Leslie Nathaniel: Hello! I am Leslie Nathaniel, a home schooling mother of two and a member of the Board of Directors for the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. I am talking about how to begin homeschooling your child. In this segment, I'll talk about socialization and how to find other homeschoolers in your community. Many families are concerned that homeschooled children may be at a disadvantage when it comes to socialization and opportunities to socialize. Homeschoolers do not have to be isolated, nor a homeschooled children at a disadvantage when it comes to interacting with others. Your community offers many opportunities for people of all ages to learn from one another, to share talents and to work together on shared goals. Depending on where you live, you can find a wealth of opportunities for field trips, special museum days and even homeschool programs in amusement parks. In urban and suburban areas, there are frequently more opportunities for homeschoolers to socialize that they can take advantage of. We often get the question, how do homeschooled children get socialization? It's worth thinking about the difference between socialization and socializing. Socialization is the process of learning our culture's expectations and norms for behavior. Socializing is the fun part of getting together with other people. Children begin their socialization within their families. It is their parents and caregivers that teach young children to share and to take turns, etcetera. As children grow, their peers do reinforce these expectations because it's no fun to play with kids who don't share or take turns, but those early lessons and how to behave come from caregivers, not other children. As out children get older, their basic lessons in how to behave still come from caregivers and mentors with reinforcements from others. Homeschoolers are at an advantage in learning socialization skills because they frequently have a higher adult to child ratio in their day-to-day lives than most school children. Homeschoolers also have many more chances to interact with people of different ages than children who spent their days in age-segregated classrooms. Working, playing and leaning with people of all ages gives children a chance to learn from those with more experience and knowledge and also gives them a chance to reinforce their own leaning, by teaching and being a role model for younger children. Now, that we've the dreaded socialization question out of the way, we can talk about resources for socializing in your community. Finding other homeschoolers can be an important part of making homeschooling enjoyable for the whole family. As we've mentioned before, homeschooling is more than just an educational choice, it's a lifestyle choice. Finding other homeschoolers means finding other people who have made the same sort of decision in their own lives. Homeschoolers also have the opportunity to get together during regular school hours for activities and outings and many homeschool groups delight in creating fun and educational opportunities for their children. You want to find the homeschoolers and homeschool groups in your community, so you can rake advantage of these opportunities. Your State Homeschool Organization may have listings of homeschool groups in your state. That can be an excellent place to start. Online discussion groups are another terrific resource for finding homeschoolers near you. Yahoo groups and other discussion services host a wide variety of groups that focus on homeschooling and many focus on specific geographical areas. Try searching for a homeschool group on your city or county and state name. Once you've identified a homeschool group or two that meets near you and a few discussion lists that looks interesting, contact the group leaders and introduce yourself. Explain that you're new to homeschooling or considering it and that you're looking to meet some homeschoolers in your community. Find out if the group is inclusive welcoming to everyone or if the group has specific criteria for homeschoolers who wish to join. An inclusive group can offer a wealth of experience to newcomers. It's likely to have people who come to homeschooling from different backgrounds and educational styles and who offer a variety of perspectives on the questions that may arise as you begin your homeschooling journey. You can take what works well for you and your family and let the rest go .
An exclusive group may offer expertise in a particular area, a focussed style of homeschooling or homeschooling from a particular perspective. An exclusive group may be more useful once you find your own homeschooling niche than when you're just starting out. Many communities have informal Park Days where homeschoolers meet up at a local park to play and socialize. Once you find another homeschooling family or two or a homeschool group or two, you're likely to hear about Park Days and other activities you can try. Well, school children do spend much of their days in school with other children, they also frequently hear the line, you're not here to socialize. Their opportunities to socialize may occur daily at school but be limited to relatively short recess periods. Homeschool children may or may not get the chance to socialize with other children everyday but when they do get together, they usually have the luxury of longer times to play. Park day may begin at noon and last until the kids are tired, giving children multiple hours of fun together. Clubs, classes and lessons are also opportunities to meet others and have a chance to socialize. Some homeschoolers participate in scouting, forage, music, dance or martial arts lessons with other school children. Some participate in homeschool troops or take lessons during school hours with other homeschoolers. The number of options available to your family will be based in part on where you live. Urban and suburban areas frequently have large numbers of homeschoolers and a wide variety of options available. People living in a more rural area where people are more spread out and there are fewer children in general, may have fewer nearby resources. I commonly heard phrase in the homeschooling community is, build it and they'll come. Chances are, if you're family would like an activity, club, class, field trip or either opportunity, there will be others who would like it too. Begin organizing and creating what you're looking for and publicize your efforts. Chances are, you'll find other families to join you and help make it a success. It can take a while to find your niche when you first begin homeschooling. It's a bit like moving to a new neighborhood. Take advantage of opportunities to try new experiences and be assertive in seeking out people. Patience, flexibility willingness to travel a bit and openness to meeting to new people can go a long way and smoothing the transition to the homeschooling lifestyle. Now that you know how to find other homeschoolers, I'll talk about finding other resources outside your home.