Homeschooling Teen

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How Homeschoolers Can Become Collaborators

collaborationBy Devin Morrissey

Anyone who has homeschooled for any amount of time has heard the remarks and the questions that stem from a seemingly universal fear about homeschooling: what about socialization? The general idea is that kids learn how to interact from other kids. Take away the traditional classroom and you also take away the ability to learn how to get along with others.

Now, the reality is that there is not a ton of research on whether or not this is true, but what exists demonstrates that it is an unfounded fear.

The Coalition for Responsible Homeschooling reports, “Over the past three decades, studies of homeschooled students conducted using researcher observation, various surveys designed to measure social skills, and interviews with homeschool graduates have almost universally found that homeschooled students score either as well as or better than their conventionally schooled peers in a range of social measures.”

Despite that though, when we talk about homeschoolers socializing, what is perhaps a better fear is that homeschoolers are less likely to excel at group projects and ultimately, at collaboration. One of the things that makes homeschooling such a solid method of education is the fact that it helps kids bolster their distinct passions and innate skill sets.

Inevitably, this may mean homeschoolers need to work a little harder so they know how to collaborate.

As former teacher Laurel Niedospial wrote about homeschoolers and socialization, “Socialization requires that children consistently work with people they’re not used to working with. It’s about discussing things with people who have a different opinion and challenging preconceived notions. It’s about having to do a group project with people who don’t necessarily work the same way as you do, to collaborate on ideas and grow as a thinker.”

Niedospial goes on in her piece to doubt the fact that homeschoolers can achieve those needed skills within the parameters of homeschooling. However, an argument could be made that just because she did not see it happen in her own experience, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Here are three ways homeschoolers can ensure they hone their ability to collaborate and work well with others:

Homeschool Co-ops

There are many different opinions on the internet revolving around whether or not homeschool co-ops are actually beneficial. There are absolutely parameters that are necessary to ensure that one’s experience with a co-op is actually helpful.

A co-op will only be helpful if there are other kids of similar ages, if the expectations in terms of time and finances mesh, and if the goals of the co-op and the homeschooler are the same.

As Beverly Hernandez wrote for ThoughtCo., “Homeschool coop classes for older students often include lab sciences, such as biology or chemistry, advanced math, writing, or foreign language. There are often opportunities for students to take classes that function better with a group, such as drama, physical education or orchestra.”

A co-op is one of the best places for kids to learn the skills needed to excel at group work. Co-ops often provide classes and instruction in a group format.

Clubs

Clubs provide a space for kids to come together in a variety of contexts to work on things in a group setting. The great thing about clubs is that there is this inherent wide-ranging flexibility in terms of what they can offer.

Already Established Clubs

For homeschoolers interested in utilizing a club to better their collaboration skills, there likely already exists just the club they’re looking for. Depending on the size of the area one lives, there are few limits on the subject matter clubs focus on. What do you want or need to learn more about? STEM? Agriculture? Writing? There is likely a club already established by like minded individuals.

Even if you’re unable to connect in person with others, there are online clubs for kids who want to connect and learn in a group setting, and they’re only a web search away.

DIY Clubs

For those who have surveyed the options and decided that there just aren’t any good ones, the best step forward may be starting your own club.

What is the theme? What do you feel confident you’ll be able to build an entire platform around? This needs to be specific enough that everyone understands what they are getting into but broad enough that meetings can have subject matter indefinitely.

How will you fund it? If your club is going to need supplies for projects or snacks or travel, etc., you’ve got to have a way to pay for it. Will members pay dues? Will you have a bake sale? Will you ask for donations?

How will you add members? You’ve got to get the word out there. Spreading the information via word-of-mouth, public bulletin boards, and social media all have their strengths and their weaknesses.

How will you utilize it to collaborate? This is the matter at hand, right? How will the club be utilized as a platform to work together and solve problems? Additionally, when disagreements occur do you have a plan for conflict resolution to keep the project on track?

If this is where you find yourself, it may seem overwhelming. But truthfully, clubs are fun and useful. The material that a club goes over can be as complex as a testing the longitudinal waves in various soils or as simple as seeing how many ways you can cut down on waste and recycle in your own homes.

Volunteerism

Volunteering may not seem like an obvious avenue to learn how to work well with others. However, it can help homeschoolers not only do that, but also make a difference in the lives of others; it’s a win-win for those involved.

Problem-solving. Volunteering often requires more than just showing up. Often it includes organizing fundraisers and teams. It can mean running kitchens in shelters and mapping out the kennel assignments in animal shelters. Often, it requires you to creatively work with others in a joint effort.

Future planning. Volunteering can also provide the ability to see how one’s skills can be utilized in a professional context. There is a chance that the experience will become more than collaboration; it can potentially grant insight to the future. What begins as a volunteer position for a crisis hotline may provide the inspiration for a career in social work. Volunteering in a hospital can prompt exploration in a medical field.

According to Education Week, collaboration is one of the most sought after abilities for an individual to possess in both a school and a professional setting. Homeschoolers may have to devote more energy to making sure collaboration-bolstering activities are a part of their lives, but they can make it happen.

And the effort will be well worth it. If homeschoolers are willing to put the time and effort in, they’ll not only be able to bring comparable skills to group work situations as others do, but they’ll do so with a unique spin. Theirs will likely have been cultivated not just in classrooms, but also in clubhouses, museums, backyards, and in soup kitchens, proving that sometimes the best classrooms aren’t actually classrooms at all.

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