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How Do Students Make Friends and Socialize in Online and Homeschool Settings?

Between flexible schedules, one-to-one instruction and the freedom to explore a customized curriculum, there are endless benefits to online and homeschooling for the right student. At the same time, how do students develop social skills without a community of peers by their side? Logically, it’s easy to assume that homeschooled students don’t have the same social opportunities compared to kids in a brick-and-mortar school setting. Surprisingly enough, reality often proves otherwise.

In fact, in some cases, families pursue virtual and/or home-based school to specifically expand their student’s social skills. A flexible schedule provides greater opportunity to delve into a city’s community events, volunteer opportunities, and local arts and sports programs. In other cases, a student may develop a healthier social sense of self outside the pressures of a traditional group setting. Though the arrangement is not right for every student, we’ve explored some of the top ways home and online school students maintain their social and emotional well-being during grade and high school.

Socializing and Making Friends in Online School

It’s important to note that homeschooling and online schools are not the same. Online schools are run by private or public institutions with virtual teachers organizing curriculum, activities and online group discussions. Homeschooling, on the other hand, is managed almost entirely by a parent or in-home teacher.

In either case, students are not physically present with each other on a daily basis. However, virtual classrooms aim to reflect a traditional balance between group discussion and self-driven study. Additionally, an online school’s structure purposely incorporates field trips, social meetups, physical education, and even science labs into their schedules to balance remote work with group activities, so socialization among students is still a priority for these institutions both in and out of the classroom.

Furthermore, less physical togetherness can actually foster a more positive social structure. A lack of social hierarchies and traditional school pressures could encourage greater classroom participation, according to Laura J. Lee from the University of Memphis. Students in her study reported feeling less affected by bullying and the peer pressure of the microcosm of traditional school settings, allowing students to chime in with greater confidence during school discussions.

A proactive approach — such as by speaking with educational specialists, consulting forums and local communities, and connecting with your child’s passions — can be the key to ensuring a full socialized student learning from home.

Social Opportunities for Homeschooled Students

Homeschooling, ideal for students seeking curricular and schedule-based flexibility, also provides the time for greater self-structured community involvement. Sports, artistic, and charity-focused outings that wouldn’t fit into a traditional school setting are more easily worked into kids’ daily lives – especially for those kids who live in or near large cities.

Additionally, homeschool groups and co-ops exist all over the country that bring local homeschooling families together both for academic and social purposes. Outings and activities can be sought out via these groups, giving your homeschooled child a chance to interact with a cohort of their peers. Homeschool co-ops can usually be found simply by searching online, and/or by networking with other homeschool families in your area.

The most popular non-school-sponsored activities are often found at a local YMCA, church group, local theatre companies, homeschool-specific sports associations and the Girl or Boy Scouts. These hands-on opportunities give kids experience working with both adults and children on a regular basis, providing real-world experience long before they reach high school age.

Traditional vs. Homeschool or Online Socializing: Is There a Difference?

In a comparative study published by the National Home Education Research Institute, no significant or detectable differences existed between the social and emotional health of homeschooled and traditionally schooled children. As with all the curricular differences in less-traditional schools, the social outlets adjust and compensate for a lack of daily student interaction. Home and virtual schooling provide different tools for building a student’s community outside the conventional classroom.

Most importantly, families embarking on home or online schooling steer the individual direction of their student’s social lives. A proactive approach — such as by speaking with educational specialists, consulting forums and local communities, and connecting with your child’s passions — can be the key to ensuring a full socialized student learning from home.

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Author: Ginny Bartolone

Ginny is a freelance writer and actress based in Montclair, NJ. She regularly contributes to a range of wedding, lifestyle and spirituality websites, as well as in her own blog, She is also currently completing a book about her two hikes across Spain.