I do a lot of career coaching for people making the transition from college to adulthood — the transition from being told what to learn to becoming a self-learner. It’s also when people begin to notice that there is very little correlation between how well you do in school and how well you do at work.
A difficulty many people have when making this transition is making new friends. In school, friends are a function of proximity (the social psychology term for this relationship is propinquity.) If you put kids in a classroom and then tell them they have to wait for recess, they have to be quiet for math, they have to line up, and so on, then the kids have shared problems: how to get through stuff that they don’t like.
The same is true of college: Kids are in a dorm spending most of their time not doing homework. They are hanging out together.
Then comes adult life with new cities for new jobs and they have no idea how to make a friend that is based on interests rather than proximity. They have no idea how to make a friend by appointment. But that is actually how people have friends in adult life. Which is most of their life.
So how homeschooled kids make friends is how people make friends in the real world: by common interest. First you have to identify your interests and then you have to identify someone who shares those interests. And then you do that special thing with that person. It’s fun and lucky if you can do a wide range of other things with that person as well. That is part of the process of discovering each other.
So here is a list of three ways kids develop friendships in homeschool:
1. Parents use the language of friendship. The term socialization is what people use for school, to mean teaching kids to be like everyone else. In homeschool parents use language about self-directed learning, which teaches kids to bond over the things that make them special rather than the same.
2. Kids make learning social when they homeschool. Self-directed learning often involves other kids. If you choose what you do for learning, and you love collaborating with other kids, then you’ll choose to learn with kids. This is actually the opposite of what school is, which is 30 kids learning in a room so it’s inherently non-social and more like a factory.
3. Parents first teach kids to find an interest. My son loves dancing. It’s very easy to make a friends with kids who adore being on stage as much as he does. My other son is playing Minecraft every day with his friend in Pakistan. He has never met this boy, but they have a shared goal that they work toward each day, which is the high-quality type of friendship people yearn for as adults.