Yes, Socialization Can Be A Problem
By Jamila Alqarnain
The subject of socialization frequently pops up in the homeschool community. It seems we are always on the defense, trying to convince someone that homeschooled children have just as many opportunities to socialize with other kids as they would if they went to public school. We come up against the “What about socialization?” question not just from the anti-homeschool club, but also from worried parents who are considering the homeschool route. It’s natural that we have become defensive about it. Having the same question asked over and over again can do that to a person. However, I feel like as homeschoolers, we are so sensitive about this subject that we spend most of our time defending ourselves and not addressing the fact that this can be an issue for some families.
Of course homeschooling does not mean a child has to be doomed to a life of solitude. We know that there are plenty of social butterflies having all sorts of awesome adventures in homeschooling. The issue is that not everyone is having a wonderful time of it. Not everyone’s experience is the same. I think that the point should be made to parents considering homeschooling that it is really important to make sure kids have ample opportunity to get out of the house and be around their peers. Most of us simply do not realize that some families are having this problem. This is why I chose to address this unpopular and preferably ignored issue: to build awareness.
When I was working on my book The Muslim Family Guide to Successful Homeschooling, I interviewed adults who had been homeschooled when they were young children. Some complained about not getting out enough to be with other children. They felt that because of this they did not have valuable social skills. They were lonely, and unhappy with their homeschooling experience. I don’t believe that their parents were lazy or unwilling to find outlets for the children. Parents may not know what to do with their children and there may not be a lot of other homeschoolers in the area.
One sister said she lived in a small town and there simply wasn’t that much to do there. We all know that there are some Muslim women who, for whatever reason, just don’t get out a lot. So when they start homeschooling they stay in their usual routine of being homebodies. These sisters need to hear about the importance of taking their kids on playdates, enrolling them in classes, joining co-ops, finding sport outlets, etc. There are questions that they should ask themselves before starting their journey: Are there any other families homeschooling in my area? What classes are offered in my area? If there just aren’t a lot of opportunities for socialization locally, is relocating an option? Can we drive a little further out to meet up with other homeschooling families? What about our masjid? Is there a youth group or other opportunities for my child to socialize with other Muslim kids?
If parents come together and really give these things some thought, they will likely make a way to find plenty of opportunities for their kids to meet up with other kids. This may be more difficult for some than it is for others but it is still possible. We just have to make sure that we leave no stone unturned and take advantage of all the resources available to us.
The ultimate goal is make sure that our children have the best homeschool experience that we can provide. It is on us to ensure that their needs are being met and they are growing, not just academically, but spiritually and characteristically. In order to do that sometimes it takes strategic planning, especially when it’s not clear where the tools we need to meet our children’s needs are going to come from. Do some sleuthing around in your community. More than likely the answers are there. If we make lots of dua while looking for solutions Allah will make a way. He always does.
Jamila Alqarnain, a native of Buffalo, New York, and a 2nd generation Muslim, was an active child whose hobbies included sewing, arts, and crafts, reading, drawing and writing stories. She teamed up with her sister and co-founded Noon Publications. In 2005, she published her first book, The Muslim Family Guide to Successful Homeschooling.
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