Is Homeschooling Hard: Isolation
The homeschooling community has grown at an impressive rate in recent years (up 62% in the last decade) but make no mistake about it, the majority of school-aged children are in school, with homeschoolers making up only about 3.5% of the school-aged population. Even before Max was a kindergartener it became harder and harder to find playmates his age as they were all heading off to pre-k. This was disheartening for me on two levels. First, I wanted him to have friends. Max loves interacting with others. He went from spending time with friends almost daily to hoping there was a day he could spend time with friends. It was also difficult because he and I have similar personalities and I was missing my mom friends who were now busy rushing kids to and fro. We hoped sports would bridge the gap but at the end of each season, relationships would fade as people got busy with other activities. While living in Houston, we made several attempts to find families we clicked with in various homeschooling groups and co-ops without any luck. The few families we did enjoy spending time with were ones with working moms and dads whose kiddos were in daycare or school all day. It was pretty disappointing.
The Silver Lining: A Close-Knit Community
While it may take a few tries, once you do find your niche, you will have some of the best people in your corner. The homeschooling community is filled with people who are going against the grain and since we all know what it feels like to be the black sheep, we (generally) do our best to encourage, support and uplift one another. Recently we have had much better luck finding families with similar interests and homeschooling beliefs. The boys are meeting a unique, diverse group children that they are able to spend time truly bonding with through meaningful experiences together. AND I have mom friends again!
If you are having trouble finding your homeschool besties, trust me, don't give up. I attended gatherings where other parents didn't speak or whose kids were older or where group dynamics and politics were clearly already established. There were super conservative groups, public school at home groups and 'I'm only doing this for Kindergarten' groups. None of which are bad, families should do what works for them, but I eventually realized that I was looking in the wrong places. It took a little reevaluating and redefining of our objectives to solve our problem. Once I settled into a philosophy that felt natural for our family I was ale to find activities and groups that complimented our learning. And of course, I have to give a little credit to the fact that we're now living in the city of Austin with all its Keep Austin Weird quirkiness. Even if you do end up spending more time on your own than you'd prefer, the time you and your kiddos spend together is meaningful as well. Although...well, that's for tomorrow.