quality socialization? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 07-25-2014, 08:20 AM - Thread Starter
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quality socialization?

Requarding elementary age kids, during what type of activites have your dc had the best socialization experiences with peers ?
In our early hs years ( k, 1st) there was a plethora of age appropriate activites in our area. But many of these young hsed kids, went on to school or their parents were not comfortable/willing to help facilitate friendships with other kids who where not "kids of their own friends".
Then, for 2nd and 3rd we were in a parent partnership program, which was great because they spent 8 hours a week in small classes with other kids. But again, it seemed like the other parents were not open to playdates etc outside of the classes. Then my dc went to public school last year, for various reasons, but lets just call it a "try out" and free time for me to work on a project I needed to get done. While both kids had an "okay" year and ps, they both want to return to hsing next year. My concern is that in all of our various edu choices and activites, my kids have not been able to make friends. Atleast last year in ps, some parents much more willing to let their kids have friends after school (very limited time to socialize in ps). And we have always taken afternoon classes: art, gymnastics, horse riding... but kids are too busy during the classes ( which I like, its what I pay for afterall) to have time to freely socialize.
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#2 of 9 Old 07-25-2014, 08:46 AM
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For us it's been the longer-term higher-commitment stuff that ends up including extra activities, travel, workshops, meets and so on.

For example Suzuki violin ... there were weekly private lessons but also a biweekly group class, and also recitals and workshops and the receptions after those events and free play that followed, and eventually there were weekly quartet rehearsals at other kids' houses, and informal get-togethers to practice parts for orchestra, and hanging out and summer workshops and sleepovers and the whole thing has been a long-term community that has spanned ages and distances and years.

I do think it's a mistake to look at classes and learning activities as primarily opportunities for social contact. In order to delve deeply enough into something to develop deeper social connections, you need to really want to be involved in the activity. If your kids happen to be interested in pursuing something that has the potential to create a real sense of community for them, by all means support that. I think that many artistic disciplines and sports that demand long-term (more than a year or two) commitment usually foster that sense of community, but it comes slowly. Theatre is another activity that demands a lot of commitment, though on a more intermittent or short-term basis, and tends to breed deep connections. But unless your kids are really committed, I don't think they're likely to want to delve deeply or long enough in a pursuit like this to get the payoff in terms of deep social connections.

Our regional homeschool network has park days that are not about learning or doing any specific activity: they're just a chance to make and keep social connections. Usually there's an activity or two on offer ("We'll bring some softball gear" or "Kai has two new board games he'll bring along if anyone wants to play" or "If any families brought along what they're using for math, I'd love to use the picnic tables for a sort of show and tell" or "Teens: meet at the gazebo at three-thirty, bring $5 if you want and we'll order pizza") but conversation and free play and hanging out are the real focus. In our area it's done via email and Facebook, and it's totally grass-roots without any particular organizer. Perhaps you could initiate something like that in your area, or support it if you discover there's something like it already going on.

We live a long way from the place where these gatherings take place, so we've only rarely participated, but they seem to provide a social nucleus for many of the homeschooled kids (and parents!) in our region.

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#3 of 9 Old 07-25-2014, 10:24 AM
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If socialization= friends over for playtime, games, overnights, hushed conversations in the bedroom, wrestling and nerf wars.... it can be hard to find those folks from any venue. I have good neighbors just down the road, and connecting is not so easy. We have some good friends we've made through scouts, but again, they are busy with family and none too mobile for themselves. We have these brief encounters at random times that the girls can really let loose and enjoy the company of other kids. We have had no success with our unschooling group so far. So much busy-ness! We take what we can when it comes. Just this week it was entertaining a 3yo friend at our camp by the beach. Many giggles and fun. Water fights and charades with aunts and uncles and grandma the week before.

I really do lament the amazing freedom I had when I was a kid-- but there were far more kids packed into a small area growing up, we were all far less scheduled--some of that was good, some of that was because we never did a d@mn thing in the way of camping or visiting or anything (boooooring!) Parents were eventually both away at work until the evening, and we were unsupervised throughout the summers starting when I was 8yo. More parents were home on the weekends and working M-F.

In our family, we make time for fair, for camping, for family visits, we retain some activities over summer and suring the year we have more. We have families that we can't connect with because our good days are their bad days. I've been trying to "hook up" with a gal and her daughter for over a year now, and we are giving it another "go" in August during the brief window we have before fair and GS camp. Cousin home from grad school in NYC, need to stop and visit him before we don't see him for another 2 years. And we are in the exact same position that other families are in. Families seem more involved with each other these days, kids are fewer and farther between necessitating car rides.....

Just outlining some of the difficulties we've experienced connecting with folks who have free time at the same time we do. Girl Scouts has worked because we purposefully make room for a lot of playtime at our meetings, unlike most troops, and the girls have time to connect on their own terms. That's resulted in a bevvy of birthday parties this summer. DD9 was lamenting not having any friends her age, and after I commiserated with her, I pointed out how different this year has been compared to last year. Eventually she will find something to satisfy her needs. DD7 makes friends easily, but one of her best friends only comes around when she visits her grandma next door. *When* that happens, it's wonderful.

It's a slow process that even school kids these days are not immune to. I've had to reach much farther than the homeschooling community to find great playmates, and of course finding someone doesn't always "click". It might be a long time before they are able to relish those intimate friendships.

I consider it a good sign in some ways that families are making more time for each other before they go their separate ways. When I'm feeling discouraged, I like to think of the pioneer kids like Laura Ingalls Wilder who never really even considered needing outside friendships for fulfillment, but eventually enjoyed them when circumstances allowed for them.

