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As soon as you decide to homeschool, even though you're only doing it for a little while, people will start asking you about socialization. It is possibly the most annoying part of homeschooling. Socialization is the ability to get along with others and to fit into society. For some strange reason, people have decided that only a public school can make this happen (despite the fact that prisons are full of kids socialized in public schools).
Here is the truth: children are socialized at home and in the real world. School has its place for some children, but it isn't anything at all like the real world. Let's look at some ways you can expand your child's socialization skills. We'll also talk about how to maintain the friendships they have at their school so they will be still be strong next year, when your child goes back to school.
Your child was probably in a class where all the children are the same age. So yes, they learn to socialize with people who are their age, whatever that age is. Someone tried to tell me that it's true this year her child was only learning how to socialize with eight-year-olds, but next year he'd learn to socialize with nine-year-olds, so eventually he'd know how to socialize with every age. Obviously, she missed the point--he is still only learning how to socialize with people his own age, whatever that age might be. In the real world, we socialize with people of all ages. We need to get along with children (in a way appropriate for adult-child relationships), with the elderly, with those much older and much younger. This really has to be done at home and your homeschool year is the perfect time to work on that. If your children don't have grandparents nearby, or they have younger grandparents, consider visiting nursing homes or older neighbors. Encourage your children to play with children younger than they are. Older children probably won't play with them unless the older children are homeschooled. (If you join a homeschool group, your children will make friends of many ages. Homeschooled kids don't tend to worry about age much.)
Homeschooled kids don't have to be friends with someone just because they need someone to have lunch with. One of mine went to school part-time for a while. When her experiment ended and she decided not to go back, she stopped seeing the friends she'd made there. She said she didn't need them anymore and they didn't interest her that much--they'd just been people to have lunch with. Help your child spend some time this year thinking about the kinds of friends he had in school and why they were his friends. Then help him find new friends who have more in common with him, if necessary. Put them in a club or class that focuses on something they are interested in. That way they make friends who have common interests. They can make new friends at church, in their neighborhood, and at the local park. If they do volunteer work, they might meet children there. Homeschool groups are a great source of friendship as well.
Of course, if your child had friends at school, he may want to continue those frienships as well. Invite those children to your home to play or to participate in the fun parts of your homeschool--a Saturday science or craft project, for instance. Most likely, the parents of that child will recipricate and the friendship will continue as it always did, but after school. You might want to organize a fun way for your child's new friends to make friends with the old friends. Projects are usually the easiest way for children who don't know each other to interact. When they're busy doing something, they don't feel shy. Girls often enjoy jewelry-making parties, for instance. Other children might like building model cars or working on a tie quilt for homeless children. Have good refreshments, an interesting project, and a carefully chosen group of children and they will take care of the rest themselves.
Gather a group of children and teach them to crochet--make it a club. Once they know what they're doing and have made a few things for themselves, have them make things for charity. Their hands are busy for the shy moments, but when they're ready to talk, they have their projects to talk about.