What Does the Research Say?
Research about homeschoolers and socialization is, unfortunately, not abundant at this time. However, the available research does point to mostly positive outcomes when it comes to socialization and homeschooled children.
For example, a systematic review of the available research on homeschooling, published in the Journal of School Choice found that not only do homeschoolers fare very well academically, but they also appear to be well adjusted and well socialized.
Out of 15 available studies that look at socialization of home-educated kids, 13 out of 15 showed “clearly positive outcomes for the homeschooled compared to those in conventional schools.”1 Two studies showed an even more positive outcome for homeschooled children than conventionally educated children.
Research shows that homeschooled kids are less likely to engage in risky behavior such as alcohol consumption. An older study cited by Ray (from 1992) found that homeschooled kids had fewer behavioral problems than their conventionally schooled counterparts.1
Richard G. Medlin, PhD, a professor of psychology at Stetson University, published a review of homeschool research in the Peabody Journal of Education. He came to similarly positive conclusions:2
- Adults who were homeschool as kids are “civically engaged” and well adjusted.
- Homeschooled children have stronger relationships with their parents and other adults in their lives.
- Homeschooled children are generally content, hopeful, and report high levels of satisfaction with their lives.
- Homeschooled kids are ethical and are more likely to take social responsibility than conventionally taught kids.
- Homeschooled kids are open-minded and like to try new things.
- Homeschooled kids are well-behaved and experience less “emotional turmoil.”
- Homeschooled kids who attend college are as social as their peers who were taught more traditionally.
What Do Homeschool Parents Report?
According to Medlin’s research, parents of kids who learn at home report positive outcomes about their children’s socialization skills.2
The research indicates that homeschooling parents expect their children to respect and get along with people of diverse backgrounds, provide their children with various social opportunities outside the family, and believe their children's social skills are at least as good as other children's.
— RICHARD G. MEDLIN, PHD
If you talk to any veteran homeschooling parent, they will likely agree, explaining that their children generally have uniquely diverse experiences as homeschoolers. They interact with kids of all ages, have many experiences with other adults in public situations, and generally learn how to be a respectful, thoughtful, and empathetic member of society because they are schooled at home, and not despite it.
Most homeschoolers will tell you that the thing to keep in mind about homeschooling is that only a small portion of it happens at home.
Most children can finish their lessons or academic work within a few hours and still have several more hours free each day to do other activities—and most of these activities involve interactions with others.
In fact, many children do a large bulk of their academic schooling with others—such as in homeschool co-ops and through outside classes and activities aimed at homeschooled kids and families.
Really, the ways that you can keep your home learner engaged with others are endless, especially with a little planning. Here are some of the most popular ways that homeschool parents give their elementary-aged kids opportunities for socializing.
Join a Homeschool Co-op
Homeschool co-ops are popular ways to connect with other homeschool families so that your children can play and learn with others. Some of these co-ops are primarily social in nature; others involve parents taking turns teaching classes or hiring outside teachers to teach students.
HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) is a good place to start if you are looking for a local homeschool co-op or group.
Just because you homeschool doesn’t mean your child can’t participate in after-school or weekend activities with non-homeschool kids. Some public schools even allow homeschool kids to participate in their extracurricular activities, dance, cooking, piano, computer coding—whatever floats their boat.
Get Involved in Sports
If you have a sporty kid, getting them on a local sports team (even through your local school district if allowed) is a wonderful way for you to socialize your child. Sports involve many of the important skills you will want your child to learn, such as teamwork, communication, and managing big emotions.
Volunteer at the local zoo, a homeless shelter, or soup kitchen. Older kids can volunteer at a local non-profit, an animal rescue, or a local hospital. There are so many opportunities to get your kids involved in local civic organizations.
All of them are educational opportunities as well as ways to interact with others in meaningful ways.
Register Your Child for Classes
Even without enrolling your child in a full-day school program, there are academic classes you can usually find within your community. Many non-profits, environmental centers, museums, and libraries offer educational classes for kids of all ages. These are also great ways for your child to get used to a classroom-like setting and engage with others.
Take Community College Courses
High school-aged homeschoolers are often able to enroll in community college courses. This is a fantastic way to enrich your child’s education, teach them to be more independent, and give them opportunities to engage with others.
And of course, there’s the bonus that they will get a leg up on their college coursework (at a very low cost per credit).
Go to Summer Camp
Homeschoolers often attend camp—day camp and sleepaway camp. This is a great way to make long-lasting friendships and is also a good way to build grit and independence.
Whatever you do, get your homeschooler outside. Of course, homeschooled kids need sunshine and movement as much as any child. But going beyond your own backyard offers more opportunities for socialization for your child.
Visit your local park frequently, go to the zoo and botanical gardens. If you visit these places during school hours, you might run into a homeschooler or two and make fast friends.
A Word From Verywell
Years ago, homeschooling was far less popular and accepted than it is today. However, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, many families explored homeschool options for their children. And even if they weren't teaching their kids themselves, many children learned at home during hybrid or distance learning.
Socializing your homeschooled or virtually schooled child during a pandemic is certainly different than it would be in normal times. Many families are continuing to keep extracurricular activities and social situations on hold (or online) until their children can be vaccinated.
Still, there are many creative ways to keep your child socialized, including socially distanced playdates and virtual classes and gatherings. Either way, it can be reassuring to know that educating your child at home is not likely to be detrimental to their overall social development. On the contrary, with a little creativity and exploration, there are many ways to ensure that your home-educated child thrives and forms meaningful connections to others.