You overhear other moms talking about a birthday party their kids are going to this weekend. Your son knows these kids, but he’s not in their “inner circle” of friends. Your mama-heart sinks. Yet again, your son didn’t get invited to a party. You immediately feel alone…jealous even, and longing for deep friendships for your child. You are determined to help your kids find friends, even though you have chosen to homeschool. But, finding friends in homeschooling feels like a huge obstacle and an uphill road.
There can be a myriad of obstacles in homeschooling as many of us know. That is why I believe we truly need a community of people around us, consistent encouragement, and helpful resources at our fingertips. In this upcoming series of posts, I am going to address ways of overcoming three specific obstacles in homeschooling.
Obstacle #1 – Finding Friends
While we all know the stereotype that homeschooled children are not socialized, I believe that is an inaccurate misconception. However, I do believe there is a common struggle in helping our children find and develop long-lasting relationships. I don’t think that this struggle is unique to homeschoolers only. I know moms who struggle to find quality friends for their kids who are in public schools too.
However, for friendships to develop it takes mutual interests and regular times together. The challenge is real.
Being at home for the majority of our days can lead to isolation. And let’s face it, while there are benefits of our kids not being mostly around other immature children their age, kids do need kindred spirits.
After having moved two times in nine months, I know what it feels like for your kids to be lonely, left out, and desiring friends. Here are five simple ideas that I have found helpful in my effort at finding true kindred spirits for my kids. While they may seem basic, they can often be forgotten!
Remedy #1 – Invite Kids into Your Home
What I have found helpful is to be intentional about inviting other children into our home. It doesn’t matter how big or small a home is, how well it is decorated, or if you are even feeling up to it!
Kids just enjoy being together. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and make an invitation…to the neighbors down the street…to the kids in church…to fellow homeschoolers. Hospitality is much more about a warm inviting atmosphere than an immaculate and well-adorned abode.
An invitation could be as simple as organizing a Lego creation play date. Baking together. Doing a craft. Or just, playing in your yard. Whatever your kids are into, invite others to join you. Most likely the other kids will love the invitation, and your kids will be blessed to have others in their home. Doing repeated activities together around similar interests can help form bonds of friendship.
And the benefits are for you as the hostess too. Your children are distracted and entertained for a bit…removing the pressure to “entertain” kids who smart the mantra “I’m bored!” It can be a time of refreshment for other moms who would like to stay and chat with you (you may be making friends too!) or give an exhausted mom an hour or two of free time. Who wouldn’t like that?!
But it doesn’t stop when your kids are young. As your kids get older, you can host a study afternoon in your home. All you have to do is provide some yummy snacks and a place conducive to studying…and maybe some gentle reminders when social interactions get a little too long! But this time gives you a break from teaching and gives your kids an opportunity to study amongst peers. A win-win!
Remedy #2 – Join or Start a Co-op
Join other homeschool families for a weekly co-op. Or, start a co-op of your own around a particular subject or interest. Co-ops can take place in your home, at a local park, in your church, or in multiple homes on a rotation.
For example, my family was part of a great science co-op at our church after we first moved into our new area. After a year, however, as kids graduated and moved on, the co-op disbanded. I knew it was one of my daughter’s favorite parts of her week and a place where she connected with kids her age. So I invited a few families into our home the following year to continue the co-op.
Having the same kids over to your house every week, or every other week, throughout the school year can encourage long-term relationships. But, being a part of a co-op doesn’t necessarily mean immediate friendships will form. Just as no kids are friends with everyone in their class at school. Still, the opportunity is there to develop friendships and/or life skills of learning to deal with people very different than yourself. This can be a time where characteristics of patience and compassion can grow too.
Nonetheless, your kids might find one or two friends they connect with in a co-op. From there, go back to remedy #1 and invite those kindred spirits into your home for more opportunities for the friendships to develop. Or, plan regular playdates with them mid-week at a local park.
In doing so, we have found that entire families are often knit together, moms and dads too! Many of my friends are also from our co-ops. So, being a part of a weekly co-op can bring the blessing of friendship to the whole family as well!
Remedy #3 – Involve Your Children in Extracurricular Activities
Choose something that your family can be involved in. I’m not saying you choose everything and fill your schedule every afternoon. That can have its downside too. But, try to find one thing that interests your kids in which it allows them to interact with their peers. Being a part of a team, club, or group can provide great friendships for them. Not to mention a place to expend energy and learn to work together with others.
Having a similar interest with others their age can create a sense of belonging to something bigger than they are. When kids are working alongside others towards a common goal, friendships often naturally develop.
Extracurricular activities, if chosen wisely, can make your kids feel less isolated and more bonded with others.
Remedy #4 – Don’t Overlook Siblings
I have a friend who tells their kids to “invest in each other because you are your own best friends.” I believe this can be true. God put our families together for a reason. While siblings can often bicker and get under each other’s skin, they can also be best of friends. You can communicate this idea to your children. It probably won’t happen overnight. But, in time and with lots of reminders, they can learn to grow in love and affection for each other.
In homeschooling, siblings have the opportunity to be around each other more often – learning together, wondering together, exploring together, and living day in and day out together. Use those moments to help strengthen your kiddos’ relationship. Isn’t our hope that our children would deeply love each other for life?
I know my heart swells when my kids are playing together just using their imaginations, building forts, playing cards, or jumping on the trampoline. Make sure you honor and recognize those times that they play well together – you might notice it sparks them to do it more often!
Remedy #5 – Be Active in Your Church Community
A family active in their church community gives yet another avenue for friendships to develop. What I mean is not just attending church on Sundays. But, being a part of a small group community mid-week, serving together as a family, going on a mission trip with other families, or celebrating church baptisms and special events together. Again, having repeated opportunities to interact with other kids from church throughout the week and at special events, can allow your kids to develop kindred spirits with other kids in your church body.
Creating memories together through various activities allows your kids to find others with similar interests. There is a special connection made when people serve together. This can be true for kids as well! Not to mention it allows them opportunities to grow their service muscle too:)
I hope these five remedies for finding friends in homeschooling have been helpful to you. The next time your kid doesn’t get invited to that party. Take heart! Over time, he can and will develop kindred spirits. Commit to praying for friends together. That way your child will get to see the hand of God providing in their life too!
If you have found other ways to foster kindred spirits for your kids, leave a comment below as I would love to hear them!
Here is more information on overcoming obstacles in homeschooling: