Signs of an un-socialized homeschool mom:
- You only wear make-up once a week to church
- You wear the same clothes days at a time
- You have a dazed expression on your face by 3pm
- You stare blankly in response to “What was the highlight of your day?”
- You don’t even try to keep children out of the bathroom while you are using it
- You eat most meals standing at the counter, perhaps even while breastfeeding
- You need to look at your ‘to do list’ to figure out what you should be doing next
- You use words like ‘poopy’, ‘yucky’, ‘booboo’, etc.
- You find yourself counting to 3 out loud incessantly
Although I am poking a little fun at the homeschool mother of young children, I am also identifying with her need for social interaction. I remember feeling lonely during those early years of homeschooling because the children were so much more demanding of my time. The few interactions with neighbors and evenings with my equally tired husband were the only adult conversations I had. Before the children were school age I recall going out of my way to make play dates for them with other children, and when we began to homeschool I continued to put effort into giving them opportunities to meet and socialize with other children their ages – storytime at the library, fieldtrips, homeschool physical education, gymnastics, ballet, baseball, etc. were a part of our routine. Nevertheless, I had very few in-depth conversations with women. I remember dealing with envy when I overheard women discussing lunch or tennis plans together ‘while the kids were in school.’
The answer to my loneliness came from the very likeliest of places – my homeschool support group. We met only one evening a month to plan, share, and pray in a moms-only format. Even though I am extroverted by nature, the level of intimidation I felt first joining the group of experienced homeschoolers made it difficult for me to share openly. But there were a few women who were transparent with their own personal failures and victories and who were sensitive enough to approach me. This soon became a safe place to be vulnerable about my own needs and questions. Those evenings soon became the balm to my soul and the encouragement to help me persevere day to day. It is comforting to know that there are others who struggle with the same things we do.
I also found that in order to develop deeper relationships for me and my children, we would have to make the first move. It took courage, but I sought out families with children the ages of my own who were interested in teaching some subjects together (co-op). Not only did these weekly classes together bring us closer to families in our support group, they also lessened the workload and provided room for more creativity. I soon realized that doing creative writing with a mom who loved lap-books for instance, gave my children an opportunity to make something wonderful and messy (I don’t like mess). In another cooperative teaching effort, a friend of mine taught art to the older children and I read stories and played games with the younger ones. All through the elementary and even the high school years we did some part of our school with other families. Beyond socializing, these classes provided healthy competition, opportunities for group presentations, debates, political elections, labs, book clubs, etc.
I have only one child left at home today in her final year of high school. I am finding that I now have the time for lunches with friends that I once longed for, but I would not give up the riches of the years spent with my children and the families that became my extended family for any afternoon off on the tennis court.