Homeschoolers – especially those that have been doing this awhile – laugh at the question that is most often brought up by concerned family and friends. The socialization question really is quite amusing, as kids have opportunities to be social in so many ways. There are classes, co-ops, park days, grocery shopping, conversations with the mailman or street construction workers, and so many more.
One of the overlooked questions, though, is what about the homeschool mom? How will she go about finding community to support her when she is so busy meeting the needs of her kids all day, every day?
For homeschooling moms, and particularly moms who homeschool special needs, gifted, or twice-exceptional children, their needs for support shift. Not only do they need to talk to moms about potty training and picky eating, they need curriculum suggestions, scheduling help, and to talk to others who understand that some twelve year olds just can’t sit still for a half an hour math lesson. Ever.
Parents of kids who are gifted, like so many of you who read this site, have struggles that are completely different than the mom who is homeschooling average learners. You want someone to talk to about how to manage several different grade levels per child, and what kinds of discipline techniques work for a child who can out-analyze you by the time he’s three.
Sometimes it feels like we’re all alone. What do we do?
Find Local Resources
Finding other homeschoolers in your area can make homeschooling better for everyone. Homeschooling is more than just an educational choice.
It’s a lifestyle.
Finding others in your area means that you’re finding other families who have decided to embrace the same alternative lifestyle as you. Your families have the opportunity to schedule things during the regular school day, and to take advantage of empty parks, play zones, and museums.
Get Involved Where You Can
Once you’ve found some local groups, go to a meet up. While you’re there, talk to the other moms, even if it feels tough to break into the group. Find out what other kinds of events or classes they offer, and offer to help out at the next one – even if it’s just bringing a snack to share.
Once you meet a few homeschooling families in the area, it gets easier to hear about other groups and opportunities. You’ll start to meet people and have a chance to figure out to which group you’d like to belong.
Let’s talk about that socialization thing again. While many non-homeschoolers worry that homeschooled children are isolated and won’t ever have the opportunity to socialize and make friends, the children at school are told again and again that they are not there to socialize. They’re there to learn. Their “friend time” is limited to short recess periods, unlike your homeschooled kids who chat with their siblings during lessons, and other kids at park days and during co-op classes.
They may not see their friends every day, but when they do see them, they have the luxury of really playing with them for much longer periods of time.
And homeschool moms can take advantage of that same luxury. While we might not be able to meet a friend for breakfast during the school day without children, we can plan activities – or even classes – with other homeschool moms we love, and spend a lot of time chatting while the kids play together.
Find Online Communities and Forums
In-person groups are very important for both you and your kids if you’re a homeschooling mom. You need that face-to-face connection to keep you from burning out. But, it’s not always possible for you to find homeschoolers in your exact situation within your local groups.
That’s why I love that I’m living and homeschooling in the 21st century. The Internet opens up a world of people with whom I can connect.
Nobody in your local group is homeschooling a highly gifted child and cannot understand the things you are struggling with? They look at you like you’re crazy when you complain that the 7th grade science program your 6 year old is flying through requires so much writing that your arm is about to fall of because you’re letting your 6 year old dictate his answers to you since his fine motor skills haven’t yet caught up to his racing mind?
When you’re 5 year old hangs from the monkey bars for long stretches of time without wanting to play with other 5 year olds, and none of the other moms can relate to the sensory processing issues that make her crave that stretch and pressure so much that she’s willing to miss out on a game to satisfy her need, do you go a little crazy wondering if your child is just really weird?
Most homeschooling groups are tolerant of other kids’ quirks, but it doesn’t mean that everyone can relate.
And that’s why it’s amazing that we have the internet.
Through homeschooling blogs, gifted organizations and forums, and other great places online, we can find moms who have kids exactly like ours. Over he past few months, the Raising Lifelong Learners Facebook page has grown to a wonderful community of eclectic homeschoolers with kids of all ages, and shared stories. Places like that are great for asking questions, finding friends, and supporting one another.
You can also check out Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children, Homeschooling Poppies, a community for parents who are homeschooling gifted or twice-exceptional children, or The Homeschool Help Desk, a community where homeschoolers can ask for all manner of advice and support.
I just love telling people that some of the best friends I have are ones whom I’ve never met in person. Or that I talk on the phone daily to two friends I’ve met a handful of times, and who live far, far away – in other states.
There are great connections to be made both online and in-person. And, I think both types of connections, and both communities are important for success in your homeschooling journey.
Have you found wonderful online or in-person communities to help you support your parenting and homeschooling journey? I’d love to hear about them. Share in the comments if you can, especially if they’re online groups that can support readers from around the world.