If you are a parent considering homeschooling, then chances are that you have some concerns about socialisation and how to help your child make friends. Social interaction is one of the biggest concerns homeschooling parents have when it comes to online schooling.
Many parents fear that choosing to homeschool will negatively affect their child’s social and emotional skills. The idea that homeschooled students are loners or socially awkward is far from the truth. Whether your child is socially-confident or not, there are many ways that you can help them develop their social skills to encourage them to make friends (and keep them).
In this article, we will look at different skills to help your child make friends as well as share some activities to help them gain meaningful relationships whilst maintaining their homeschooling environment.
Social activities to help a child make friends
In order to help your child make friends, it is a good idea to set them up in environments to encourage socialisation. This can be achieved through:
- Playdates: Arrange playdates with kids in your neighbourhood or through homeschooling community groups. Try to arrange at least one social event or playdate per week. Play allows children the opportunity to be creative and use their imaginations whilst teaching them how to socialise and interact with others.
- Community sports clubs: Most community clubs offer sports activities in which children can learn how to interact with their peers as a member of a team. Community clubs like soccer, cricket or hockey are great activities and opportunities for kids to make lasting friendships. During these activities, children will develop their self-esteem whilst enjoying the fun of competitive play.
- Individual sports: For children who do not thrive in a team environment, you can look for individual sports learnt in group classes. These activities include karate, ballet, swimming or tennis. These sports can breed independence and confidence in children. Individual sports allow your child to make friends while they progress at their own pace and set personal goals that won't affect their teammates.
- Host a social event: Many local businesses are happy to partner with homeschooling groups to offer discounts during their off-peak hours. Organise a homeschoolers event at your local trampoline park, bowling alley or ice skating rink etc. Advertise the event on your local Facebook community groups to get the opportunity to meet other homeschoolers in your area.
- Start a book club: Contact your local library to start a kid’s book club in your community (the librarian could help you with this). A book club is a great opportunity to meet like-minded families and plan further activities that allow for social interactions. Kids can swap books they’ve enjoyed reading and discuss what they enjoyed about a particular book, this could be a great confidence builder for a shy child.
- Music lessons: Find a music teacher in your area and enrol your child in piano, guitar, violin or saxophone lessons. Although these lessons are normally conducted in small groups, they will allow your child to make friends with children who have a common interest. This is especially suited to introverted children who do not enjoy socialising in large groups.
- Holiday clubs: Many organisations offer holiday clubs during the school holidays. These may vary from mornings only, all day or sleepover camps. Most holiday clubs are designed to allow children to explore topics with a fun, interactive, and hands-on approach and incorporate some kind of physical activity. These clubs are also a great way for kids to socialise with other children outside of the homeschooling community.
- Social and emotional learning course: Enrol your child in an online course that promotes group learning. The CambriLearn Social Emotional Learning course is structured around group projects and lessons that help a child discover constructive ways to process their emotions and interact with others in a respectful way.
Skills for making friends
When in these “friend-making” social environments, encourage your child to develop their social skills by practising the following:
- Start conversations: Encourage your child to try and start at least one conversation with a new person per day. This can involve introducing themselves to a new person or asking a leading question to encourage conversation.
- Identify social cues: Social cues like yawning, crossed arms or looking away are generally a sign of disinterest, whereas cues like nodding, leaning in or smiling when speaking are signs of interest. Encourage your child to pay attention to these small social cues when engaging with others. After the social event, sit down with your child and ask them if they noticed any positive or negative social cues in their interactions.
- Social rules: Encourage your child to learn social rules for engaging in a group setting. Some of these rules include; taking turns to talk, not interrupting and asking related questions (when appropriate to do so). Teaching your child how to be mindful and polite in a group environment will help them make friends easier.
- Active listening: Listening is a key part of the give-and-take of friendships. Kids who are always interrupting or talking nonstop, are less likely to make friends easily. Encourage your child to practice active listening and pay attention when someone else is speaking. Some kids naturally understand how to listen whilst others might need to work on picking up social cues or understanding social rules. If you find that your child struggles with recognising social cues or rules then practice or role-play some scenarios with them at home.
Every child is different and interacts with others differently. There are outgoing homeschoolers who easily interact with peers and there are shy, introverted homeschoolers who prefer less interaction, just like kids who are in public schools. Whether your child is introverted or extroverted, the important thing to remember is that there is no wrong or right way to make new friends. Pay attention to your child’s social cues and encourage them to make new friends in a way that is comfortable for them.