Answering the Socialization Question
As an online school parent, I have discovered that some advantages of virtual learning are easier for people to grasp than others. Personalized learning, challenging and diverse curriculum, specialized teachers, and alternative scheduling—most people can understand these benefits. The socialization factor, however, draws many blank stares and questions.
It’s not uncommon to be in a store with my children on a weekday afternoon and suddenly find ourselves faced with questions from a curious sales clerk. After we have addressed why the kids aren’t in school, people continue with other questions like “What do you do all day?” “Do you work in your pajamas?” “How do you manage to socialize with your classmates?” and “Do you have friends?”. I watch my kids describe the details of their virtual schooling life to anyone who asks. Naturally, I’m glowing with pride the whole time, because seeing them converse like this reminds me that they are growing into well- socialized young adults.
In reality, socialization for virtual learners is not much different than for students in a traditional school. Do my kids ever miss a traditional school setting? Of course they do, but there are many things my kids have been able to do in an online school that they would have missed in a traditional bricks-and-mortar setting. If they had to pick between the two, they would tell you they prefer online school.
Our family, our online school, and our local community have all strengthened my children’s social muscles by helping them learn the behavioral expectations of each group. A high-quality online school program will ensure that a variety of socialization support is readily available.
Many years have passed since I first started fielding these questions, and I have come to realize that “the socialization question” isn’t just about defending my decision to enroll my students in an online school. It also is an opportunity to help others see that online schooling works well for students when the adults in their lives—their parents, teachers, and school leaders—are as thoughtful about social development as they are about academics.
Some people are concerned that children educated in a home environment will be isolated. Personally, I’ve never found this to be true, but the parents of online school students do need to make healthy peer interaction for their kids a high priority. They need to search out opportunities for kids to socialize with people of all ages and backgrounds in a variety of situations. If your virtual school offers online clubs and activities, join in the fun! Make sure to take time to attend field trips and community-sponsored events in your area.
There was a time when I dreaded questions about socialization because I felt they were an attack on my choice of education. I worried that my children would not grow into normal, socially adjusted adults. With one virtual school graduate and another one close behind, I now know without a doubt there was no better choice for our family.
Today, when the socialization question is raised, I reassure concerned friends, family, and others that my children have many socialization opportunities through school clubs, sponsored field trips, family travel, volunteer work, community events, and much more! By choosing the right online school, parents can ensure their children not only get a personalized education but also have social opportunities that are personalized according to their needs and interests!