Most problems of homeschoolers are not homeschooling problems

We live a mile from the nearest house and two miles from the nearest kid to play with. And I think his mom has banned her kid from playing with my kid. Maybe because of my blog, I’m not sure. But suffice it to say, the closest thing we have to playmates around here are the neighbor’s puppies.

So I joined a homeschooling group in my area: rural, southwest Wisconsin. I was so excited to find people for my kids to grow up with. I signed up for the email list. The third email I received was someone asking for everyone to pray for a family member. For improved health, or something.

I think I will need prayers to help me not offend my best chances at finding kids for my kids to befriend.

When I started homeschooling, people told me, “The friends will come. Don’t worry.”

But we have had a really hard time making friends. What I’ve noticed is that when kids are young, like mine, the friends are very much a function of whether the moms like to hang out together. It is about if the moms like to do the same things, on roughly the same schedule.

So our friends problem is probably not related to homeschooling. It’s probably that I don’t have friends in my own life, so it’s going to be pretty difficult for me to change that for my kids’ lives. I’m trying, but it’s not working. And the only thing that consoles me is that it’s a problem, but not a homeschooling problem.

It’s easy to blame things on homeschooling because the feedback from the world is that kids who go to traditional school are doing things right and kids being homeschooled are dealing with unnecessary problems.

I do a lot of career coaching, and so often someone sets up an appointment with me to talk about jobs, but really, their problem is something else. You can’t get to that something else, though, until you get clarity that it’s not the job. So our constant discussion about homeschooling is important to me – it allows me to see which of my problems is my problem really.

34 replies
  1. Karen Loethen
    Karen Loethen says:

    Very, very true. It took me awhile to admit it, because of not wanting to alert the nay-sayers, but we are kind of lonely too. It is not because we homeschool, though, it is because our neighborhood has an absolute kid vacuum.
    We moved, just this month, down to Australia. And, guess what. FRIENDS. This place is crawling with them.
    So, I can say, beyond a shadow of doubt, it is NOT about homeschooling.

    Also, as a kid, I was quite shy and reserve. Therefore, I didn’t have any friends. And I went to a public school.

    Homeschoolers seem to feel the burden of having to explain this. So, here is my explanation.

    Peace, Karen

  2. Bec Oakley
    Bec Oakley says:

    Wow. Did you steal this from my brain while I wasn’t looking? It’s possible, the security isn’t very good up there.

    This is exactly me. When my kids were little I tried so. damn. hard. to make friends with the other parents for exactly that reason. It was exhausting for me (because I suck at it) and you know what? It made no difference. My son spent ten years at school without making a single friend. And I wonder all the time whether I could’ve done something to change that. Whether I tried hard enough.

    The thing that made me decide to homeschool was realising that of all the challenges we had, school was the biggest. Now that it’s out of the equation and it’s so clear that our lives are a zillion times better, I don’t feel the need to distinguish between homeschool problems and other problems. They’re all just things that need solutions.

  3. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    You are spot on with this post.
    My observation is we are actually less social as a society than we were say 30 or more years ago. The reasons are numerous and I’m not even taking into account homeschooled vs. schooled.

  4. Bird
    Bird says:

    Worth adding to your Blueprint for a Woman’s Life: don’t just pick a spouse. Pick a spouse who is part of a group of friends you like and trust, and then have your kids at around the same time.

    I did this; it was a much better life move than law school (which I also did.) We started cooperatively homeschooling this week. I think the long term relationships the kids are having are more important than anything else we do for them.

    Now, if I could figure out how to make a little $ being a badass book blogger, I would be set. Thanks for the great post.

    • Daniel Baskin
      Daniel Baskin says:

      That sounds just peachy for you, and I’m glad it worked out that way, but not everyone has, or should have, that same outlook. My wife is a horrible socialite. Worse than me, and I’m an INTP. I wouldn’t trade anything, especially social connections (as important as they are to personal life and career), to have another spouse. I’m sure your advice is just what some people of similar personalities to yours need to hear, however.

