs are around them. Homeschoolers see daily life every day as they work in a place that has to also function as a home. Homeschoolers must get their work done while the phone rings or the laundry gets done or the business is run, and most homeschoolers also find themselves out in their communities during the week, too. This lets them interact more regularly with business owners and civic leaders, so their understanding of social responsibility can be more acutely in tune.
But these are not the only areas where social skills are developed. Other sources of influence include mentors with whom homeschoolers might work, or clubs that they belong to. It can include churches or church groups that they participate in, scouting organizations, or sports teams.
If the goal is to prepare students to become adults who function in a family, a community, and in a career filled with people of many ages and skills, what better place to develop those abilities than in the homeschool. All of these aspects of daily interaction are afforded to the homeschooler. Positive social skills can be taught responsibly by homeschoolers, and so like anything else, if done well, the affects of homeschooling on social skills development can be hugely successful and rewarding.