About two and a half years ago, we decided to homeschool our children. Oddly, one of the biggest concerns many people have about homeschooling is socialization. Odd because often more outgoing, talkative children are told that they aren’t at school to socialize, so it seems strange that school is deemed the best place for children to learn social skills.
Many families join co-ops or other homeschooling groups to give them time to be around their peers. We haven’t really found a homeschooling group that fits us well, so we have taken a different approach. If you’re in a similar spot, or just looking for fun, inexpensive after-school activities, these options may work for you, too.
Most libraries offer storytime for younger children. This is fun and free for the little ones, and gives older children quiet time to find new books to read or to do research. Our libraries also offer activities for all ages in the afternoon and on weekends. For us, just between the two libraries we frequent, we have activities available at least four days a week.
Chris enjoys playing chess, so each of our boys has taken interest in it from a young age. We’ve found two free local chess clubs: one meets at a library and is for children, the other meets at a bookstore and is for all ages. We primarily go to the one at the library, but occasionally go to the other one. One of our complaints about school socialization is that it really only allows children to interact with their own age group, whereas outside of school they need to be comfortable holding conversations will people of all ages. The bookstore chess club offers them the opportunity to meet people of all ages who share a common interest.
Depending on their hobbies, you may be able to find clubs by asking around at libraries, bookstores, shops, or searching online. I’ve even known of people to start their own through Meetup and Facebook.
Museums, zoos, and other attractions
Many places have special homeschool days, sometimes with cheaper admissions or special tours. These offer the opportunity to meet other local homeschooling families. At the very least, it’s a fun field trip. Last year, we went to a Texas Rangers game on their homeschool day.
Take a class or join a team
Our city rec center offers a variety of classes from dance to martial arts for less than we’ve found elsewhere. Beckett is currently taking a Wing Jitsu class that Finn took alongside Chris back when B was a baby. They also offer soccer, baseball, and basketball teams for all ages. Some of our libraries have a Maker’s Spot where they offer classes for older children and adults on how to use the equipment. Ours has 3D printers, sewing, embroidery and long arm machines. Art, music, crafting and language classes are also options. My oldest took a kids’ art class at a local art center.
Parks and playgrounds
Never underestimate just getting out and playing. Parks are free and depending on the time of day, there can be tons of kids. Go afterschool or go during school hours to meet families with younger children and homeschoolers.
Something that seems to get overlooked is the little social interactions that happen without thinking. Young children learn a lot just by playing with parents, grandparents and siblings. If you take your children with you to the grocery or the bank, they are likely to get little lessons on how to greet people, approach people with questions, politeness and all the other interactions we take for granted. My kids go everywhere with me. Sure sometimes makes simple errands take F-O-R-E-V-E-R, but those little lessons they get are worth it. Mostly. 😉
On a final note, as important as socialization is, children also need to learn how to be at peace with themselves. Sometimes I think we underestimate the need for quiet alone time. Make sure to allow plenty of unstructured downtime when planning activities for your children, regardless of whether they are homeschooled.