  5. Alison
    Alison says:

    Sometimes I resent that a part of my “job” as a homeschooler is to make small talk with other parents so my kids can play with their friends. I often think of a post from your career blog, about how having a good friend at work makes your job more enjoyable. This rings true for homeschooling parents too.

    Weekly classes with other homeschoolers is what helped us (me) find real friends. The kids get spend a few hours each week with the spawn of like-minded parents, small talk with said parents before or after class is optional. (some days I feel social, some days I don’t).

    Find the other loners. I look for the moms who aren’t talking with anyone/everyone. They’re the ones who are proving to be my perfect homeschooling friends.

  6. toastedtofu
    toastedtofu says:

    Whenever I got asked to go to a friend’s house for a sleepover or whatever, my parents would always send things with me for the parents – wine, money, casseroles, farm eggs. They were basically making it more appealing to have me invited to someone else’s house, instead of parents sending their kids to my house.

  7. Lynn Lawrence
    Lynn Lawrence says:

    we moved to our ranch about 11 years ago.

    I only found one or two homeshool families who were like-minded, and it took years. Thr rest had political or religious or social agendas which completely overshadowed their vision for learning.

    Add that to the three or so non-homeschooling families that were a fit for us, and it’s been a pretty small group of friends. One son is very social, and even though we also live rurally at least one mile from the neighbors, it was like certain kids had the ability to drop from the sky.

    • Lynn Lawrence
      Lynn Lawrence says:

      we did a lot of things as a family, including travel, we learned to sail. I wondered what the result would be from what would be greatly perceived as a lack of friends. WHat I am noticing now is that my kids carefully consider their peers’ ideas before embracing them. I am seeing some real positives from this, namely the ability for them to stand on their own. there were always interesting things to do which ameliorated the loneliness. the past three years, my kids have been in private school, and have been choosing very wisely, I think.

  8. Debt Free Teen
    Debt Free Teen says:

    I had a few friends that were tied to activities I did. I would agree that we did things with other families because the moms were friends. This was fine for me.

    What I have noticed now that I’m in college is that I have several friend groups that I am involved with, where my public school friends only hang out with people based on having attended the same high school or church.

    My older brother used to play legos or star wars all the time up until high school. My mom always wanted him to have friends over but he wasn’t interested. She was worried about him not having enough friends.

    Then in high school, he started making friends everywhere! He’s now at college and super social and on student government and everything. He’s an introvert that loves people for sure!

    I think parents stress about this issue too much.

  9. Darlene
    Darlene says:

    Homeschool, moms groups, the whole nine – FINDING YOUR TRIBE seems to be a life long pursuit. I still haven’t found them yet, but I know they are there. I see glimpses of them on the internet from time to time. I only wish they all lived in my neighborhood!

  10. Taylor
    Taylor says:

    Penelope- I think you should sign your kids up for a group activity closer to home. I know you drive a lot to go to the best activities available and that you also love private lessons. I am homeschooling my six year old. Her little sister, who is deaf, attends a hearing school every day. So there is a lot of running around for the little one, back and forth to school which affects the time we could be using for playdates or friendships for my oldest. To compensate, she does three activities a week. And she always makes one or two friends in her activity each session. And they are real friends. Maybe not in the sense that our families are going to get together every weekend. But they are kids she gets along with and looks forward to seeing. She feels like she has friends. And as a result, she is okay with how much time she actually spends with me, which is most of the time. Just an idea…

  11. Kris Gumm
    Kris Gumm says:

    Having childish friends isn’t a necessity. It is more important to be a friend to whomever you meet, then a true friend(s) will emerge.

  12. Marilia
    Marilia says:

    I just sent my girl back to school so that she can make friends! We too live away from town and I was trying to meet up with more kids and their moms, but like you said, it depends more on the mom´s will to do it for younger kids, and since most kids are in school (in my town all of them, I wish I could join a nearby homeschooling group, but there simply isn´t any) , their moms have a quite restricted schedule to meet up.

