How homeschoolers make friends

When I first started homeschooling my biggest worry was friends. I have a very social son. He told me all the time that he needed more friends, and I spent a lot of time feeling guilty.

Now that I have a few years under my belt, friends are not nearly the problem for me that they were at the beginning. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Kids don’t get to talk at school. Teachers report that kids are starved for social interaction in school. Unstructured time is where kids make friends. These activities are often open to homeschoolers. My son plays pickup basketball with the school kids after school, and he knows all the kids who play. In the summer he goes swimming at the city pool, and he knows all the kids there, too.

Kids don’t keep friends at school when they change classrooms. So many times kids are friends just because a teacher sat them together at the beginning of the year. But those friendships don’t run deep. And besides, if you talk too much with your friend then the principal will separate you into different classes for the next year so classrooms are quieter.

Kids make friends through shared interests. Real friends are those who like to do what you want to do. This is how adults make friends and it makes complete sense that kids would make friends that way as well. So the important thing to do is help your kids find their interests. The friends come easily after that.

So my super-social son has music friends and sports friends and friends for playing online games. But something I’ve noticed is that he never has enough friends. He loves being around people. He loves having a party. All the time.

So he’s always worried he doesn’t have enough friends. It’s a problem, and we’re working on it. But I think it might be like I’m always worried I don’t have enough time to read. We each have our areas of insatiability, and no magical format of homeschooling can assuage that.

17 replies
  1. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    How about the kid, like mine, who doesn’t care to make friends? In fact, he is happy not making friends. People tell me he needs socialization, but school would only torment him. He socializes plenty by being in the world and through video games. We go places and he talks to people, but he prefers adults and very young children (like 2 years old). When I offer social things to my 12 year old son, he says “no thanks.” Yes, he does have a small group he can invite to his birthday party, but in general he likes to be alone. I think that is fine and homeschooling enables that to happen with no pressure. My daughter, on the other hand, needs more friends and I struggle now with that the same as I struggled when she was in school. When she was in school she was ALWAYS asking for play dates. Now, why would she need so many play dates if there was so much socializing going on in school? The difference is now I have more hours during the day to choose from for play so she gets more of it.

  2. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    The beauty of homeschooling is being able to choose how much and when to socialize! We usually set aside one day a week to meet with other homeschoolers just to play and enjoy each other’s company. And yes there’s always “after school” hours to meet up with public school kids but their parents are usually pressuring them to finish homework, eat, and then go to bed.

  3. Karmen Paterson
    Karmen Paterson says:

    I don’t understand the whole socialization and friendships concern for homeschoolers. Since we started homeschooling it seems like all we do is party with our friends. Science co op is a party. Kinder co op is a party. Storyline at the library is a party. You get the idea. These days I’m more worried about when we will do school than making friends for the kiddos. Bonus! I’ve made all kinds of incredible friendships through this homeschooling journey so far.

  4. Bryce
    Bryce says:

    One reason many parents and teachers are opposed to homeschooling is because “kids won’t be properly socialized.” But how many of those same parents tell their kids that “you go to school to learn, not to socialize?”

  5. Cáit
    Cáit says:

    Most homeschoolers are so confidant on this topic..but I feel really worried about this a lot. I know that public school would be wrong for my son socially, but I worry that if he finds out too much about that kind of socialisation, he’ll feel left out. Right now he is still so innocent and believes he likes all kids and all kids like him. I am so protective of that bubble. This is my homeschooling Achilles heel.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Many times people will confuse social development and collaboration. Most homeschooled children have zero problems socialization, and make friends quite easily.

      When it comes to collaboration, most homeschoolers are used to working on their own individual projects, so this is more of a challenge. Even my kids are this way. But, what I have been forced to do is find other methods for my kids to collaborate. Musical theater, swim team (or other team sport), and group lessons are just a few of the ways that I have found for my kids to collaborate with others. Recently, my kids participated in a team design challenge. It went well, and it was an eye opening experience for my kids to see how the other kids made their design choices and incorporated those ideas into their own designs.

      The making friends part is easy for us, as there is no shortage of local homeschool groups. I am in the process of researching the idea of starting a microschool for a few kids, including mine, starting in the fall. Collaboration abounds.

      • Leonie
        Leonie says:

        This is so interesting! I hope you’ll continue to share more about your experience with the microschool as it unfolds.

        Also, for what it’s worth, effective collaboration does not come easily to kids in school either.

  6. Paula Bolyard
    Paula Bolyard says:

    One of our sons is super-social. He’s off an off-the-charts extrovert like his dad. We live in an area where there aren’t any kids to play with, which made it more challenging to find social opportunities. Fortunately we filled those gaps with church activities (2-3 per week when they were younger). I also found some other moms with boys and we formed a playgroup that met once a week for several years. We had 5 families and each mom would host a different week, so the other moms could run errands or have some alone time to do whatever. It evolved into sleepovers and date nights for the parents. Our kids (now adults) are still friends with those guys.

