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As a new homeschooling family, one of the first things that you might worry about is how will your child find and meet any friends. I had a tough time with this because I was an only child and I thought that was kind of similar to being a homeschooled kid in some ways.
But let us share some ideas about how we manage to keep our son busy and with many opportunities to make friends.
You can make friends as a homeschooler easily by joining a sports team, starting a homeschool co-op or joining one, making regular playdates, and attending a Sunday School. Through planning and attendance of these groups, your network will expand for kids to make friends and have social time to grow.
Sound strange? Well, let me explain in more detail for you to see the possibilities for more social time for your kids.
Join a Sports Team
You can join a sports team to develop good lifelong habits and make lots of friends. Our son joining a football (soccer) team in a local school is one of the major ways he can make friends. I’m not so sure we actually planned this into our overall curriculum. But luckily where we live, we can register with the traditional school and have access to all the benefits and extracurricular activities other students enjoy.
But as a homeschooler, we can be selective to pick and choose what we join and take part in. He has daily soccer practice from four to five-thirty in the afternoon. And as he gets older, he also has the option to join before school starts from 7:50 to 8:30 AM. And if he gets on the A team, he will have to do the 2 daily practices.
Being with his teammates is a great way to build and bond with other kids of the same and older ages. When our son started in the first grade, he was just a beginner and the older more senior kids had to mentor him. That’s part of the program here. Now that he is in the second grade, he has to help train the younger first graders.
“Participants reported that enjoyment of the physical activity and spending time with friends were the key influences on maintaining participation in physical activity.”Friendship groups and physical activity: qualitative findings on how physical activity is initiated and maintained among 10–11-year-old children
We feel this is a great style of learning and interacting. Teaching younger kids gives him a chance to play another role on the team. And he gets to learn how to make friends with all ranges of kids.
They also get to interact with players in the upper grade as well in a scrimmage game and in training. So we are pleased about him joining a sports team. He enjoys the time to be with other kids and they compete and build their skills together as they progress. Weekend games in the city and across counties give him more chances as well to have social time on the road.
“outcome interdependence was a predictor of identity exploration, initiative, emotional regulation, positive relationships, teamwork, and social skills, and adult networks and social capital experiences independent of sport type.”Influence of sport type and interdependence on the developmental experiences of youth male athletes
We think soccer is such a great way to do homeschool PE that we wrote a helpful article about it here.
Start a Co-op
Why not start a homeschool co-op to get some opportunities for your children to make friends? Parents can also benefit from this as well! But you might consider starting a co-op because it will put you in charge of the content, lessons, timing, and venue. You also get to select who can join and this may be a great way to be a magnet in the community.
Starting a co-op is not just about making friends. You could also fill a need in the community for other families looking to get started as well. Or you might have unique talents or hobbies that could turn into a great addition to someone’s homeschool curriculum. We do a weekly Science Co-op that we started during the summer to also try and attract some non-homeschoolers who were on vacation.
It certainly can be a way to let your kids and other children make new friends or develop some new opportunities for them to explore being with kids of different ages. We also enjoy the fellowship with other parents that join and add another dimension to the mix.
Why start a homeschool co-op? We wrote a separate helpful article about that also!
We know that it may not always lead to permanent friendships and people may come and go. But this is also something you can use as a learning opportunity. How to stay in contact with friends who may move away? We started an opportunity to make PenPals with a past member of our co-op. They can use the chance to write to each other and stay friends the old-fashioned way, by airmail!
Join a Co-op to Make Freinds
If you don’t want to start a co-op, you can just join one! Social interaction for your child is critical for developing the life skills they will need to prosper in the future. Joining a homeschool co-op is another great way to not only make use of resources you may not have access to, but also for your child to make friends.
Usually, you will want to join a co-op with others of similar shared values. The kids in these types of organizations seem to be more well-behaved. One key benefit of homeschooling is that you have the freedom to vary the lessons, extracurricular activities, and interaction with others. As a parent, you are ultimately responsible for arranging social opportunities for your child. Co-ops will be a great place to meet other families doing things familiar to your child.
You can also get some chances to arrange other activities outside class to meet and play. We joined a co-op and they also do a weekly outdoor field trip or a meal out somewhere fun. You need these occasions to let kids be free and enjoy some time together to have fun, regardless of age. Research shows that friendships and social development are one of the many benefits of joining a homeschool co-op.
“Gathering with other homeschool families via homeschool co-ops or charter school organizations provided rich, substantial opportunities for homeschool children’s academic and social development.”Homeschool Parents’ Perspective of the Learning Environment: A Multiple-Case Study of Homeschool Partnerships
Make Regular Playdates
This may seem obvious, but we didn’t really do this because we felt there were already so many opportunities to meet and make friends. Now we regularly set playdates for past classmates and also current friends when we have some spare time. We also do other activities like camping, and music classes, and we also attend designer pop-up markets where we sell our line of leather products.
These kinds of places are great for our son to be more proactive and seek out playmates and make friends. He does this regularly enough that he knows how to smartly make new friends and is not shy at all. We think this is a great character to build. Being able to meet others in a friendly and proactive way is an essential life skill.
As an only child, I didn’t have the courage to do that when I was younger. I really think my son knows how to just walk up to other kids and see if they want to play. I never did that! Luckily, in my neighborhood, there were just a lot of kids living all around, so we never had to go far to play.
Go to Sunday School
Whether you are religious or not, a nice Sunday School may be a good place to make friends as well. Churches are usually very open and encourage people to bring their children to join. There usually isn’t any need to be a member, just show up. Of course, you should do your homework, but it can be a fun and safe place for kids to learn and make friends in a supervised environment.
Depending on the age of your children, there will be different classes for the varied groups like Pre-K, first through third grade, perhaps, and third to sixth, then teens. Sunday schools may also teach songs, and do crafts and there also might be occasional field trips that could be fun as well. It’s probably not all biblical studies and sermons!
Very often churches will even have special homeschool-oriented resources, classes, and activities. There might even be a weekly co-op or meet-up space for you to be a part of, but probably for members or those seeking to join. But you can certainly check out your local churches as they make a great source for making friends for your kids.
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