The ABCs of socializing your online student
When parents consider making the switch to online school, socialization is a hot topic. Some families choose to leave a traditional school due to peer pressure or bullying—and they may welcome the peace and quiet of schooling from home. Others need flexibility of scheduling or pacing, or may simply prefer to learn at home. Whatever the reason, it’s important to ensure students develop good social skills. Fortunately, although it takes a bit of planning, many parents find that being able to customize the amount and type of socialization students receive is a significant benefit of virtual school.
So how does a parent replace that daily peer contact with another form of interaction? At high-quality virtual schools such as Connections Academy®–supported online public schools, families have many opportunities to interact and arrange social gatherings though in-person field trips and other events, the school directory, message boards, and private Facebook pages. Students can also connect with classmates in the online classroom and during online clubs and activities.
And that’s not all. With a more flexible learning schedule, parents can take advantage of neighborhood gatherings for their children to meet up with homeschool study groups, attend museum and library events, and volunteer within the community. You and your student choose the events and activities to participate in based on your family’s interests, goals, and values.
Consider the ways your child communicates with others, and encourage variety to ensure that your child has experiences connecting with peers one-on-one, as well as in small and large groups. It’s important that your student also learn how to interact with adults and people in authority. Additionally, you’ll want your child to have opportunities to develop leadership, cooperation, and communication skills when working in a group.
Need inspiration for planning your child’s socialization? Check out our A-to-Z list of ideas online school families have suggested:
- Attend in-person school events whenever possible.
- Book clubs encourage both reading and participation in discussions.
- Community organizations of all kinds can be great resources for online school families. Camping and summer camps combine social opportunities with the great outdoors.
- Do research on family events in your area, and develop friendships with other families at your online school.
- Exercising at a gym or with a few friends can be a good shared activity.
- Faith-based organizations offer all sorts of activities for children and families, and may be open to others in the community.
- Game nights with neighbors and classmates can be enjoyable for the whole family.
- Homeschool groups in your area may host study sessions or social get-togethers for students.
- Internships (or shadow days) with local businesses can teach students business social skills while they explore career interests.
- Jobs (either summer or part-time) can be good learning and social experiences for older students. Joining a club makes it easy to meet others with similar interests.
- Keep in touch with former classmates and neighbors. Researching your kinsfolks (genealogy) gives children a way to connect with older relatives and learn family history.
- Local chapters of 4-H and other organizations help build communication and leadership skills. Small-group lessons for sports, music, cooking, or dance can lead to friendships. Check out your local library, too!
- Museum tours and educational events make great destinations for a meet-up with other families.
- Nature walks and other outdoor activities offered at state and local parks often combine learning, conservation, and exercise in a friendly atmosphere.
- Organize your own activities, such as hosting a local study group or craft night for your student’s classmates.
- Performing arts, such as acting, singing, dancing, or playing an instrument in a band, allow students to meet others while exploring their creative side.
- “Quests” such as geocaching and scavenger hunts are opportunities for fun and cooperation, whether community-sponsored or parent-planned.
- Recreation councils typically offer affordable sports teams for soccer, basketball, softball, and other sports, as well as lessons or competition for individual sports.
- Scouting is a great way to make friends and learn cooperation and leadership.
- Travel provides many opportunities for students to experience a variety of social situations and cultures. Trivia nights at local libraries or restaurants can be fun, too!
- Universities (and colleges) may offer educational summer programs for K–12 students. Some high school students may be eligible to enroll in college-level courses.
- Volunteering at a hospital, soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or charity enables students to interact with people of all ages while learning empathy and giving.
- Worship in the faith of your choice provides multi-generational socialization and ways to serve others.
- eXciting hobbies are great ways to find common ground with other people—look for events that will interest your child!
- Yearly events such as holidays often bring a wealth of local family events and activities that are open to the public. Check your local news!
- Zumba classes and local zoo events bring us to the end of our list!
Although you may initially wonder if your child will make friends and develop social skills without seeing his or her peers in person every day, many parents discover that having the ability to customize their child’s socialization is a significant advantage. In fact, with the right guidance, your student might find even more opportunities to grow socially!
What great ways have you found to ensure your student has the socialization he or she needs? Share your ideas in the comments.
About the Author
Before writing for Virtual Learning Connections, Beth Werrell researched and wrote “volumes” about a variety of healthcare, family life, and education topics. She’s also been a Sunday School teacher, a toy designer, and an enthusiastic crafter. As the mother of a college student, Beth has gained an excellent overview of the entire K–12 experience and loves sharing what she’s learned in 20/20 hindsight.