I feel your frustration because I am in a similar position, but thankfully seeing our friendships slowly blossom, just not in predictable ways.
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#4 of 9 Old 07-25-2014, 12:36 PM
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Thanks to everyone in this thread! I'm so relieved to know that this issue is far more common than I thought, and not just among hs'ers. I've often fretted, and posted, about my children's "need" for friends. And mine are still very young, so perhaps I've been more worried than I should be. DS seems completely satisfied with his social life as it stands, so perhaps I shouldn't worry about it either. I think the best friendships happen serendipitously, and in their own time.
The fact that ps children have very little free time is one reason why we want to hs. I believe that having time to be creative and free-associate is at least as important as learning the three Rs, and that is sadly lacking for children these days.
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#5 of 9 Old 07-25-2014, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

Our regional homeschool network has park days that are not about learning or doing any specific activity: they're just a chance to make and keep social connections. Usually there's an activity or two on offer . . . {snipped} . . . but conversation and free play and hanging out are the real focus. In our area it's done via email and Facebook, and it's totally grass-roots without any particular organizer. Perhaps you could initiate something like that in your area, or support it if you discover there's something like it already going on.

Our local area has a facebook page. Last year I initiated a park day for people in my immediate area. It was intended to be a one time thing because I was tired of only meeting people who live a long ways away. The response was fantastic and it became a monthly thing. Some of the kids have become true friends and will also have play dates. Another mom connected with a local game store and she started a game day at the shop on the first Friday of the month. The store has been fantastic--they go above and beyond for our group. Another mom started a lego club, another a minecraft group, and then there are bookclubs, fieldtrips, and workshops.

Truthfully though, until the facebook page, it was hard to connect with everyone. Also, I wanted to let you know that we had the same result with parent partnership programs, etc. The parents didn't want to let their kids play. It seemed to defeat the purpose for me.

Also, my kids are heavy into drama and dance. Those have fostered lasting friendships, but like Miranda said, they didn't happen overnight and there is a lot of committment to those activities. My dd's soccer team is starting to be friendly outside of practice and games. But, this is their fourth year together.

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#6 of 9 Old 07-27-2014, 01:01 PM
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My kids' have made their best friends at gymnastics. They all go to different schools (a couple are HS'd). They are there many hours a week though, and travel out of town to meets. I'm not sure if those kinds of friendships would have developed with a 1hr a week class.

Could you pick a couple of kids and invite them to the park once or twice a week? Or perhaps invite them over to play, and then transport them to shared activity (art, gymnastics, etc...). Parents around here seem to be more ok with play dates if they have to do less driving.

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#7 of 9 Old 08-03-2014, 07:47 PM
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This thread is interesting to me because DS6 has not been able to make friends who come over for a play-date. Now that it is summer, his casual friends that he met because they are neighbors are all gone on holidays for the summer. Luckily, there is a organized park meet every day in the summer where he can play soccer and hang out and play with kids from the area. I have worried about the making-friends issue, especially since it seemed to be so different for me when I was growing up. Maybe my mom was a star at making connections for us kids. Children for sure played more outside.

The way I see it now is that DS is certainly a very social kid. He has friends, but they are not his age. His tends to befriend people who are a lot older, like from age 50 and up. He loves to socialize with them. He's been pretty successful in getting a group of elders in the neighborhood to surround him. And that is, perhaps, at his age exactly the type of friendship that is helpful to him. He can ask questions, he learns a lot. They care for him and give him presents. And he helps them weeding, mowing the lawn, handing tools. It's very give and take. Everyone knows him in the street and he's been instrumental in neighbors taking time to get to know each other. And that certainly gives a sense of ease and community to us.

I don't know how it is going to go for him in the fall and winter when people go inside again and the kids are at school and running to their activities again.
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#8 of 9 Old 08-09-2014, 08:52 PM
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I highly recommend local sports, like AYSO soccer. Our local elementary school also does some other sports (and chess club!) that include homeschoolers. The sports have really helped plug our family into our immediate neighborhood and the kids have made some friends from there, even though the other kids are schooled. It hasn't seemed to matter. But honestly, my dh and I also find it difficult to find the time to spend with our own friends -- everybody's too busy. I think maybe our social networks are wider these days...and not restricted by immediate geography, so simple travel adds time too.
Also, I'd say the number of friends isn't so important, homeschooled or not -- lots of people (and kids!) are introverted -- for them, one or two is plenty!
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#9 of 9 Old 08-18-2014, 01:04 PM
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For us, each child is unique, and I have always encouraged friendships to be ageless. My children have lunch dates with senior citizens, play with tots, and have coffee with homeless people in addition to enjoying game nights and random wildness with people of the same age.

In elementary school, we did park days, play dates, and a variety of activities -- sports, arts, etc. I also put a lot of effort into organizing things where the kids would be with other nice kids and where things could be unstructured but with some planned activities as a backup. I ran a lot of the show as a homeschooling mom in different groups. It was exhausting. I regret a lot of that.

I don't regret them trying different activities. My guys are musicians, creative, super smart, and not into competitive sports. They do like to play physical sports - - just in a fun, not formal way. By 6th grade or so, they'd each found their tribes. They have a great outlet with theatre and have made fantastic friends.

I've also taught them how to reach out to make a friend. As smaller kids, they'd ask a child if he'd like to meet at the library to play in the park. Now, they will read about events in the newspaper or go to meetup.com and bravely step out to meet new people.

Most importantly, they've learned that buddies can be older or younger and that their very best bud is their own brother. Homeschooling has been amazing for that.

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