Image Source: Unsplash
By Katie B.
As a former homeschooler, it isn’t difficult to attest to the value of homeschooling. Learning everything you need to learn from the comfort of your home, with a teacher who cares to see you succeed and will spend all the time necessary to ensure your grasp of the material – it’s a dream come true. Lessons can be more personally tailored to the student’s needs, and parents can invest personally in their child’s academic growth without missing a single precious moment.
However, the digital age has brought a new spectrum of challenges to homeschooling. While the ability to access anything at any time is a boon to homeschoolers looking to learn more about subjects of interest (and their parents, who are cobbling together lesson plans), the digital world presents unique challenges for your child’s socialization.
It’s all too easy for homeschoolers to become digitally absorbed, drawn in by the wide world of information and entertainment before them, and neglect the world outside. Concerns about children having too much access to the internet, meeting strange people online, or getting cyberbullied by their peers are all, unfortunately, too valid.
Fortunately, there are ways to ensure that your child gets socialized properly while mitigating as many of the risks associated as possible. Let’s talk about homeschooling in the digital age.
Combatting Isolation with Online Socialization
You’d be surprised at how many ways there are for children to socialize outside of the classroom. The great thing about trying to meet people in the digital age is that communities that were confined to classrooms, hobby shops, and playgrounds are now fully online. Your child can easily boot their computer up and, with parental supervision, connect to a large array of people who share their interests.
Some great ways to connect are:
- Encourage them to use a platform like Discord. Discord is an application specifically designed to foster communities around shared passions, and is currently used by well over 150 million monthly users. Children can use Discord to connect with their friends while playing an online game, to connect with peers at their local game store, or even form and join online social clubs!
- Explore your community’s online social clubs! If your child doesn’t know anyone else in the homeschooling community, you can leverage online social clubs to encourage them to meet similar people! Online social clubs typically consist of homeschooled kids getting together virtually to participate in an activity, and there are a wide range of them available for every interest.
- Visit your local parks or community centers. If you want your child to get offscreen for a moment, however, try visiting a local park or community center! This will give them opportunities to get some fresh air, exercise, and play with kids their own age outside of the digital realm.
If you notice that your child doesn’t like a particular activity, don’t force them to participate; instead, explore other options that might suit them better! There’s such a wide range of opportunities to socialize in this day and age that they’ll find something they love eventually – and with your guidance and support, they’ll be happier and healthier than ever before.
Of course, we still need to discuss online safety protocols. We’re all very much aware of how unsafe online spaces can be, so there’s no need to harp on it. Instead, we’ll take a brief look at how you can create an environment where your homeschooler can browse the internet and commune with peers safely.
- Educate your child on internet safety. Including basic internet safety skills in your homeschool curriculum gives your child the ability to identify potential threats as they occur. Teaching them about malware, online stranger danger, and common cybersecurity scams will empower them to keep themselves (and their home) safe.
- Limit their access to certain websites. There are a number of online spaces that are not made for children. Fortunately, with parental controls, you can preemptively block many of them from coming up.
- Invest in a VPN. VPNs are getting more popular across all demographics, as they provide an extra layer of security from cyber threats and make it harder for malefactors to track your digital footprint. Learning how to use a VPN can help you feel a bit more comfortable about the dangerous elements of the net, adding an extra layer of insulation to your already present cybersecurity protection.
Mental Health and Parental Concerns
Finally, let’s talk about mental health. A lack of socialization can lead to mental health concerns like isolation and anxiety becoming dramatically worse. However, with the proper controls, you can foster a healthy “hybrid” social environment for your child. Encouraging them to invest themselves in community, play with like-minded children, and mix online socialization with outdoor playtime are great ways to improve your homeschooler’s mental health.
Online schooling doesn’t have to be “remote;” and neither does socialization. With these tips, you’ll be able to create a homeschooling environment that allows your child to healthily grow, and become their best selves.