No, I’m not going to talk about socializing our children. We all know that the socialization question is a huge red herring and that our children get along with others just fine. Actually, if your children are anything like mine, you wish they would socialize just a wee bit less. What is actually the more interesting socialization question is how do we parents socialize with each other when we have chosen the homeschooling route?
This was brought to my mind a little bit ago when I was reading the facebook status of a friend who had just begun homeschooling after years of her son going to public school. She wanted to know if anyone else out there felt lonely or was it just her. She missed meeting friends for coffee and chatting at pick-up and drop-off. While she was enjoying homeschooling, she missed her own social interactions. In thinking about what to reply to her, I realized two things.
The first was that if your children go to school, the parents have a built-in social network as well as the children. I hate to feel left-out, so I realized that I had convinced myself that all the great socializing among mothers that I imagined was happening was just that… imaginary. When my friend posted her comment about what she was missing, I had to come to terms with the fact that I would know more people and I would talk to more adults in a day if my children went to school. For a very brief moment I felt a little sorry for myself. I soon snapped out of it. I have plenty of friends and am a textbook introvert; so it’s not as though I crave never ending socialization anyway. It’s just the thought that out there, someone is doing something that I’m not. It’s a little pathological.
Really, socialization for us, as parents, looks a lot like socialization for our children. There is no default socialization group for us. We need to find friends the way we ask our children to… in our neighborhoods, our churches, through shared interests. Sure it may require a bit more effort on our part, but it works. It also means that we need to be a bit more proactive in setting up social engagements for ourselves. We do not have a shared drop-off time where it is easy to say to someone, “Want to get a coffee?” so we have to create those times.
There are lots of different ways I have made this work. When my children were younger and we were just starting out on our homeschool journey, I signed up for a lot of classes and field trips. Truth be known, this was almost as much for me as it was for my children. Taking my children to a class or going on a field trip meant that I would come in contact with other parents. I made some very, very good friends in those years. We were all in the same life stage and all homeschooling and all equally glad of a bit of adult conversation in our day.
As my children got older and there were more of them, taking them all out to a class or on a field trip began to be a little more work than it was worth to do all the time. But that was OK, because by this time, I had developed a circle of friends and we would call each other, arrange play dates (ostensibly for the children) and do other things together. The level of desperation had gone down a notch and I didn’t have the same need to be out there finding people to socialize with.
Now I seem to have reached a new stage. I still have many good friends from those early homeschooling days. A couple of us are still in the throes of homeschooling, but many others have graduated or will soon graduate their students. They have reached a very different stage in their life and I get to take advantage of it. They have more time and once again are finding a new normal. As a result, their desire to get together with friends has increased. Hooray! This means that in the past year or so, more monthly mom’s dinners have been planned. I love these. I get to see women I love and with whom I share many good memories. They offer a respite from my world and let me glimpse what is ahead (both the good and the bad). They offer fellowship and laughter.
The other thing I have noticed is that I, too, am needing to go back to the drawing board a bit. While a couple of my very good friends still have young children, the majority of them do not and even my closest friends do not have preschoolers. I find that more and more I want to seek out other mothers of children my four year old daughters’ age, both for them and for myself. The camaraderie is healthy.
Finding, making, keeping friends is a lifelong process that is ever changing.
So how about you? Have you found socializing as a homeschooling parent to be challenging or surprising? What would you share with a new… and lonely… homeschooling mom?
Elizabeth Curry is on year 15 of homeschooling. Nine are still at home and her oldest is off to college. Devoted bookworms all, it’s not surprising that much of the learning that happens centers around whatever chapter book is being read. When she isn’t taking care of children or reading, she enjoys sewing, cooking, and writing. Her life of following Jesus with many children in the Big, Ugly House is chronicled at www.ordinary-time.blogspot.com .