My name is Delanie Ross. I’m a senior in an online high school and haven’t attended a “traditional” school for 11 years. Since I have been homeschooled and attended an online school most of my life, many adults seem compelled to ask me a very strange question: “Do you feel you have any social problems?” Every time someone asks me this, I smile and wonder if they know just how socially awkward the question they’ve just asked really is, and how ironic it is that they think I’m the one with the social problem. Now that I’m older, I can look back on these socially awkward situations and realize these people made two simple mistakes. Mistake one, they made incorrect assumptions about who I am as an individual based on mistake number two—the myth that online schooling and homeschooling limits quality social interactions for kids.
I’d like to explain what I mean to hopefully help take the awkwardness out of these stereotypical socialization concerns!
First, don’t assume just because a student attends an online public or private school from home that he or she never leaves the house and is never being encouraged to experience a variety of social interactions. Attending an online school from home has given me the freedom in my schedule to take advantage of opportunities to form friendships and socialize that I may have actually missed if I had to adhere to a traditional school schedule. I get to arrange my schedule to not only include my required schoolwork, but also to do volunteer work, have a part-time job, and have fun with friends.
Second, educate yourself. By understanding the dedicated work that parents and other adults put into delivering a quality online and homeschool education, you will find that these students are most likely not limited academically or socially. I didn’t go to school the same way that my mother, or grandmother, did, but that doesn’t mean I’m less skilled socially, and here’s why:
- Online students know that social skills aren’t mastered by repetitiously making eye contact with the same people every day. They come from establishing real-life relationships, building friendships, and having conversations with people from all walks of life. This includes learning how to stay polite and respond cordially even in the socially awkward situation of being asked if they are socially awkward.
- Online and homeschooled kids can easily share in meaningful social interactions. All of my homeschool, online school friends and I have adults in our lives who make an effort to arrange for and provide access to extracurricular activities outside of the time we spend studying. Virtual school students learn how to get involved with school-supported student clubs, take field trips with friends, and go to the movies with other kids in our communities. We do interact in person with our peers.
- I know that it’s important to spend time with a variety of people in different social settings, such as hanging out with a group of friends, and one-on-one with my best friend. My own experience has been that social interactions in a group, online, offline, and one-on-one all teach me something different. And I have had the pleasure of all those experiences as a student who learns at home.
Homeschooled, online public school and online private school students have incredible opportunities unlike any generation before, and our world just keeps getting bigger and bigger…outside of a bricks-and-mortar school building. Get to know us and how we are developing 21st century social skills.
I hope this helps the next person who starts to ask homeschooled or online school students if they are somehow socially different from their traditional school peers. When you do ask, ask us in a way that lets us know you see us for the individuals that we are and in a way that shows you care. Ask us:
- “How’s it going?”
- “What have you and your friends been doing?”
- “Where do you work?”
- “Who do you like to hang out with the most?”
Give us a chance to surprise you. Simply changing the discussion will show that you have mastered the most up-to-date social skills, and you’ll avoid putting everyone in a socially awkward position.