By Jaya Bray
One of the biggest stereotypes about home-schooled teens is that we are people who stay home all the time and rarely get to socialize with anyone outside of our household.
I’ve heard assumptions that teens who go to traditional school have much better social skills and advantages compared to home-schooled teens.
But is that really the case? What are the differences between how home-schooled and traditionally schooled teens socialize, and are they that drastic?
The definition of the word “socialize” means to participate in social activities or mix socially with others. I can imagine how people think home-schooled teens are disadvantaged based on how traditional school has become the mainstream idea of how people are educated.
I decided to talk to some teens here in metro Atlanta to see what they have experienced.
First, let’s start with my experience.
I have been home-schooled for all 17 years of my life. When I was very young, my mother decided to home-school me and my soon-to-be siblings. Some years later, she decided, with a little help from my father, to start a community of home-schooling families so we could meet and socialize with other children and their parents.
As a child, I would also take after-school classes and participate in other extracurricular activities, so I got to socialize during those times, too.
I am still a part of the home-school community, and we go on field trips, spend time learning new things together and participate in other activities.
Now, I am also dual-enrolled at Atlanta Technical College. Taking college classes helps me to interact more with adults, whom I learn, work and socialize with. Since I have joined VOX ATL, I have gotten to meet a bunch of amazing people. On certain occasions I will go to teen events around Atlanta and socialize there, but that’s rare (because I don’t even really like people).
A typical day begins with me and my siblings struggling to wake up (when I say struggling, I mean struggling, we are teens and love our sleep) so we can get up and walk our dogs.
Then we do all our chores for the day. After that, depending on what day it is, I will do the schoolwork my mother gives me and then, since I’m dual-enrolled, I will do the homework I have from that class. I will then decide if I want to practice my guitar (I usually don’t even though I’m supposed to). Finally, I basically just chill for the rest of the day.
After my interviews, I realize there are differences in the way teens socialize who are home-schooled and teens who attend school. Yet there is also common ground.
Teens in traditional schools have regular events to attend and opportunities to socialize such as parties, prom, homecoming, school games, etc. Home-schooled teens can participate in these type of events, too, but they have to work a little harder to find them.
Some of the similarities between the two groups of teens are we all participate in after-school programs and sports, regardless of whether we consider ourselves introverted or extroverted. Social media evens the socializing field as both home-schooled and traditionally schooled teens meet and interact with friends online.
So, home-schooled teens do not miss out on socialization. We just learn our skills in different ways with more adults and children of multiple ages.
Even though we can be seen as being at home all the time, we actually have more flexibility to socialize just like our traditional schooled friends.
To find out if other teens have similar views about home-schoolers and how socialization impacts our interactions with others, I interviewed a few people, some who are home-schooled, one who attends traditional public school, and one attends an alternative school.
Here’s what they had to say:
Atiyah, 17, Home-schooled:
As a home-schooled teen, I think we have an advantage not only because we get to stay home but most of our academic teachings are ahead of the public school systems, and we also get a lot of college prep.
I socialize at different programs, on social media, and through extracurricular activities like sports or dance.
Sylvia, 17, Alternative school/international traveler:
[Home-schooled students] are really special people because of the fact that being home-schooled gives you the opportunity to focus on what interests you most, and you can spend a lot of time with it, so we’re all very different, and I’d say have more of a grasp of what you really enjoy doing rather than just following what others do.
I socialize through other home-school groups, groups that are focused on things like a club and sports groups.
Izzy, 16, Public school:
I think home-schooled teens definitely have a different experience then teens who attend public schools or private schools. There is a lack of social interaction with people in their age range, which could possibly hinder them later in their life.
Going to school was one of my major sources of learning how to have a conversation, how to work in group projects and understanding different walks of life. Home-schooled teens don’t necessarily get that public school experience, which I think is crucial to understanding who you are.
During the week at school is most time spent socializing with others. The only time I’ve made friends outside of school is through VOX ATL.
Grace, 16, Home-schooled:
We’re creative people and we think outside of the box. I socialize every day with my family and my friends who go to school after they get [home]. I play tennis, I’m a part of Girl Scouts and an all-girl robotics team.
I don’t think we have a lot of really huge social events, like a lot of us feel left out. Homecoming was this past weekend for some schools, and I must say it is a little saddening when you can’t partake in some of these activities.
Jaya, 17, is home-schooled. She loves to read, is really into Harry Potter and her passions are makeup and photography.
This story was published at VOXATL.org, Atlanta’s home for uncensored teen publishing and self-expression. For more about the nonprofit VOX, visit www.voxatl.org.