My oh My, those poor unsocialized homeschoolers. LOL! I've never intentionally addressed this question that plagues homeschoolers in all seasons of the journey. However, as I've gotten closer to the end of my journey, I think I can share a few things that have helped us to make sure our boys didn't become social pariahs.
Once upon a time, the 'socialization' question made my blood boil. The only question worse was, "What about prom?" to which I would reply in my head "Could you BE any more shallow? Who gives a fig about prom...seriously." Ahem. Anyway, back to socializing. I'm not going to be all preachy or bossy, or even bore you with factoids and statistics...I'm just going to share some of how we make sure our boys don't end up in the *poor unsocialized homeschooler* category.
~We are rarely home unless it's time to eat, shower or sleep. Handsome Hercules works his 40, and then spends the evenings with the family; playing games, riding dune buggies, working on the cars, or creating something out of his never ending this-could-come-in-handy-someday pile. When he works a side job, he takes at least one along to hang out, learn something and meet new people. I work 30-50 hours a week as a nanny, so the boy(s) come along with me nearly every day. D (17) works *more on that later* and DT (9) must come with me, but as long as P (15) is caught up in school, he may stay home, but Grma is home 1/2 the day with him. On the weekends, we are at church, Hercules is working side jobs, and I am working at the gym, so again, they go along and meet MANY people along the way. We expect them to be pleasant and helpful every where they go, and so they've grown up learning about serving others.
~As an aside about my job, it probably goes without saying that since I'm a nanny, there are other children to spend time with each day. Right now I'm working for a family with 3 kiddos. Z is 18 and only home on weekends as he's in college, G is 13 and homeschooling along with us, and A is 4 and spends the mornings at preschool and the afternoons with us. Until he went off to college, Z spent his time after school hanging out with my BIGS, but they still get together every weekend for games, laughter and small shenanagins. DT splits his time between G and A, depending on his mood and if A is napping. My boys have learned a lot about girls from this family. And that's never a bad thing, right?
~My family is largely here in town, so besides the 5 of us, there is my mother who joined the family mayhem in August, my younger sister with my 2 nephews, my older 1/2 sister, an adult nephew and my great niece. Another young adult nephew is moving in with us in just a few days. So we aren't hurting for family interactions, that's for sure. :) Between differing generations, different parenting styles, religious/political/financial differences, we've learned the art of letting love cover our differences.
~We are active in our local homeschooling group. Between simple pleasures like hanging out at the park together, fun and educational field trips, and the co-op that helps fill in the gaps of things that Mama can't or forgot to teach, life is rich with homeschooling friends.
~D, our 17 year old works full time at the local gym where he also trains for his gymnastics competitions. He teaches classes of toddlers/preschoolers, kids wanting to join the competitive team, and runs birthday parties. When people ask him where he attends school, he replies that he is homeschooled and the reaction he gets the most is "Wow, I would have never guessed." I'm not entirely sure what that means, except that everyone seems to have met "that homeschooling family" that never let their children out of the basement, so they enter the world pasty white, completely naive, and wearing a plaid shirt, horn rimmed glasses and a bow tie. (Sorry if this is you. I am not criticizing, I am just amazed that every person on the planet has already met you, but they still think us homeschoolers don't socialize. LOL) I take that to mean that we've done our job well of raising a completely well rounded, well socialized homeschooler. *winks*
~We host a game night every Friday for our family and friends. This is homeschooling socializing at it's finest. We have all ages, from my Mother (66) all the way down to my great niece (1). These people bring great variety to our lives, and especially to our children's lives. To make sure we all get along, we must learn to extend grace to one another. We play board/card/dice games, we shoot pool, play air hockey, throw darts, and laugh out loud all evening. Handsome Hercules and I have made it a priority to make the boys' friends welcome in our home, and to create our home to be the 'hangout house" so that the boys always have somewhere safe and fun to be with their friends.
~We host out of town guests as often as our schedule allows, so that the boys learn the art of hosting other people, of being gracious hosts, and to learn about other people's customs, habits and hobbies. The boys enjoy taking them to all their favorite hangouts, sight seeing spots and to meet their friends. It keeps us from only ever spending time with like minded people, which often leads to us being narrow-minded.
~All the boys have public school friends, which we encourage. Things like football games, late night movies, and talking about cute girls shouldn't only be for public school kiddos. So we encourage them to venture outside of our homeschooling group for friends. The youth ministry at our church has been great for this. The BIGS have many friends that attend public school who take them along on all those 'but what about the prom?' moments. DT has public school friends as well, and he enjoys spending time with them when he can. He spends much time lamenting that they have to spend so much time in school each day. ;)
~The BIGS have each traveled with my parents or spent summers at their house since we've moved to NM. They've met family members across the country, spent extended time with all the grandparents, their IL based brother and sister in love, and their IL cousins that we don't see very often anymore. They've learned how to navigate the world's 6th busiest airport, survive an extended family reunion without immediate family's intervention (HA!) and speak up for themselves when the need arises.
These are just some of the things that we've done with our boys along the way to make sure they are ready to take part in the big wide world in which we live. I'm sure you have some fresh ideas, or things I've forgotten to mention. How do you socialize YOUR children?