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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

When Homeschooling Feels Lonely

When Homeschooling Feels Lonely-One Mom's Story

Written by Jessica.

Homeschooling is so common these days that it seems like everyone knows someone who homeschools, used to homeschool, or who’s thinking about doing it. There are more curriculum choices and online resources than a homeschooler could use in a lifetime. School districts and homeschooling laws have become friendlier. There are homeschool co-ops and classes popping up everywhere. Many homeschoolers say that it’s so easy to find activities and to connect with other homeschooling families that there’s not enough time to fit it all in.

But, that isn’t true for everyone. Sometimes homeschooling can feel lonely.


When Homeschooling Feels Lonely-One Mother's Story

Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash

The Best Laid Plans


When my husband and I bought our house several years before starting a family, we figured it would be a starter home, nothing more. We bought it intentionally, knowing that we would be able to afford it on one income. We also purposefully lived with just one vehicle. We thought we were doing everything right and had big plans. We were going to fix the house up, sell it, and use the money earned from its transformation to move onto something better-suited for the long term. Trouble was, the housing bubble burst at just the wrong time. Then we got slammed by one costly vehicle, appliance, medical, and house-related issue after another – for years. And three attempts at selling our house and trying to buy another – all fell through.

And so, we stayed put – for thirteen years. All fixed up, the starter house became home. It is cozy, adequate for our needs, and most importantly: it enabled me to give up my teaching career and stay home with our children. We were, and still are, deeply grateful for our home. But it isn’t without its drawbacks. Our greatest challenge is its location in a rural and economically depressed area. It was okay when we were a young couple commuting an hour to work each day, running our errands then, and socializing with colleagues. But when I became a stay-at-home mama out in the sticks, with no car during the week, we felt the limitations of our location.

When Homeschooling Feels Lonely

Community


Those early years were a happy blur of carrying, nursing, and caring for my small children. I was filled with joy and contentment, living my dream of being a stay at home mama and loving it. The workdays were long because my husband was doing close to a two-hour round-trip commute. For a period of time, he also worked two jobs a couple of evenings a week and one day on the weekends. During that time we were both in full time care-giver mode, constantly caring for each other and our little ones, and unable to invest in other relationships outside of our own family and our extended families. Superficial friendships fizzled. We were happy and fulfilled, but tired and busy.

Because of having just the one vehicle, the kids and I were stuck at home every day. We missed out on things during those years like story hours at the library, mom and tots playgroups, and Bible studies for young mothers. We were content with just each other, so it didn’t matter much, but we did miss a window for forming relationships with like-minded families in the early years of being a young family.

Fellowship was something that my husband and I were already lacking in our lives anyway. As a young married couple we fell away from church completely. After almost a decade we found our way back. Our values, interests, and the types of people that we now wanted to be around had changed a lot, but we found it was difficult to make new friends as adults. Further complicating matters, we returned to Christianity via a denomination neither of us had grown up in. We soon realized that we had made a major theological mistake and found ourselves humbled and lacking confidence as we tried to find a different church community. We had our amazing extended family and were deeply grateful for their companionship and support, but we were lacking fellowship with other young families like our own.


Homeschooling Connections


When we started homeschooling, we felt an even greater urgency to find fellowship. We hoped that finding connections in the homeschooling community through a co-op would be the way to go. But the challenges and obstacles continued.

We live in one of the most regulated and difficult states for homeschooling. Despite this, there are still lots of active homeschool areas – but in pockets, and not close by. The nearest vibrant, thriving homeschool area? Several hours away. The next closest area, with less to offer but still an improvement from our own? An hour and a half away. And in our immediate area? Not much. The few co-ops less than an hour’s drive away are specifically secular, linked to denominations that we don’t belong to, or use methods that we don’t.

Forging homeschool connections has been a lot harder than we anticipated.

When Homeschooling Feels Lonely

What’s a Homeschooler to Do?


Your circumstances aren’t the same as ours, but perhaps you find yourself in a similar place.

Maybe your family just moved to a new area.

Maybe you’ve encountered cliques, or just felt unwelcome in the homeschool groups that you’ve tried.

Maybe your kids have been bullied or excluded in your local homeschool group.

Maybe the needs of one or more of your children make it difficult for you to participate in a co-op.

Maybe you haven’t found a homeschool co-op because you don’t go to a certain church, use a certain curriculum, or teach with certain methods.

Whatever the reasons, here are a few ideas to try as you seek to find homeschooling companionship:

The YMCA

There are several YMCA branches within an hour and a half’s drive from us that offer homeschooling classes. Some of the branches offer specific ones (ex. swimming lessons), while others offer general PE type classes. Our children are currently trying a class at one of the branches. YMCA classes are often offered for short sessions of X number of weeks, so you can easily try things out.

Dance, Gymnastics, Arts and Crafts, and Martial Arts Studios

Check out your local studios and see if they have any homeschool classes listed. Our oldest attended a Christian homeschool ballet class last year, and it was a wonderful experience. It was an hour’s drive, but it was worth it. Unfortunately the studio moved even further away and eliminated the homeschool class, but it was a huge blessing last year.

