Many parents worry about choosing an online home school for their children for one simple reason: the social aspect. When a child attends school online, they aren't surrounded by their peers anymore. Instead, they're isolated on the other side of a computer screen, learning independently instead of interacting with their peers. While there are a number of great reasons to do this, you also want your child to experience normal social development. How do you improve social interaction when your child is never around their peers?

Encourage attendance in online classes. Even if your child doesn't need to attend the classes for academic reasons, the opportunities for group work and social interaction within those classes can be incredibly valuable. Make time in your busy schedule for your child to attend their online class sessions--and don't forget the value of sessions that have nothing to do with academics. Interaction with their peers is just as valuable for your child as the school-related things they'll learn--even if it takes place from the other side of the computer screen.

Look for ways to be active in the community. If you attend church, that's a great place to start looking for people for your child to interact with. There are a number of clubs, organizations, and sports teams that don't require enrollment in a particular school. You may also find that there are "home school" leagues in your city that will accept your child if they're interested in participating. Look for these opportunities to give your child a chance to interact with their peers and get involved with something. This is particularly valuable for children who have been bullied or who have poor social skills: interacting on a team or in a club gives them common ground with the other children in their group and creates a starting place for further conversation.

Find time for friends. Chances are, your child left at least a couple of friends behind in their previous school. When they no longer attend a brick and mortar school, they will miss out on the opportunity to interact with those friends every day. Find time to integrate interactions with those friends into your regular schedule. Invite a friend over for the afternoon, even if that means picking them up after school. Have them spend the night and make fun sleepover plans. Make plans for fun events with friends. These friends are an important part of your child's life and one that they will be relieved to keep. Just make sure that you're only issuing invitations to friends that your child actually wants to spend time with, especially if your child has been a victim of bullying: you want to encourage positive relationships, not the ones that have beat your child down over time. 

Set up play dates. Remember when your child was young, and you'd set up events with other moms who had children of a similar age? If you're struggling to find opportunities for social interaction for your child, you may want to open those doors again. Set up events with mom friends who have children similar in age to yours. Give your kids the chance to see if they get along. It may not open the doors to lifelong friendships, but then again, you may be surprised by just how well your kids get along.

Social interaction is an important part of your child's development. By being at home with you, however, they will get to interact with a wide variety of people. They'll interact with their siblings, with the adults who are part of your lives, and with everyone you interact with throughout the day. Keeping them involved with their peers, however, will help ease the transition back to traditional school or to the workforce no matter when that takes place in their lives.

 

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