25 Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Musings on how lucky we are to have homeschool friends

We’ve all heard it a thousand times before: “I would homeschool my kids, but I am worried they won’t get much socialization.”

Sigh.

I won’t bore you with all the reasons homeschoolers are socialized. You already know that. You are a homeschool parent. What I will do is share with you an “ah-ha” moment I had recently after hosting twenty-five homeschool kids at my house this summer.

Yep. I said 25!

It all began innocently enough. Both my boys have summer birthdays and in an effort to avoid organizing two parties back-to-back I suggested we do things a bit differently this year. On their birthday weekend, each of my sons chose an overnight trip for our family. On his birthday weekend, my oldest chose to visit the Orlando Science Center and stay at a hotel with a Disney breakfast. Alternatively, my youngest wanted an afternoon at ChuckECheese in Orlando and a hotel with a lazy river. Done!

I scheduled the birthday party in between and was instructed to invite all the kids from their co-op, all the kids from their gym class and all the kids from their homeschool play group. Wow. That’s a LOT of kids!

I did it. I invited forty kids and twenty-five kids were able to attend.

I only freaked a little when I realized how many homemade Minecraft gift bags I had just committed to making. Only just a little. In our household preparing for the party is half the fun so I had lots of help from the boys.

Homeschool birthday partyThe day of the party was perfection. We had rented a dual lane waterslide, cooked all the food in advance, and made two Minecraft pinatas so everyone got a chance at bat. My job was simply to relax and participate in the fun.

I love homeschoolers.

If prior to homeschooling you have ever been to a large, group experience with kids, such as a field trip, dance, or class party, then you know that kids can can get rowdy. Sometimes they get defensive. Sometimes offensive. Sometimes they’re just plain insensitive or even down right mean.

So I must have been out of my mind to invite so many kids to my home, right? Wouldn’t toys get broken, carpet become soiled, feelings become hurt, and tears shed?

Nope. Not a one. In fact, these twenty-five homeschool kids were far from unruly. They took turns on the water slide, passed out plates of food to each other, and giggled and laughted with each other, never at each other.

Some of the kids were 3 years old. Some were 14. It didn’t matter. Age and hierarcy are irrelevant for most homeschool kids. I believe that most homeschool kids view ALL kids as equally important, regardless of age, and homeschool kids see EVERYONE as a potential playmate.Byars Homeschool Bday 2

How rockin cool is that?

As the party wound down, without a single tear shed, was my home dirty? A little. Were any toys broken? Nope. Did anyone cry or tattle tale or bully another child? Not that I saw.

As I reflected at the days events that evening, I appreciated even more what homeschooling means to me. My kids aren’t unsocialized at all. They are surrounded by kids who understand the value of empathy, consideration, and cooperation because my kids’ friends aren’t trying to one-up each other in a forced competition to be best in class or gain popularity at school. As a community, I find that we tend to celebrate children as the unique, talented individuals they are, each with their own quirks and gifts, all without judgment or shame.

My boys make mistakes, as do I. Sometimes we hurt our friends’ feelings. Sometimes we say something insensitive. Yet, what I love about homeschooling is that there is a cadre of parents ready and willing to redirect those actions with empathy and love. As a homeschool parent, I can take the time to pull my boys aside and explain to them how their particular action might have been insensitive. You don’t get the luxury of time to do this in a school classroom all that often. As a homeschool parent, if another child is hurt or angry, I can kneel down and offer a hug or helping hand if that child doesn’t know how to express his or her anxiety – and I know that another homeschool parent across the way is going to do the same for my sons.

Wow. Now how’s that for a socialized society? Can you imagine what life might be like if the entire world lived this way?

So I salute all you unruly, unsocial homeschoolers! I can’t think of a more beautiful community to raise my kiddos within.

 

Happy homeschooling!

Kate

PS: Speaking of cooperative play and socialization, check out this awesome cooperative game introduced to me by Gainesville homeschool mom, Jessica A.: Community

 

Cooperative Games

Games that Support Empathy and Team Work

We learned early-on in our parenting career that our oldest child was not wired for competition. Thoughts of sitting around the camp fire playing Monopoly or Gin Rummy quickly withered as we watched our son melt-down in despair when we attempted any type of competitive game.

He is not a perfectionist, nor is he afraid to try and excel at something difficult. Yet for some reason, when asked to pit his skills against the person next to him, my eldest son becomes physically anxious and panics.

As we solidified our parenting philosophy, we began to realize that we didn’t necessarily want our kids to be competitive. Self-motivated, passionate and focused, yes…but not at the expense of their neighbor. We didn’t want to teach our children to find joy in someone else’s loss.

When kids at the playground asked our kids to play tag, I quickly offered to play “challenge” instead where I shouted out a physical challenge for all the kids to accomplish, where no child “won” or “lost” – each child simply worked as hard as they could to jump on one foot or run around the oak tree or execute five jumping jacks. The kids loved it and my children were able to socialize, while we stayed true to our family values. Yay!

We avoided playing board games as I assumed they were all competitive in nature. I was wrong!

Recently an uber-cool homeschool mama, Jessica A.. brought a cooperative game to our homeschool co-op. Huh! Who knew? I wasn’t clever enough to think that other families might have the same approach to competition and that someone was actually mass producing cooperative games. Cool!

The game Jessica introduced to us is Community and my son played it for over an hour at co-op that day – a major accomplishment for a kid who shies away from games. Of course, we purchased Community and both my four year old and six year old play it regularly.   

The idea is to create a city, or community, with the octagonal game tiles, by connecting each location tile (home, library, museum) with a road tile as efficiently as possible. The road tiles must be oriented to match up with the location tiles, making it a fun puzzle that is unique every time you play.

I recently did some research into cooperative games and realized that the skills learned teach communication, empathy, and conflict resolution – exactly the type of skills our family prioritizes in our children’s education and development. Cooperative games require the skills of everyone in the group and give kids an opportunity to work together toward a common goal. Nice!

If you’re curious about cooperative games there is a whole slew of them on Amazon. Thus far, Community is our favorite. You can also try before you buy at  your local gaming store – I know our local game store, Gamesville Tabletop, has plenty to choose from.

Happy cooperative gaming!
Kate

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