    At least, here in our town, the school goes for 4 hours a day (and not more) and I can send my girl a bit late and miss some days, to compensate my will of having her away from too much school stuff. My plan is to have her there for the next 3 months, before school ends and hopefuly, we will have more kids to meet and invite over to our house.

    Being just the two of us most of the time (I´m a single mom to a single child), it was a bit crazy too. It didn´t seem better than sending her to school for a few hours a day.

    It´s tough making these decisions!

  13. Helen
    Helen says:

    I have gotten comfortable with the fact that most of my children’s friends are in school. For a long time I thought that it was important for my kids to have friends who were homeschooled. But for some reason I have never clicked with the other homeschool parents.

  14. Susan
    Susan says:

    So why don’t you start a homeschool group for like-minded families? I have a baby and am in a new city, so forced myself to go to Mom’s groups through Meetup (dot) com in my area. Sometimes it sucked. But eventually I found fantastic, like-minded women and now we just do our own thing.

    It’s rural Wisconsin, but I bet you could find at least 2 or 3 other families who either have similar interests or feel alienated by the other group you described.

  15. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    I understand that you just want SOMEONE for your kids to be able to spend more time with, but parent-to-parent chemistry actually can be a good indicator of whose children would make good peers for your children (or at least might share similar passed-down values). It may be difficult finding parent-friends who “get” you. I don’t have advice about that. Then again, I don’t know if any of this matters.

  16. CJ
    CJ says:

    Our dear friends in rural Oregon have two beautiful loving children and they have the same difficulty: other kids are very far….and my girlfriend is very lonely for herself and the kids. Where I live we are spoiled, there is a lot a lot of HSrs and every type and reason. There are some very mixed large groups (non sec, religious, HS with curric, Unschoolers). And lots of small, more specific minded groups. As an adult/selfishly, I wish we lived back in a rural quiet area in the PNW, but you make me appreciate even more all the resources here in the NE for my kids. And, I have benefited too because the other parents in the smaller group we joined are interested in our lifestyle too (clean food, environment, love and peace), so we even luckily have something to talk about as parents. I wish I could transplant some of resources to them (and you!) and it reminds me of yet another big thing to be grateful for today.

  17. Amy
    Amy says:

    This post is so right on. We’ve been struggling with the same issue here. Although we are lucky to have a larger community of unschoolers, it’s tricky for me. There are moms that I have nothing in common with, that I sometimes find offensive, but I spend time with them because our kids really enjoy each other.

    It is an absolute drain on my energy! The “friendships will develop magically” theory has not been true in our case. It has taken a tremendous amount of effort.

    I was a public school mom for 4 years and the same situation exists, the difference is that I didn’t feel personally responsible for my daughter’s social life.

  18. thisoldthing
    thisoldthing says:

    I’m an INFJ, and I’ve homeschooled my kids from the ground up. One of the most exhausting parts of the whole thing is trying to be consistent with friend-making. Sometimes I host sleepovers and the like, but it literally sets me back for a week.

  19. Naima van Swol
    Naima van Swol says:

    I love this post because I don’t have any friends in real life, either. I want to “like” it on Facebook so I can share it with my fake Internet friends. But you don’t have a facebook like button.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      Naima, the Facebook like button is available in a row with other buttons just above the photo. My guess is you don’t see it in your browser because you have an extension enabled in your browser which blocks it (ex. – Do Not Track Plus or similar extension which blocks ads, social media buttons, etc.).

  20. MoniqueWS
    MoniqueWS says:

    I am a very social animal – ENTP/J. I like to call my MB personality the used car salesman. We like to chat and can shmooze about almost anything and like to help folks make connections. I also live in a town of 50,000 people with a university in it (then out population is about 75K).

    My kids have friends. I have friends. Sometimes the parents of my kids are my friends but often not. I do have many friends who are no where geographically near to me but emotionally about as close as it gets for me.

    I volunteer at the swim team, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Junior Roller Derby, with pregnant and parenting teens. Many of these young people are friends too.

    I think making, having, keeping friends is a lot of work – often fun work but a lot of work. We all don’t have it in is, make time/energy for it. It is OK.

