I am a homeschool mom, and my kids definitely have a friend dilemma. As in, currently my daughter can’t figure out how to narrow down her list of 40+ friends she wants to invite to her birthday party! That’s not including their siblings, parents, etc. We have some serious negotiating to do.
The idea that homeschoolers in general have a hard time making friends is a total myth. On the flip-side, the idea that kids in traditional public/private schools are guaranteed to make friends is also a myth. It is not black and white, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to schooling or friendships. So I’m hoping that this post helps shed some light on this subject for anyone who may be concerned for their own kids, others’ kids, or is just curious about how homeschoolers make friends.
Myth #1 – It’s Difficult for Children That Homeschool to Make Friends
For us, we are very fortunate to live in an area with a large homeschool community and an abundance of homeschool activities. My kids are around other homeschoolers a LOT. Sometimes it feels like we are constantly running to and from classes, meetups, field trips, or some sort of hands-on learning experience with other homeschoolers. They have made several homeschool friends that we see on a consistent basis. And yet, most of their friends are not homeschoolers. Why?…
Because Friends are Not Limited to Schoolmates
My kids’ best buddies are a mix of kids from different places – church, extracurricular activities, our neighborhood, etc. So although they do have their homeschool friends, they are not limited to just those friends. And they shouldn’t be.
Kids Should Have a Variety of Friends from Different Backgrounds
In my humble opinion, kids need to be around kids from other backgrounds. For homeschoolers to only be around homeschoolers, or for public or private school kids to only be around their classmates, it closes them off from understanding that there is a whole world outside of the one they live in.
Myth #2 – Kids in Traditional Public/Private Schools are Guaranteed to Make Friends
Don’t get me wrong, of course there are many kids who go to traditional schools that make lifelong friends and have positive experiences.
But there are others who just don’t.
I’ve talked to many parents who’ve actually pulled their kids out of school to homeschool them as a result of their child’s experience with bullying. It’s heartbreaking, and I can’t imagine what it must feel like for a parent to have to do that. We see news stories all the time anymore about kids at younger and younger ages taking their lives after spending years getting bullied. Granted, I do believe this is an exception, not the norm, but those are severe cases of what many more children are experiencing with loneliness and/or bullying. Point being, kids are not guaranteed friends or a positive experience by attending traditional public/private schools. So the assumption that homeschooled children are deprived of that guarantee is completely false.
Education and Relationships Start at Home
Regardless of where our children go to school, it is our job as parents to nurture, support, and encourage them in their education, as well as how they relate to people around them. We need to teach them empathy and kindness, as well as resilience in difficult times. They should be taught to treat others the way they would like to be treated, regardless of their environment. In order to have friends, you need to be a good friend. And that is something that I hope my kids learn early on.
Creating a Positive Environment
One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that you have more control over the types of influences that your kids are surrounded by. You can choose the activities and groups they participate in, and if things aren’t going well, you can change them. The community we have discovered is amazing and supportive, and honestly we have never had any issues that have required us to make any drastic changes. Within the homeschool community, I have met parents on both very similar and very different journeys as ours, but who all seem to have the main central focus – ensuring their children receive the education and community involvement they need in a supportive and thriving environment. Being surrounded by many other homeschool families also provides parents with the support and encouragement we all need. So in addition to the kids’ friendships, you also get fellow parent friendships. Win-win!
Homeschool Means Community, Not Isolation
Contrary to some beliefs, homeschool does not mean sitting at home alone all the time. It means getting involved in a community of like-minded families. It means support and friendship, not only for the kids, but also for the parents. It may take some time to find your groove if you’re new to it, especially if traditional schooling is all you’ve ever known (like me), but there is a whole world of other families who have been through it and are willing to support you along the way.
Not sure where to start? If you live in the SRQ area, feel free to comment and I’ll get back to you. If not, Facebook groups are a great way to connect with the homeschool community in your area. Find one and reach out! You’re likely to find a community ready with open arms to help you along the way.
Click here for a great clip from Gayle Guyardo on WFLA News Channel 8 about homeschooling in the Tampa Bay Area!