I won’t call it socialization. That word that sends a shiver down a homeschooler’s spine. We all socialize, we function in the society, have friends, family, talk to people outside of our circle, go to the store, say hello to the smiling, satisfied person walking past us on the street. Some of us are better at it then others. Socialization is not what I would like to talk about.
I would like to talk about homeschooling and making friends. Friends. The people you get together with and have a great time for no reason at all, and can turn to in time of need. For both kids and adults healthy friendships can bring joy and last a lifetime.
Since it is just biologically easier for kids to make friends and kids often model what they see around them: their parents. Let’s talk about friendships for the parents. For a parent that is the one primarily responsible for the education of their kids, homeschooling can be a lonely endeavor. When you, as a parent, finally find your tribe — that group of people that you just click with, it is a wonderful feeling. The trick is getting there. Moving past just having ‘situational friends’ (term taken from this NY Times article “The Challenge Of Making Friends As An Adult”). As it often is for parents, situational friends means parents of their kids’ friends. As adults we are often set in our ways, busy, and life gets in a way, it becomes more and more difficult to form meaningful friendships.
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Lately I have heard echos of unhappy moms (and dads) around me because they are having a hard time finding their tribe. I am talking about homeschooling families, though I am sure this applies to a much broader spectrum of people. People who often identify as introverts, who are not always happy in a crowd of people. They feel left out, and at best ‘tolerated’. I feel for them. I have been on that end of the stick: a odd newcomer, at first with a language barrier, and then with my foot permanently stuck in my mouth. It is a position I am very familiar with.
Why am I rambling on about this? Recently I came across this rather sad article written by such a parent. Shared on multiple homeschool groups, written by a homeschooled mom (signed: The Homeschool Mom New To The Group) who felt unwelcome at a new to her homeschool gathering. (Hi, Homeschool Mom New To The Group!) She felt like she was interrupting something, intruding on an old group of friends. It was sad and eye opening to hear her perspective. I get it. I am also guilty of it. Stuck in my own little universe, I often forget to pay attention, to say hello to an unfamiliar face. Since it was brought into my field of vision, I have made some changes to address those failings on my part. I make it a point to strike up a conversation with the new mom, to open up, and to make them feel welcome.
HOWEVER, when the mom in the said article says this: “I will leave here today and never come back. I will have to answer questions from my daughter about why the other kids wouldn’t play with her. I’ll unfollow the online group and never try to participate again…” WAIT! WHAT?! NO!!! I cannot agree with that approach. NO WAY, NO HOW! YOU HAVE TO COME AGAIN. And again. And again. Keep showing up. Keep interrupting. Don’t quit so quickly! For your kid, and for yourself.
Like I said, I have been there. I have been the newcomer, I have felt like an intruder, an interrupter. I had to come back, time after time to form those friendships. Each time pushing myself further, letting my guard down, opening up to our beautiful differences and similarities. It took work to put my internal introvert inside it’s closet, and get out the loud, bouncy, high energy, ridiculously optimistic, slightly obnoxious person that I actually am out to play. (Yes, I realize I sound nutty). It took me years to embrace my social awkwardness, love it, and have fun with it. One thing that I am good at (other than saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and inappropriate fart jokes) is I don’t get upset at the little things when it comes to other people. I fully expect everyone to do what is best for them and their family, your choices are your choices. I don’t expect (or want) an invitation to every single event, or to be included all the time.
Proximity, repetition, and fun!
According to research, the three conditions during which we make meaningful and lasting friendships are: proximity, repeated interactions, and letting your guard down enough to get to know each other. That is why showing up is important. Everyone has their challenges: language barrier, stress, anxiety, demanding schedules, etc. Take as many opportunities to say ‘yes’ to getting together with others. It is fun and rewarding, and in the long run will feel absolutely wonderful.
Of course there were several extraneous situations where the other parent made it clear with their actions (and once with direct blunt statement, which I appreciate) that they are not interested in being friends. As my kids grew from babies to teenagehood, we have been a part of many a group. Many of them we grew out of and left. The parents in these groups where exactly what “situational friends” defines. That’s OK with me, because for the most part I still feel surrounded by wonderful and loving people.
Read a few more articles about making friends as adults:
If you are really into it, there is a book, actually many books, available to understand why it is hard to make friends as adults and how to change it. Like this one.
Most importantly: keep at it! You will get there! <3
Also, while you are at it, why not watch Yes Man. 🙂
I am curious to know what you think, and what your experience has been. Please leave a comment below!
I have received quite a few responses via email and on social media. I wanted to clarify a few things.
First of all, I am talking about my experience here. It is from my perspective, and of course won’t fit everyone. I mean no disrespect to anyone’s experiences or feelings.
Secondly, if you find yourself in an unhealthy group setting or situation, you should not come back. What I am referring here is an average group of people. Clearly, situations vary from one to another, and you have to make the best decision for you and your family!
Third, remember up there /\/\/\ I mention being ridiculously optimistic. It is true. That’s me. I am ridiculously optimistic. It applies here as well. I think we can all be friends.
Lastly, folks, there are a lot of people out there that need your smile, and a few kind words! Let’s all be nicer to one another. After all, we are all in the same boat! <3
4 thoughts on “Homeschooling and Making Friends”
I love this post. This is an issue, that I have given a lot of thought.
When we first started homeschooling, we went to a lot of different field trips and meet-ups at parks and community centers and libraries. We met A LOT of people. I think that is imperative for a new homeschooler–to find parents to bond with and discuss curriculum and the challenges and struggles of homeschooling and life as well as the joys! We encountered those very insular groups that made us feel unwelcome and we did not go back, but we kept looking for our people.
I met a great group of women who pulled me into their circle with open arms and hearts and made me feel welcomed. We borrowed curriculum from each other and talked about everything under the sun. Over the years, I have maintained a friendship with them, but my girls have grown apart from their children.
One of the greatest challenges of parenthood and maybe even more so of homeschooling for me has been my kids’ friends parents. I don’t have a lot in common with the parents of the kids my kids are friends with, however, if being around these people is what I have to do so that my kids don’t miss out on making memories with friends, then it is something I am willing to do over and over and over and hope that maybe at some point I will bridge that gap into friendship. Maybe I don’t let myself go enough around them to make friends, but I definitely get a vibe from some that I would be judged or that my sense of humor is not appreciated (I LOVE Fart jokes and have been known to make up lyrics to the diarrhea song).
I’m glad you reshared this! I’m sharing your blog to the co-op 🙂 We have a lot of new families.
Thanks for this, as I am currently struggling. Our daughter has life-threatening food allergies. Many gatherings involve food and just aren’t safe. Add to that 3 other littles (one only 3 months old) and I can’t go out of the house without my anxiety being through the roof! I can’t have hawk eyes on my food allergic 6 yr old (contact, airborne and ingestion… so it’s not a matter of “just don’t eat that”) and everything around her… as well as watching my younger kids, without being wound so tight that I can’t enjoy myself or even attempt to “chit chat” with others in the group and make friends. People don’t get it… and I don’t know how to open up. The anxiety is crippling.
This is a great article, Mariya. My thoughts are: I agree with you 100%. I worked hard to overcome shyness as a young teen, and succeeded, at least in appearances! I have often felt like the new comer, the only one who doesn’t know everyone. I later have learned that usually I am not the only one feeling that way. We do make an extra effort where our kids are involved. When we moved to NJ I made my focus getting my kids situated socially. And, it definitely takes longer to get close to people as an adult, for the reasons you stated. I feel so grateful and fortunate to have found and developed so many meaningful friendship through homeschooling, with you, too!