Feb 222013

My son confidently explains an exhibit at the Natural History Museum in New York.

My son confidently explains an exhibit at the Natural History Museum in New York.

Socialization has been on my heart lately, as my oldest child nears adulthood. I worry that he will not believe in himself, having lacked the opportunity to prove himself in daily interactions with a large group of peers. I wonder if he knows he has what it takes to succeed.

We’ve by no means been isolated. From church youth groups to classes to summer camps, visits with family and friends, travels, and regular life about town, my children have had many opportunities to interact with people of all ages in various situations.

They enjoy participating in activities away from home. The separation anxiety that can trouble younger children was entirely absent from my children in years past. On the contrary, they barely remembered to wave goodbye! (One of them did experience intense separation anxiety as a toddler, but that was shortly after his father had left the family. It was entirely mitigated, I assume by a stable home life.)

As they progress through their teens, this carefree, almost lackadaisical attitude to exploring the world is translating to bigger experiences, such as camps away from home or short vacations with friends, and the upcoming job search. My son’s annual two weeks at Camp Hammer, beginning the summer he turned 16, have provided a great “test flight.” Significantly, he reported absolutely no homesickness.

“Homesickness and Growth in Children,” an article published by Psychology Today, reports “Most cases of homesickness seem… to be associated with a child’s fear that he/she does not ‘have what it takes’ to survive without family.” The absence of homesickness suggests that, contrary to my fears, homeschooling has taught my children they have what it takes.

While waiting in the Express Service lobby for my van recently, I was questioned by a polite young man in his 20’s. “You homeschool? I noticed the sign on your van.”

“Yes, I’ve homeschooled since the beginning, and my oldest is almost 18.”

“I was homeschooled.”

Shocker! I was waiting to give advice to a young parent. I asked him how it had turned out for him. “Academically,” he explained, “It worked. But I felt very unsure of myself when I left home.”

Obviously, this exacerbated my current worries. “Did you come through that OK?” I asked. Now, what was he going to say? “No, I’m still really insecure and that’s why I exude confidence and respect while talking to complete strangers”?

“Oh yes, I’m fine now!” I think this young man was realizing something important, as was I. He explained how he had gone on to college, lived with his grandparents for a while, and now worked successfully – from home. Apparently, the years his parents had invested at home had somehow built a strength into him that had carried him through that difficult, but temporary, adjustment to life as an adult.

I think we both left the conversation with a deeper understanding that quietly, through the years, homeschooling imbues kids with the social confidence needed for life.

By Columba Lisa Smith

  2 Responses to “Socializing Homeschooled Teens”

  1. I was also homeschooled through high school graduation. Unlike the young man you met, I didn’t experience any real problems when leaving my parents’ house and moving to college. I found that I was better prepared to leave my comfort zone and make new friends vs. my public school friends who were used to having the same people around for 12 years.

    My parents faced a lot of criticism 10 years ago for deciding to keep me home for high school. Five years after graduation, I still thank my mom on a regular basis. I am more confident in my life choices because they allowed me opportunities to explore my likes and dislikes at a more complete level than a public school would have ever afforded me.

    Keep it up! As long as your kiddos are happy and involved in the community, then things will work out.

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