    When our kids were in middle school we joined a co-op that met once a week. It gave our kids opportunities to work with other kids and “socialize” (whatever that means!) and it also laid the foundation for some wonderful friendships. (One of the boys has Asperger’s and everyone just took it in stride.) A lot of the kids ended up being really close friends and have been in each other’s wedding and still keep in touch, even though they live all over the country.

    I think it’s just a matter of being really intentional and creative about finding opportunities that are a good fit for your family.

  7. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I don’t get it when people say your kids can make friends in swim lessons or dance lessons or theater class. My kids have done all those things and never made friendships that existed outside of the class. Like someone said to make friendships one needs unstructured time but these classes are very structured. They barely have time to talk to the other kids bc they are busy doing whatever it is they are supposed to be doing. I even invited one little girl to our house and did all of the very out of the way driving to make it happen but it has never been reciprocated. So I don’t understand how kids make friends at lessons.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I’m so sorry that your experience has been different than ours. We get invited to people’s houses all the time from the activities we do, and one of my daughter’s best friends is in her ballet classes. Next weekend we are going to another friend’s (from theater) house to swim, it’s just our family and theirs. We get invited to things at least once a week, and from families that aren’t even homeschoolers.

      I don’t understand how one can’t make friends at swim lessons or swim team. These are people that my kids see on an almost daily basis and the parents exchange numbers and text quite often. They talk before, during, and after swim. At swim meets they are playing cards and other games for the majority of the day. One has to be a total introvert and an anti-social individual to not have at least one friend in this environment.

      How old is your little one? I mean, I have one friend who never invites us over…but she doesn’t let anyone inside her home. She is always coming to my house, but she does all the driving.

      • Danielle
        Danielle says:

        I am neither a complete introvert or anti-social and I have the same problem. Most recently my daughter has taken gymnastics and has been having a terrible time making friends. Swim classes before that. She tries talking to the other kids and there is just no way to get a friendship going. I have tried initiating conversations and even a meet up to no avail. I feel like I needed to jump around and harass these people to just to get their attention. A lot of them went from one activity to the next right from school. Maybe that was why they didn’t seem interested in getting together. Time constraints.
        Part of the reason we signed her up for the classes was to make friends. Cost a lot of money to learn this lesson.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          That is really disheartening to hear, Danielle. I’m not certain what the age of your child is either. I’m definitely an introvert, but very sociable. At swim, I mostly just want to be left alone but my youngest goes around and sits on every parents lap and talks to them. They all know who she is, she is the little girl in the bright pink cap. We get there early, and my kids have lessons and practice at different times, so there is ample time for socializing with the same aged kids. That is the one venue where I really don’t want to talk to people, but I end up being sucked into conversations with people that I really don’t have anything in common with. Occasionally, I will find another introvert to have quiet conversations with while we wait for our kids to finish.

          Another instance is my middle daughters dance class every weekend. I’m sitting with about 7 other dance moms for an hour every single weekend. I observe through the glass the girls chatting as much as they can during the downtime, they play and interact before and after class, and a few of us take gymnastics at the same venue so we exchange numbers to text and save seats. I have built personal friendships and networking this way.

          A third is musical theater, my 6 yo spends 3 hours every Saturday in rehearsals. She is the youngest and the oldest kids are teenagers. She interacts with all ages, and we have made some very close friends from this particular activity. There is ample time for the kids to converse and collaborate in between waiting for their scenes and during breaks.

          Finding the right activity is key, but also the age is significant. My 4.5 yo doesn’t really make connections, and still does “side play”. I wouldn’t expect any parent to suggest play dates with her yet. But my older kids get many follow up requests to hang out from our activities. I would suggest to keep trying, but try different things without committing to too much or to anything that is going to cost too much out of pocket. The best is when it happens naturally, instead of some awkward, desperate encounter.

  8. Nuria
    Nuria says:

    Maybe today is much more possible to study at home and to have a significant social life, thanks to the advance of internet, but i think kinds really need to interact physically with others

  9. Shavonda Miles
    Shavonda Miles says:

    This is a great article that answers the mystery or bringing the gap of how to create a social environment for your kids while not sacrificing the scholastic home experience. Thank you.

  10. victoria Upton
    victoria Upton says:

    I think kids ultimately are as social as their parents? They learn by example. We are six months into home schooling and I feel support from friends who send their kids to school and new parents and kids we are meeting who are unschooled. Its what you as a home school family decide to put in? Ultimately dictates the friendships and interactions you get back, its not the quantity of friends you make its the quality and kindness in them that makes them real and worthy.

  11. Teryn
    Teryn says:

    I think making friends easily has more to do with personality than anything else so you probably dont need to worry about your son in regards to friends since it sounds like he is hard wired to be good at social stuff. I do think true friends can be made at school because my closest friend is one I met at school. I also have friends I have met through jobs or similar hobbies. Friendship is about seeing something you connect to in another person and them seeing the same in you. There’s no right or wrong place to go about that.

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