Written by: Kendall A. | Umm Iman
One of the main concerns that families have in making the decision to homeschool is how to fulfill and meet the needs of the social component of both development and learning. I would argue that these two elements are equally as important for the children as they are for the homeschooling parent as well, because parents need social spaces and sounding boards/support groups for the journey of teaching that they have embarked on. It is important for children to engage and socialize with other children, both whom are older and younger than they are. It’s a necessary and valuable skill both for social-emotional development and the ability to collaborate, as well as the process of learning from peers. (This is something that I like about multi-age classrooms and homeschooling within a family where there is a range in the ages present, because children learn a lot from other children and can sometimes grasp a concept better from another child, than from an adult.) That being said, cultivating opportunities for social interaction is important. Rest assured that there are many ways to meet the social needs of your children as homeschoolers. Below are a few ideas:
- Homeschooling Cooperatives: This is a popular option where multiple families come together to form a cooperative. It usually involves each parent playing a role in the smooth functioning of the program. Examples include: parents teaching certain subjects, planning activities/field trips, providing snacks or books, etc. There are a variety of ways to set up a cooperative–it can meet anywhere from once a week to five times a week; it could be a space for Quran, Islamic Studies, and Arabic only or core subjects or extra-curriculars/social time; it could meet for an hour or for six hours a day; it could have a particular theme or philosophy, like: STEAM focused or the Charlotte Mason approach. The possibilities are endless. Cooperatives can be great spaces for consistent interaction with other families.
- Skill Swaps: This is essentially a smaller version of a cooperative where you are meeting with only one other family and exchanging skill sets. Perhaps one parent is particularly gifted in and passionate about Math and Science, whereas the other parent’s hand is in Language Arts and Social Studies. Or perhaps the talents and skill sets are in art, baking, and coding. Whatever it is, this is a great option for a smaller scale, coordinated effort between two families to educate their children. This is also a great option if you are finding it difficult to find a cooperative with a similar thinking as you have or if some other aspect of the coop logistics don’t work out for you.
- Joint Tutoring: This is a nice option for covering a specific subject. Perhaps two or three families want to invest in a tutor for a particular subject, like: Quran memorization or Science. Having a tutor would provide a small class feel where the children are getting the social component as well.
- Extra-Curricular Activities: These are wonderful opportunities to branch out and meet many new people within the community. Extra-curriculars can be sports, clubs, and programs offered in the community, at a local mosque, or online that give your child more children to interact with.
- Play Dates: Setting up consistent play dates can be a great way of fulfilling you and your child’s social needs. Perhaps you meet every week with a different family or the same family, in the same location or in different venues. This can just be a great way of making sure that social time is carved into your schedule. And, if you want to include a circle time, story reading, or small project/activity together during this time, that’s great too!
- Pen Pals: This is a fun idea for children who are writing or even for younger children with the help of an adult. Pen pals can be children who are somewhat local–within your community or country–or abroad. It’s a cool way of connecting with other children who can share different experiences.
- Online Classes or Weekend Schools: There are some nice classes online where children can come together with a teacher and learn about something of interest. Similarly, many masajid offer weekend classes for children around Islamic Studies, Quran, and Arabic.
It should be noted that all of these interactions can be in-person or virtual and that there is benefit in both platforms for this generation of children. It’s probably even worth it to aim for a combination of both live and virtual, social experiences. In sha Allah this gives you some ideas for meeting your child’s social needs, and I’m sure there are tons more!
Check out the podcast on “Creating the Village.”