Socialization, Homeschool & The Only Child

The biggest worry for most would-be homeschool parents centers on socialization. Somewhere along the way, generations of people became convinced that the only “correct” way to socialize a human being is to send them to a bricks-and-mortar school.

Never mind that for eons one only “socialized” with one’s family and immediate neighbors. And it’s curious to me that a lot of people idealize stories about America’s westward expansion (example: Little House on the Prairie) without realizing that those children did just fine spending most of their lives with one or two kids– or alone. Even the proverbial Little Red School house had far fewer kids in it than the typical modern classroom.

But if you really want to throw a ringer in to the ol’ “homeschooling is bad for socialization” issue, then let’s consider the singletons, the “onlies.”

That’s our household. We have one child.

Now guess what?

I’m actually an “only” homeschooling an “only.”

There are no plans to change those numbers, by the way.

Weird, huh?

To others, maybe. We’re certainly a curiosity, a subset of a subset.

To us, however, it’s as natural and as right as rain.

“But doesn’t he need other children?”

I’ve encountered that sentiment in my online reading over the last few months. No one has said that to me per se, but I can hear it in the subtext of the conversation. For what it’s worth, we did work to select three appropriate “extracurricular” activities that would challenge him mentally and physically, provide him with “classroom” experiences, and  expose him to group dynamics. We also happen to have a lot of kids on our street, which is wonderful.

Yet I think it would be unfortunate to assume that all onlies need or desire the same experiences. I grew up on a farm for a few years, and there weren’t many kids in my neighborhood when we moved into town. (If Reno, Texas can, you know, be considered a “town.”) I looked forward to coming home every afternoon, especially during early grade school, because I had an especially low tolerance for the emotional manipulation (mostly girl-led) that took place in the classroom and on the playground. It was distracting and draining. Being “alone” never really bothered me because I found too much exposure to large groups for extended periods emotionally and physically exhausting.

If homeschooling would have been an option, then I probably would have begged for it.

The one exception to all of the frustrations of my youth? An after-school theater class. There we were kept so busy on the process that the “mean girls” stuff was kept out of the building. Most of the kids attended another school, so I wasn’t wrapped up in their issues, either. No shunning, bickering, jealousy, or back-biting and lots of time for improvisation and creativity.

It was liberating. It was a lot like homeschooling, in fact. Or afterschooling.

With this kind of post, I like to try to wrap-up with a recommendation to a useful resource. In this case, I haven’t found any single source on the topic of homeschooling a singleton with which I feel comfortable recommending.  (Hmm… maybe I should write one?) So I’ll offer up instead a children’s fiction book and movie: Nim’s Island. Not only is the title character homeschooled, she’s a gifted only child living on a remote island. So the character is a wonderful role model for him as well as my inner 10-year old. Actually, the movie was a favorite of ours before we decided to opt out of public-school Kindergarten. In fact, my son identified with–and loved–Nim so much that we wound up buying a copy of the book and reading it aloud not long after we made our decision to continue homeschooling.

A little positive, outside reinforcement never hurts anyone, right?

Thanks so much for your visit today. You’re invited to subscribe to the feed and to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. I have never really understood the whole “must be socialized” stance. I mean, our kids see other kids on the street, in the neighborhood, at the park, at the store, at the bowling alley, at church… They’re plenty socialized. Here in New Hampshire, we also have a very active homeschool community which does such things as organize group library days, and things like letting their kids join in after school activities like football and cheerleading and such. Most of the museums and such around here have “homeschool day” which is reduced price or free for homeschool kids and they tend to go in groups so they get that social time while they learn and have fun.

    That said, we do send our kids to public school, for a variety of reasons. We’re also very blessed in that our new home is in an area where the school is *exceptional*. Sis is a special ed teacher with 24 years of experience, so when she says she trusts a school, I trust her. Her opinion of this school is so high… and our kids come home brimming with information, stories, and excitement. But we’re *lucky* and I recognize that. I love and support homeschooling even if I don’t participate in it myself. 🙂

    • You make a couple of excellent points, Allyson, as usual.

      There does seem to be a spectrum of homeschool “friendly” communities. Ours happens to be very much so, which I attribute in part to a streak of libertarianism. Of course, that does set things up for abuse of the right to homeschool.

      Like you, I’m supportive of the “other” camp, too. Years ago I was in charge of a university career center and helped Teach for America recruit our students. I loved their idea that all children deserve access to quality education. Period. Regardless of how much their parents are worth.

      Our district happens to be excellent and we’re near two terrific elementary schools. Of course, it’s also a very wealthy district, so that makes a difference. I have *no* problem supporting them with my tax dollars even though we homeschool. All children deserve a great education. At the same time, I am concerned for them for the many reasons their parents are: textbook quality, class size, access to support for gifted kids and kids with disabilities, etcetera.

  2. We really lucked out in this district, I’ll be honest. The one we left was falling behind in many ways and was reduced to shoving info for the tests, a terrible way to “teach”. The teachers hated it more than the kids! This new one we moved into has small class sizes (16 kids in our twins’ 2 classrooms) and is admittedly in what one would consider a “rich” area. They have great special ed stuff set up for kids who need it and many gifted programs as well.

    They also boast one thing we didn’t count on: a special program for kids on the autism spectrum but who are very high functioning and are academically advanced while struggling socially. They have a whole program dedicated just to that, which fits our boy twin to a TEE. He’s doing late first grade reading (and is in kindergarten), 2nd grade math, and understands things like algebra and geometry just by looking. He gets bored just doing the “ABC” stuff in a normal kindergarten room.

    This district gives him the ability to meet with other kids who are also like him, very outgoing but somewhat socially lacking, giving them both the opportunity to thrive educationally (they can move forward as fast or slow as they want/are able) and to work on social skills that just don’t progress as fast as their li’l minds do. 🙂

    Since he started at this school, when he comes home he TALKS… non-stop for an hour, telling us about his day, what he learned… this is *amazing* and something that even we, when homeschooling, had difficulty with. He’s learning social coping skills, too, which is one reason we DO want him in a public school. His twin sister could socialize with no preparation in pretty much any setting, but he really struggles. Not so much now, though, which is a joy and a relief. 🙂

    • Your son sounds a lot like mine in some ways. =) I’m really happy that you’ve found a school where he’s flourishing.

  3. Teachers are now the biggest influx into the home school venue, and one of the reasons they give is they do not like the type of socialization the kids are receiving in public schools

  4. This push to make sure of socialization sounds like you live on the dark side of the moon. I don’t know about you, but my son has baseball practice, scouts, music theater, church, neighbors, plus my music students to “socialize” with. When I was a kid and we lived on a ranch, if we’d been homeschooled, I could see people criticizing that we had nothing else. But our world is a lot fuller than that.

    • When I wrote this last year–as I puzzled through the final transition to permanently homeschool, our son was 5. In the year since, we have become involved with a wider array of activities as he has become “age eligible.” It has made a difference and socialization is less of a concern than it was when this posted.

  5. I am most interested in your ideas about socialization and homeschooling. I am an artist who teaches “creativity” rather than painting. I am interested in the process rather than the product. I developed a painting workshop many years ago to enhance essential qualities needed to flourish in the 21 center. In teaching kids of all ages and sometimes their parents, I was astonished at the results – better communication skills, collaboration, risk taking, socialization, increased confidence and critical thinking. I recently thought about The Big Brush Workshop™ as a fun and safe environment for home schoolers but have no idea how to begin to approach them to offer my workshop?
    If anyone is interested in learning more or can advise me who to contact, I would be grateful.

Comments are closed.