Homeschool Park Days – The Answer to “What About Socialization”?

By Diane Flynn Keith

Whether you are thinking about homeschooling or plan to begin homeschooling you’ve probably been asked the question, “What about socialization?” Contrary to popular myth, homeschooling children are rarely isolated, and in research studies conducted by public and private organizations, including the U.S. Department of Education, homeschoolers have been shown to be better socialized than their school-going peers.

Homeschoolers typically have very busy calendars and too many opportunities for socialization because they get together weekly with other families through homeschool support group PARK DAYS! At Park Days, parents ask questions and get information about every aspect of homeschooling while kids meet and play with homeschool friends. As parents share resources they will often cobble together field trips, co-op classes, math competitions, spelling bees, homeschool choirs and bands, and even parties and proms based on their children’s interests and needs.

Going to your first Park Day can be a little awkward – it’s like going to a party where you don’t know anyone. Some groups have designated “greeters” who will welcome you and introduce you to others, but most do not. Because parents may be preoccupied with their own kids or with talking to friends – it may feel a little “unwelcoming” at first. That means you may have to step outside your comfort zone and be assertive.

Take some friendly initiative to introduce yourself and your children and ask questions. By doing that you may meet another family or two that you “click” with – and that will open the door to all kinds of educational and social opportunities for you and your children. However, that doesn’t always happen on a first visit.

My rule of thumb is this: Go to the same Park Day at least THREE TIMES before you determine whether or not it’s a good fit for you and your family. That’s because not all of the people who belong to the support group attend the Park Day every week. Keep going back and you will eventually meet most of the “regulars.”

If you go to a Park Day at least three times and you still don’t make a connection, then try another Park Day held by a different support group. You may have to travel out of your immediate area to find just the right one for your family. Be willing to make the investment of time and gas money to do so – because making connections with other homeschool families is critical to your long-term success in homeschooling.

How do you find Homeschool Park Days? Contact your local Homeschool Support Group. The National Home Education Network website provides a regional and worldwide listing.

It will serve you well to call or email the contact person for the group before you go to the Park Day. Find out:

The name of a parent you can ask for when you get to the park.
Ask if there are other children that are your child’s age who attend the Park Day.
Find out if the group has specific rules for behavior or conduct. (Some do, some don’t.)
Ask if the group meets at the same park each week, on the same day and time. (Some groups change locations, or rotate from one park to another.)
Getting this information in advance will save you time and frustration.
When you go to a Park Day for the first time – try to keep your expectations in check. Just tell the kids you’re going to the park and that you may or may not meet some new people there. That way, if you don’t make any connections – you can still enjoy your time at a new park with your children without any disappointment about not meeting new friends.

After attending several support group Park Days at least three times, if you still haven’t made a connection – then consider starting your own group. If you decide to do that visit homeschool mom Annette Hall’s website – LocalHS.com to get some good suggestions from parents who have been there, done that. (Be sure to click on the titles of the paragraphs – they link to further resources and information.)

Do make the effort to connect with the community that already exists first. It is very likely you will be rewarded with lasting friendships that will provide the support, encouragement, and social interaction you need as you begin your homeschool journey.

Copyright 2008, Diane Flynn Keith, All Rights Reserved.

Diane Flynn Keith publishes the rave-reviewed Homefires Ezine with thousands of subscribers. If you’re ready to save time and money, ease your anxiety, and learn how to have fun homeschooling, get your FREE subscription now at http://www.Homefires.com

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