  21. CB
    CB says:

    Similarly, when I began homeschooling, I joined a local group that was advertised as non-discriminating of race religion etc etc etc. Unfortunately I learned most members weren’t keen on their kids playing with my kids (we are Episcopalians and this is the southern bible belt). Frankly, we don’t miss this group as I didn’t exactly enjoy their company either. It was a relief to move on. Four years later, we have developed a wonderful close-knit local group of friends that homeschool. We maintain some of our former school friends, but that group grows smaller as time goes on and the children grow apart.

  22. Crimson Wife
    Crimson Wife says:

    You may have more luck with the local Attachment Parenting group. The AP group in my neck of the woods definitely has more secular “unschoolers” than the local inclusive HS group.

  23. Niecie
    Niecie says:

    Ahhhhhh…this is TOTALLY an issue of mine, but my real problem is that I am 100%…grade A, INTROVERT. I have LITERALLY groaned under my breath when either of my 2 boys makes a new little friend, and starts the relentless begging for play dates and sleepover requests (usually right in front of the kid or their mother). I cringe! That means I have to becomes friends with the mom and they will want to come over and inside when she drops the kid off ( I ALWAYS have the “new friend” to our house….every time instead of ever going to their house) Arrrrrgggggg!!!! How pitiful being an introvert (and a very anxious type person in general) is. I find it VERY hard to consider the prospect of unschooling (which is 100% in my heart), knowing that I am suppose to be facilitating all of these learning opportunities and wonderful outings. An empty park, all to ourselves is heaven to me (sitting peacefully on a bench with a magazine and a warm drink)…probably not so great for the boys……right??????? I worry about it CONSTANTLY !!!!!!!!! (Just 1 more piece of my Unschooling FEAR).

  24. Erin
    Erin says:

    Just like “Mommy & Me” didn’t net me any friends (bearing children wasn’t enough in common), “Homeschool Mom” isn’t enough, either (bearing children and not finding public schools satisfying wasn’t enough either). I used to feel guilty about it, but now I accept that it is not my nature to have a wide circle of friends. Both my husband I are homebodies. Why would I think my children would have different natures? Now that my kids are teenagers (or older), I find that they are discerning about who they choose to spend time with and what they choose to do. Just because someone is 16, doesn’t mean my son wants to spend time with that person. Remember, schooling is the only time in life that we divide people strictly by age. In everything else, we are joined by interests.

  25. Diane
    Diane says:

    I feel so much less weird reading the comments! I like other people, just not a lot of desire to become best friends with any of them. My two boys make friends where ever they go and I’m glad. My daughter on the other hand, struggles. She badly wants friends but it just isn’t as easy for her. I’ve spent so much time feeling guilty because I know that if I were more social, she would have an easier time. I’d do anything to help her, I just am clueless in this area. We moved recently and my daughter has made one really good friend which I think is awesome but to her its not enough. This issue just exhausts me.

  26. bearsmom
    bearsmom says:

    I can’t even describe how painful this issue is with my family. As stupid and crazy as it seems, and it may be because we are in a “small” town, I feel like I’m trying to fit in with the “homeschool” Jones. Our family, the four of us, have a great time together. Why, oh why, are we so gungho on making friendships that, for a “minute” are fun, but go to pot if someone isn’t happy. My daughter has a “friend” that we see at a small park group that won’t talk to her. The sick thing is that her entire family, who we have been friends with, won’t talk to us. I’m literally seeing before my eyes a public school homeschooler. I know, how naive to think that homeschoolers are better behaved and more kind than others. Isn’t that what all the books, blogs, stories, etc. tell us? You are right. It isn’t homeschooling at all. People can just be so plain weird in one way or another. I’m glad to know our family isn’t the only ones having a tough time making quality friendships outside our immediate family. But, I’m sad to know our family isn’t the only ones having a tough time making quality friendships outside our immediate family. Thank you for writing this. Though I feel incredible lonely, at least I know I’m not alone.

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