We homeschooling families get tired of the socialization question. We mock the weird, unsocialized homeschooled kid stereotypes. Homeschooling parents insist that we run the roads constantly. We tell people that we have to make sure to spend some time at home for our kids to do school.
Our kids have plenty of friends. Of course, they’re socialized! No, they’re not weird.
But sometimes we secretly worry that maybe they are. What if my homeschooled kid really is weird?
We quietly whisper our fears to one another. But just one or two others. We certainly don’t voice our fears in the big wide open, even when that big wide open only involves other homeschoolers.
My kid is really introverted. He has a couple of friends that he’s close to, but most of the time he’d rather hang out at home than go anywhere. Should I be worried?
My kid seems really immature for her age. Is that normal?
My kid geeks out about his passions. He doesn’t notice that other people aren’t interested and that their eyes have glazed over. Is he one of those weird, homeschooled kids?
My kid has personal space issues. She seems really clingy with people and doesn’t seem to know when to back off. Should I worry?
What do you do when you worry that your homeschooled kid really is weird?
First, it’s important to remember that homeschoolers haven’t cornered the market on weird. There are weird kids in public school, too. You know it’s true. I’m sure you can remember one or two. (If you can’t, you may have been the weird one.)
There are plenty of happy, healthy, functioning adults whom others consider eccentric, quirky, or loners.
Assess the Behavior
Is your child just quiet? Enthusiastic? Demonstrative? Is the behavior a symptom of something like autism or ADD? Kids with autism can have trouble interpreting social cues so they may not realize that behavior is making others uncomfortable.
Impulsivity is a hallmark of ADD. Kids may not even notice that they’re interrupting or talking loudly and excessively.
Learn the symptoms of autism and the signs of ADD. Consider having your child assessed if you see the signs. Getting an assessment doesn’t have to mean slapping a label on your kid or even medicating him. However, knowing the causes of your child’s behavior sometimes makes it easier to educate yourself and find effective ways to help him navigate his world.
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Find Ways to Help Your Child with Social Interactions
Usually, it’s okay to let your child carry on, displaying his unique, quirky personality. Where a kid goes to school doesn’t determine his personality. Although, quirky kids who attend public school often bow to social pressure and modify their behavior. One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is allowing kids to be themselves.
However, if your child notices and is bothered by the fact that other people don’t respond well to him, or he has noticeably-lacking social skills, try some techniques to help him improve his interactions with others.
Practice social skills at home. Role-play scenarios and give your child a chance to practice with you or a trusted friend. Play games that mimic social situations and help your child improve his social skills.
Talk with your kid about how she interacts with others. If she’s experienced an awkward encounter, offer feedback about how she could have handled the situation differently. Suggest ways to recognize social cues and modify her behavior if necessary.
For example, let’s say your son rambled about his latest Lego creation to his cousin until the cousin started zoning out and murmuring “uh-huh” every so often. Let your son know that sometimes people show that they’re losing interest in a conversation by looking away. Remind him that people enjoy conversations more when they get to talk, too.
Tell him that when he notices these signs, it’s a good idea to stop, slow down, or engage the other person. Ask them what they’re interested in or, if they’re a Lego fan, ask them what they’ve built lately.
You might come up with a code word that you can say to your child to gently remind her to pay attention to other people’s body language and other social cues.
Look For Ways to Get Your Child Involved
Some kids are just introverts who genuinely enjoy a few close, personal relationships and crave alone time. Those kids exist in public school, too. However, if you’re concerned about your child’s reclusive behavior, look for ways to get her involved with others.
What are her interests? Is there a local club or group for that? Maybe she’d benefit from a co-op or community class. Perhaps she’d like to participate in a team sport or join the homeschool orchestra.
It’s good for our kids to have a chance to take direction from someone other than a parent. They benefit from opportunities to form mentor relationships or work in group settings.
Let Them Be Themselves
Often, the best thing you can do for a quirky kid is just let him be himself. Don’t let someone else define your child’s normal.
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It’s okay to be an introvert. Introverts tend to be imaginative thinkers, good listeners, and loyal friends.
It’s okay to be immature. Today’s society forces kids to grow up too fast. If your homeschooled kid is a bit immature, embrace the fact that he’s held on to his innocence and is thoroughly enjoying his childhood.
It’s okay to be passionate about the things that interest us. Even as an adult, I sometimes get excited about something and rattle on and on until I realize that the person I’m talking to probably quit listening a few miles back.
I know some eccentric adults. They have their own unique sense of style, quirky personalities, and interests (aka obsessions). And, you know what? They’re happy. They are perfectly content in their own skin being who they were designed to be.
Yes, there are weird, socially-awkward homeschoolers. There are also weird, socially-awkward public- and private-schooled kids. In most cases, homeschooling isn’t the cause. It’s just who these kids are.
If their weirdness bothers them or is problematic, don’t ignore potential areas of concern. Identify them and take steps to help. Just be sure to let your quirky kids know that they are loved just as they are.
You don’t have to fix your kid. Just help him learn how to successfully navigate everyday social situations while embracing his unique personality.
If you’ve ever worried that your kid was weird, how did you handle it? What tips can you offer parents who may be concerned about their kids?
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.