Home schooling and socialization: how it works

Kids take part in their PE class, hosted my Sports Kidz AZ. (from email from coach)- Our company is called Sports Kidz AZ. We are a 501 c(3) that provide homeschool PE classes throughout Phoenix, as a way for the kids to socialize, exercise, and develop character. Our other programs include semi-competitive after school athletics programs throughout the valley, as well as a homeless children's outreach program. Our tag line is "reaching the next generation through athletics", as we love sports, but love kids even more, and want to use athletics as a tool to drive character development. People can find out information about us at sportskidzaz.org.
Home-schooled kids of all ages take part in a PE class during “park days” at Desert Horizon Park in Phoenix. The PE program is offered by Sports Kidz AZ, a company that provides PE classes for home-schoolers throughout Phoenix. Photos by Tac Coluccio.

“What about socialization?” For families who home-school, it is probably the question they hear most often.

“We hear it everywhere we go, even from the clerk at the grocery store,” says Phoenix mom Jodie Rich, who has been home-schooling her two children—Micah, 12, and Lilly, 8—since 2009, when Micah was ready to begin kindergarten.

“For us, the social aspect is the most important,” says Rich.

Arizona Revised Statutes 15-802 defines a home school as “nonpublic instruction provided primarily by the parent or legal guardian, or nonpublic instruction provided in the child’s home.”

Many people have the impression that home-schooled children are at a disadvantage when it comes to socialization, but it is actually one of the intrinsic benefits of educating her kids from home, Rich says.

“They are preparing for the real world by being in the real world,” says Rich, who adds that her children learn social skills by participating in everyday activities with her—whether it’s learning how to shop on a budget at the grocery store or how to open a bank account.

Rich recommends the book “The Socialization Trap,” by Rick Boyer, when talking to parents who are at the beginning of their home-schooling journey. In the book, Boyer counters the suggestion that home-schooled children are at a social disadvantage and argues that children are socialized best when they have the opportunity to interact with people of different ages and backgrounds instead of with peers in age-segregated classrooms.

Sherry McKown, support group liaison for Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE), suggests families contact local home-schooling support groups to create socialization opportunities for their kids. “The groups offer something for everyone and are very open and welcoming,” says McKown.

AFHE lists several types of support groups on its website, including independent support groups, clubs and associations, co-ops, Internet-based groups, park days and resource centers.

Home schooling and socialization
Home-schooled kids enjoy a game of flag football in the park.

McKown describes home-schooling support groups as “places where you can find people you can ‘do life’ together with.”

Scottsdale mom Melanie Harris—who has nine children and a foster child ranging in age from a baby to an 18-year-old—started home schooling her children when her oldest child, Dorian, was in first grade. She describes the decision to home-school as “a lifestyle choice as much as it is an academic one.”

Harris says her children have had every opportunity available to them that traditionally schooled children do—and then some. Her support group, Eastside Explorers, offers many chances to socialize: art classes, service projects, field trips, physical education, park days, holiday parties and yearbooks.

Families also have access to classes, electives and extracurricular activities through their local public schools.

Home-schooled high school students have their own junior and senior proms through organizations like MoezArt Productions and their own graduation through AFHE.

A2Zhomeschooling.com estimates that approximately 34,000 Arizona students are home-schooled—and the number is on the rise.