Homeschooling the Lonely Teen
Socialization is a dirty word among home educators. We staunchly hold to the opinion that our children are socialized plenty, thank you very much. But the reality is that we often fear that our homeschool children are lonely. Even if they are involved in outside co-ops, classes, lessons and sports, we worry about how they will make and keep friends. And for those not involved in outside lessons, we may not even know where to begin.
I made the conscious decision to begin hosting local homeschool students in our home. By hosting students in our home for various activities, our children have the chance to meet many peers and, hopefully, after meeting them this way, begin to form friendships with a few like-minded people. Over time, this is how all their best friendships have been formed.
When I brought my oldest home from a private school 18 years ago, she was 10 years old and loved social time. I started a girls’ book club in our home. I invited girls from the local homeschool group, ages 9-11, to come to our home for snacks and a book club. Each girl would read the assigned book for the month then come to discuss it at our house. Having the book club meant that each month, my daughter was able to have girls over, and if someone in particular clicked with our daughter, we could invite that girl over for another fun day.
Eventually, in high school, we hosted science in our home. I was not the teacher (we were all using the same curriculum in our homes), but five girls got together once every two weeks to do all the experiments together. Then, another mom set up service projects for these same girls once a month.
My next two daughters were also book enthusiasts; so when their time came to be able to read and enjoy books independently, we did a girls book club, but it quickly grew too big for our home; so we met at the local library. This book club went on for years until I simply could not do it anymore (by then, I had six children and a grandchild).
Without the book club, my girls still needed a way to make new friends. So we decided to start hosting teen game nights. I sent an invitation to our local homeschool group to invite all the local teens to our home for a game night. I asked them to bring their favorite games and a snack to share. We continued doing these once a month for two years. From this, our daughters met a handful of friends who are still very dear to them. The neat thing is, we sometimes had as many as 50 teens here. Even though my daughters did not end up close friends with all those kids, there were other pockets of friendships grown out of them for the other kids as well. I still see them posting pictures on social media with friends who met at one of our teen nights. We have also hosted weekly teen Bible studies, using the curriculum offered at Schoolhouseteachers.com. They also continued the tradition of doing science together with other students in our home during their high school years.
For my son, I have hosted Minecraft days, facilitated a finance class, hosted robotics-themed get-togethers with friends, and had “May the 4th” Star Wars parties, beginning of summer water wars, and other such events.
I am not suggesting you do the same things, but think about the things your children enjoy and then invite others along to do it with them.
To keep it from being overwhelming, we made it a point to keep the snacks really simple, and as the kids got older, the teens handled most of the snacks anyway, sometimes coming up with food themes. To keep it affordable, I always asked folks to bring a snack to share and served tea or lemonade and water to drink.
Some things to keep in mind. Please feel free to share your house rules and hold the visiting teens and children to those rules. We always invite parents to stay if they like (and many do) but even if other adults are around, I tried to circulate among the teens to be sure everything stayed positive. We expect the visitors to respect our property and our neighbors, and for the most part, we had very few problems.
While teaching your children to be good hosts, it is good to coach them privately on how to begin and end conversations and handle issues. For example, if it’s too noisy or overwhelming, or someone is breaking our house rules, teach them how to handle it with grace. This comes naturally for some children and not for others. It’s also a great idea to teach them how to make strangers feel at ease and welcome. We love that over time the teens that came into our home often brought other friends along with them and expanded our circle even more.
I hope you are encouraged to give some of these ideas a try if you have teens who are feeling lonely. Meeting a few good friends during these years can bring them many happy memories and joys.
Malia Russell is the blessed wife to Duncan, thankful mother to six children, ages 5-27, a grandmother, and an author, conference speaker and director of www.homemaking911.com . She has home educated her children since 2000 and has been blogging at Homemaking 911 since 2007.