What do women's tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams and Hollywood icon Ryan Gosling have in common aside from their fame? They were all homeschooled.
Homeschooling emphasizes one-and-one learning and allows parents to maintain greater control over what their kids are taught. In Canada, nine of 10 provinces have seen higher homeschooling enrolments since the year 2000, according to the most recent statistics from the Fraser Institute. Manitoba leads the way when it comes to the percentage of students who study from home (1.5%), while Alberta has the highest overall total with approximately 10,000 homeschooled children.
While homeschooling appears to be on the rise, critics contend that it may prevent young children from developing the social skills they would obtain naturally by being around other kids their age through classes, recess, group projects and other experiences they’d have in a more traditional school setting. They argue that because kids frequently work independently in homeschooling environments, they may not have as many opportunities to participate in the kinds of interactive exercises that can benefit them throughout their life. Ultimately, this may lead to feelings of isolation.
Social isolation a serious threat
Loneliness has become a real problem in today’s society. While there are a variety of theories as to why more people feel friendless, some believe it may have something to do with the use of social networking. On the surface, websites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn are designed to promote interaction and help friends stay in touch when life takes them in different directions. But as psychologists, psychiatrists and emotional health experts largely agree, nothing replaces the value of face-to-face communication, which people are getting less of these days.
Health experts note that since homeschooling often relies on social media and the internet for certain lesson plans, this could increase loneliness.
If you're considering homeschooling for your child and are worried about the potential for social isolation, here are a few suggestions that can help in this regard:
It's a rule for life and it certainly applies when speaking about homeschooling. While there’s nothing wrong with utilizing online resources for lesson planning, spending hours upon hours in front of a computer monitor detracts from an ideal learning environment. Weave in more interactive exercises to keep kids alert and engaged.
Go on your own field trips
Just because your child isn’t in private or public school doesn't mean visits to museums or science fairs aren't in order. See what's available at locations near you and if you can apply for student rate entrance fees.
Talk to friends
If you have friends whose children are homeschooled, ask them what they do for social activities. You may be able to combine classes from time to time or introduce regularly scheduled meet-ups.
With proper planning and preparation, you can build a homeschooling routine that stops loneliness before it affects your child’s social progression.