Children’s Museums/Aquariums/Historic Sites

Visit your local attractions, if you have any. Often times, if there is sufficient interest from the community, these types of places offer a special “Homeschool Day” for homeschoolers to take field trips to. These are usually just a once a year event, but you might be fortunate and find one that does monthly classes. We have a couple of places like this is our area.

Nature and Audubon Centers/State Parks

Don't forget about your local nature resources. Again, if there is sufficient interest from the community, sometimes nature centers and state parks offer organized classes or nature hikes specifically for homeschoolers.

Rec Sports and Other Lessons Not Specific to Homeschoolers

These options facilitate ways for your kids to be around and interact with other kids. They may not generate the same kind of interactions as going to a weekly homeschool co-op would, but it’s something. We’ve had our kids try out swimming lessons and rec soccer, and both sports gave them some new experiences to try, if nothing else.

Some of these options are better than others. In some cases, your kids might just take lessons or do sports parallel to other kids doing the same, without any meaningful interactions or lasting friendships actually coming from the experiences. In some cases, having your kids take lessons or do sports with unfamiliar teachers or coaches is not ideal. But, they’re still opportunities for you and your child(ren) to meet other families.

When Homeschooling Feels Lonely

The Hard Truth


Homeschooling isn’t easy. Homeschooling without the support and fellowship of other homeschoolers is extra hard.

It has been one of the greatest desires of my heart for many years now to find a homeschool community for our family. We all need a group of like-minded friends to share life and the homeschooling journey with. I don’t understand what the plan or purpose is for our family in going through this desert experience for so long.

If you’re feeling isolated in your homeschooling journey, please know that you’re not alone. Although no one wants to admit it, many homeschooling families struggle with this, even if just for a season. Goodness, even families who send their kids to public schools have similar experiences!

It hurts to say the same prayers again and again and not have them answered the way we’d like, to not know the big picture, and to feel alone. If you are walking through a similar season in your homeschooling journey, please remember that we have a good, good Father who works all things for our good, according to His purposes. Keep pressing on, knowing that this might well become part of your family’s faith-story! And if you’re a homeschooler who is already blessed with a strong homeschooling community, please be intentional about reaching out to those families that you encounter who are seeking one.


Teach Them Diligently 2018

11 comments:

  1. This is so honest and heart felt! I pray that you and your family find the home school community and friendships that you are searching for. Another great post, thank you!

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  2. Thank you. I am in a similar situation...glad to know I am not alone.

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    1. Not alone at all! Just knowing that there are other families in similar situations can encourage us as we press on through the hard.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your situation. We also live in a small rural area and drive many miles for co-op and activities. My husband also has a two hour round trip to work everyday. We've grown to love our small town but it does require extra creativity and a willingness to drive far distances to participate in what might be more readily accessible in larger cities. I think what you said about reaching out to others who are looking for homeschool community is important. Not everyone who comes to our co-op thinks it's a fit for their family but I try to reach out as a fellow homeschooling parent anyway. There's no reason a difference in educational philosophy, religion, family make up etc should be a reason I loose an opportunity of making a new friend.

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  4. Thank you for taking the time to share your story and perspective with the readers here as well. It's reassuring to know that we're not the only ones facing these kinds of challenges. Yes - creativity, willingness to travel distances, and bravery/resilience in reaching out to others to try to find community are all a big part of making homeschooling work in a rural, or other isolated, area.

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  5. I can only imagine how it would feel to be isolated by such great distances from others... My heart just aches to know there are families just like mine... In the daily grind... But are lonely. Sending you a hug from our whole family to yours and prayers for Jesus to strengthen you through the drought until He brings the rain. I wonder... Would a Skype or face time session once a week be helpful? Perhaps with another Homeschooling mama friend you already currently have... for something like geography or arts and crafts?? Maybe on the TV so the screen is really big? I know a family that lives on a farm and when the weather is bad and the roads are impassable she does this with her best friend's kids for history (I think?). Then they all eat lunch "together" and the duel TVs and webcams sit at the kitchen table!! Not conventional and takes some set up each week but... Might be fun!!

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    1. That's a great idea, Krista! My kids actually use Glide on my phone to chat with their friends who moved to another state and who haven't made strong homeschooling connections yet. It's like video messaging and can be watched and responded to at the person's convenience so that neither of our households get disrupted.

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    2. Thank you so much for the prayers and 'hug,' Krista! I so appreciate them. I had never thought of using Skype, etc. to connect with other homeschooling families. We use it for "seeing" our family that lives far away, so that is a really good idea. Thank you!

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  6. We also live in one of the most regulated states and it aggravates me deeply that we can't access ANYTHING that the public school offers. Things such as band, art, extended school day (after school clubs), etc.

    We are in a rural community with very few options and traveling over an hour for activities isn't feasible.

    It's frustrating and lonely.

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