The Isolated Homeschooler
I originally posted this on Life Without School but wanted to save it here as well. I hope that you don't mind reading it again if you have already seen it!
The Isolated Homeschooler
One of the more common arguments against homeschooling is that it "isolates" kids. That somehow kids, if not in school, will never be exposed to the world at large. That homeschoolers sit at home all day with no interaction with anyone outside their family.
I have found quite the opposite has been true for us. School can become a crutch – you don't need to look beyond it because all your kids' social or academic opportunities are provided for. But I do not want to be limited by what the school can provide. Homeschooling, for me, has led to a greater involvement in my community precisely because I do not have the school to depend on to meet the needs of my kids. I can not just sit back and let the school provide everything; I need to stay active and engaged in my kids' lives.
Because we are not in school we have more time to explore our community. I am constantly looking for new activities through our county recreation centers, local YMCA and other neighborhood centers. I search out new parks to explore. I network with other homeschoolers to find interesting activities. I have been amazed at the variety of opportunities that come across my local homeschooling email lists – special events at museums, storytelling evenings at a local community center, music shows, fascinating websites – all things that I would not have been looking for had my kids been in school.
Homeschoolers are also extremely good at creating what they need – be it foreign language classes, park days, co-ops, or yu-gi-oh clubs. We live by the motto "Build it and they will come". And they do! Local businesses and organizations are happy to offer classes during their typically slow times during "school hours". Many people are very willing to share their expertise if just asked. And it is amazing what a group of motivated homeschool moms can accomplish together. I sometimes wish that there were not as many great opportunities as it is very easy to get overscheduled! Socialization is not a concern here by any measure.
The homeschooling community is a very welcoming one. When a new homeschooler moves into a new state or city, all they need to do is find the local homeschool email list or support group to get advice about the new laws or places to live. They can also get hooked into the local activities before moving. When we were going to spend the entire summer in Ocean City, Maryland this past year, I joined a few email lists and made connections with some local homeschoolers. The boys made some very good friends and we had a wonderful summer and are looking forward to going back this year. These summer connections led to our finding out about a Maryland homeschool camp this spring where we had an incredible time. The group we camped with has exciting activities that we are now hoping to take advantage of such as star gazing evenings (they are far enough out that light pollution is not the issue it is where we are). We have now broadened our community from not only Virginia, but to several parts of Maryland as well. And best yet, these connections are based on common interests and friendship rather then on our zip code and school zone.
Homeschooling has also led me to be more active politically. I am a member of my inclusive, statewide homeschool organization that helps monitor homeschooling legislation. As I have learned more about how the process works, I have been empowered to take a more active role in other political causes about which I feel strongly.
Are all homeschoolers as active and involved in their community? No. Some live in areas that do not have as many opportunities or some choose to not be involved. But attendance in school does not guarantee community involvement either. Some families are able to remain isolated even when their kids are in school. There is no guarantee. Are there parents of school kids who actively look for interesting opportunities outside of school? Yes, of course. But after four years of homeschooling, I honestly believe that I am much more connected to my community and the world at large then I would have been had my kids been in school. I have had to be and I would not have it any other way.