Sunday, February 3, 2008

Homeschoolers Making Friends

"How will they ever make friends?"

This question may come from a well-meaning but often uninformed person when hearing that you homeschool your children. It makes me chuckle, because it suggests an underlying assumption that #1 -homeschoolers never leave their houses, and #2 - school is the only place kids can meet other kids. However, it is a real concern that new homeschoolers often have, since homeschooled kids are obviously not surrounded by a classroom full of their peers and a school building full of children each and every day. Since my children have been homeschooled for the past 14 years, and they seem to have TONS of friends, I had to stop and think - how did they make these friends?

Homeschool Support Group - obviously, being involved in a local homeschool group is one way for homeschooled children to find friends. When we first started homeschooling, we belonged to a small support group of only 8 families. This was great for us moms, but my oldest ended up feeling somewhat left out because there weren't any other boys his age in the group. We were friends with a homeschool family from our church with kids the same age as mine, and their neighbors were also homeschoolers, so play time at their house was always fun. Our kids all got along great, so we arranged for them to play together about once a week. Two years later, I helped start another support group, which quickly grew in size. Through this group, we participated in field trips, a weekly co-op, twice a month park days, a monthly oral presentation day, and other things. Mostly, the same people would be at each of these things, so there was repeated exposure to a group of homeschooled kids, and relationships grew. Today, I see our support group having less participation in these kinds of activities although it is 10x the size it was when we started. I think part of the problem is that you rarely see the same people at more than one event. There is just too much for homeschoolers to choose from in the area now, and it competes with support group activities. Still, participating on regular basis in support group activities will give kids a chance to get to know other homeschoolers.

Church - We have always been active in church, and my children made friends there, with kids from public and Christian schools as well as homeschools. We have always been selective in the activities we participated in, and just because the church was doing it didn't mean we would go. But in general, we found a lot of benefit from our children participating in Sunday School and Team Kid ( later Awanas) and yes, even Youth Group! They also have worked in the nursery, helped in the Food Pantry, and gone on a summer missions trip.

Sports - My kids enjoy athletics, so our kids started at age 5 or 6 playing on various sports teams run by the town, church, or homeschool association - soccer, baseball, basketball, volleyball. Involvement in sports is a big commitment, but it has been a great outlet for my kids and something we all enjoy. As much as possible, the whole family attends games and siblings cheer on their brother or sister. Dad has been involved in coaching. And the kids have made some good friends through playing on teams season after season.

Christian Camp - My kids attend a nearby Christian Camp for a week every summer, and as teens they work there as CITs ( counselors in training ). My college-age daughter has worked as a counselor there for the past 3 summers and my son is hoping to be on staff this summer. Some of their best friends in the world are from this camp. Because it is local, most of the campers and staff live in the area, so there are monthly activites at the camp year round where they have opportunity to stay in contact with kids they meet during the summer.

Classes / Co-ops - We are currently participating in a weekly co-op of 13 families who all are using Tapestry of Grace Yr. 1 as their curriculum. We meet every Friday from 9:30-1:30, in small groups divided by grade level, ie. preK, K-3rd , 4th-6th, 6th-7th, and 8th-9th graders. The kids have really grown close to the other kids in co-op ~ we knew most of them before we started, but not all.
In years past, the kids made new friends in our support group's weekly enrichment co-op that met 1 afternoon a week for 8-10 weeks. Both of these co-op situations had built in lunch or snack time where the kids could just hang out and talk and maybe play in the gym or outside. These were the times when they got the chance to talk and get to know each other. We have also arranged small co-ops around a certain subject. For instance, we had a great time doing General Science and Physical Science with a few other families every other week, with the moms taking turns teaching. I have also taught classes at my kitchen table from time to time, inviting other families to join us for Art or an "American Girl" unit study or a Keepers at Home club.

Boy Scouts - my older boys both participated in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts for many years and both earned their Eagle Rank. Their experiences were different as far as making friends goes. My oldest son made some great friends in Scouting, and actually shared an apartment, nicknamed the Eagles Nest, his senior year of college with 2 old friends from Scouting. My middle son enjoyed Scouts and was friendly with the boys there, but none became real friends.

Which just points out that you can't "make" friendships happen. Sometimes our kids ( and us ) will click with people and sometimes they won't. If your whole reason for participating in an activity is to "make friends", then you might be disappointed. But if you make an effort to choose a few activities that your children ENJOY, and then do them consistently, chances are they will find a couple of people that they have things in common with and will want to spend time together. And if you are the type of mom who doesn't like to leave the house or who doesn't like anything to mess up your routine, you might need to stretch out of your comfort zone.

Another thing to remember is that some people like to be active and around lots of people and have lots of friends, but others are more reserved and quiet and more comfortable with only one or two other people. Consider these things when choosing activities for your children to be involved in. Also realize that kids don't really need to be together with friends every day. That much contact can actually be very draining on some children. Pray for guidance as you make choices that work for your child and your family.

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art . . . It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.
C. S. Lewis


Creech Family said...

What a great post! Is there any way we can post the whole thing (pictures and all) to the loop? If not, would it be OK with you to post a link to this blog entry on the loop? I think it is something that will be both encouraging and thought-provoking for many, especially those "newbies" that have been asking about friends for their children. Thanks! Hope you all have a great week!

GrammaJelly said...

This is such a wonderful commentary on your busy lives. You know how proud dad and I are of all you and Mark have accomplished, and how proud we are of all these wonderful grandkids. I used to tell you to keep up the good did. Thanks. love, mom

Kelli said...

Great post! I have to laugh when I hear the friends questions, my children are homeschooled and have plenty of wonderful friends!
Thank you for entering my giveaway and also for your sweet comment. I hope you are having a wonderful week!

Carolina Mama said...

Thanks for sharing. :) Happy to link to you from Homespun. It appears on first glance that you are a Duke fan... we can still be fans. Go Tar Heels! :) Nice to fnid another Carolina Mama. ;)

Krissi said...

Thanks for including this post. I am the same person who commented on your cooking blog. My biggest fear about our return to homeschooling is that we won't be able to make friends, once we are out of that classroom again. Long story, but thanks for the encouragemnt!