Creating and Sustaining a Homeschool Support Group

While there’s nothing wrong with homeschooling your child, let’s not equate a small, parent-controlled “support group” with the social interactions a child gets in a public or private school environment.

Many homeschooled kids (maybe most of them) are removed from school because of social reasons. Homeschooler parents make a decision to opt-out of the standard social environment…but then they realize that their kids don’t have any friends. The opt-out decision comes because parents disagree with the culture imposed on them by the school system and society, or because their child is having social problems in the school that the parent feels can be better solved through removal than through other means.

So, the issues of social interaction already are atop the parents’ list of issues for their child. Enter the support group. This is supposed to give children a way to make friends among their peers and avoid the isolation that might come from a homeschool environment. To some degree, this is effective. Our friends who homeschool have, over the years, organized or enrolled their kids in swim lessons, dance classes, and museum visits designed for homeschoolers during the the standard school day. They say their kids really enjoy the activities.

On the other hand, these activities are highly organized and stage-managed by parents. The kids have little or no freedom of action. Every problem is immediately dealt with by a parent or an instructor. The kids are focused on a learning task – just like in their homeschool lessons – rather than in just randomly exploring or enjoying themselves. It’s not what I would call real social interaction.

Contrast the controlled environment of a weekly swim class with my son’s recess at public school. About 75 kids run out to a blacktop and a dusty field. They have balls, jump ropes, and other playthings. They form into little groups that shift from day-to-day or week-to-week. They play soccer, run around, dig holes in the dirty, and so on. It’s one long scream-fest (and I know this because I’m occasionally a volunteer monitor).

When my son came home in first grade and said another kid was bullying him and his friends on the playground, we talked with him about possible solutions. It took my son about a month, but he finally figured out ways of avoiding the bully and stopped doing things that had antagonized the bully in the first place. My son handled it himself – he didn’t have direct intervention from me or the school staff.

So, while I’m not going to bash homeschoolers, I will insist that even with their support groups, they are setting up an artificial environment which might leave their children unprepared for larger social interactions. The best counterargument that homeschoolers can make (as far as I can guess) is that they do not want to be part of society at-large anyway. That current society is so messed up that they are better opting-out of it and finding a small network of like-minded folks.