In the very popular 2004 movie Mean Girls (the basis for the current Broadway hit), main character Cady Heron starts attending high school after being homeschooled for many years because her parents want her to get “socialized.” The movie pokes fun at other homeschool myths, but the stigma of socialization outside of a brick and mortar school remains the most enduring of the bunch. (And don’t forget that in the movie, high school turns out to be a vipers’ den — a building full of snakes, ridiculous social rules, and, not to be too on the nose…mean girls.)
Let’s be clear — a student pursuing an education outside of a physical school building is not doomed. School is not the only place a teenager builds relationships. We do understand that the outside voices commenting on your student’s non-traditional education may be loud, so we’re here to reassure you: you are doing a great job, and there are plenty of ways outside of school for you to provide social opportunities for your student.
Live Online Class Environment
Of course, we’ll start with what we, the Well-Trained Mind Academy, are best at — fostering relationships with teachers and fellow students in live online classes. Students get to know their instructors and peers in a real-time setting. Students chat, talk on the mic, and sometimes share video. Over the course of a semester or two, friendships thrive and trust is built. Students learn how to interact respectfully in a classroom, and they experience the joy of group success (or sometimes misery — just check in before a big test or paper is due!). The sense of community that comes from live online classes is real, and very satisfying.
Social Opportunities for Homeschoolers Offered by Public School & Other Groups
It is possible that your local public school offers extracurricular activities to students who homeschool or online school. Some states require opening up these activities to homeschool students. Reach out to your local school board to find out what is available to all area students.
We don’t need to tell you that joining a club sport or signing your student up for gymnastics, martial arts, or dance lessons will not only help your student expend extra energy but also to make friends. Participation in your religious community, working a part-time job, or volunteering also exposes your student to different kinds of interesting people, and helps them to flex their social muscles.
You can find people with like-minded interests near you by searching Facebook or Instagram. Your local library may also host clubs for book lovers, science enthusiasts, or historical sleuths. A student interested in civic and environmental engagement may enjoy Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, or the 4-H Club.
The local theater is a great place for social opportunities. Those into drama can act; musicians can join the pit; crafty kids can join the stage crew; burgeoning entrepreneurs can advertise. FIRST Lego League offers a student interested in STEM an interactive, hands-on competitive experience. FIRST also offers a tech challenge and robotics competition for high school students.
Another cool way to introduce your older student to new and interesting people is through an apprenticeship. Check out the full post from our sister company, The-Well-Trained Mind Press, for tips on how to find apprenticeships near you.
Why Creating Social Opportunities for Homeschoolers is Important
Some students aren’t in a brick and mortar school because of specialization in a sport, or career. While your student may be around other kids their age doing the same thing (for example, training for the X-Games) that doesn’t mean they are exposed to many different kinds of people. Socialization isn’t just about your child having friends; it is about showing them all the different types of human beings out there, and how they engage with the world.
Remember not to force any of these activities. Keep looking until you find a social activity that your student likes. The point of doing any of these activities is to help your student develop overall and to grow as a person. Socialization isn’t a burden, nor is it a stigma; it is an exciting opportunity for your student to figure out who they are in the world by spending time with others.