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LauraClark

Finding community for your children

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How do you find a community of friends for your children?  The academic side of homeschooling seems to be going fine, but my kids (boys ages 3, 6, 8) really enjoy being around other kids and I am struggling to make that happen.  Last year I just tried to do as many play dates as possible (I'd say we have 6 solid homeschool families we are friends with), but that was exhausting on me.  I also signed them up at our local YMCA for a swimming/gym class, but they made 0 friends there (they are naturally pretty social and outgoing).  This year we decided to join a co-op which meets every other week.  It started in August and both my kids and I have made 0 friends.  We live in a pretty rural area.  We attend a church and they have made some friends there and we still try to do play dates periodically, but I know they would like more.  I don't really know what I'm looking for, but the co-op does not seem to be the answer.  There's too much structure, maybe?  Maybe the co-op we joined is just unfriendly?  I just want my kids to get together with other kids and play.  I feel like no one else wants that - every one has signed their kids up for some kind of co-op or other program.  I feel very lonely in this position.  I'd love someone to commiserate with me or offer suggestions!  There's another co-op that is a little closer to our house (but meets every week) - would it be a mistake to try that one?  I tried to start my own thing last year of just meeting at a park every other week - several people showed up at first, then it fizzled out and my kids were the only ones attending.

On a separate/related issue: when I was thinking about doing co-op again next year I got kind of excited about possibly teaching some classes (specifically a beginning Koine Greek class and a folk dancing class).  If we're not involved in a co-op would it be possible for that to happen or should I let that dream die for now?  I think I'm looking for a way to feel useful too (to people other than my family - ha!).  Thanks - I know this is pretty rambly, but hopefully someone out there has been through this and can offer some ideas or encouragement!

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Hmm, it sounds like you're trying all the usual things. 

Are you still catching up with those 6 homeschool family friends? How well did the families get on? Were you similar in your family philosophies/homeschool goals? Or is the fortnightly co-op and church the only current social time they're getting? August to now isn't really that long to make friends - if it's fortnightly, has it only been 6/7/8 sessions? - especially if the time is super structured. 

Are you quite extroverted or looking for community for yourself too?

What I did/do is cultivate friendships with the like minded families, I prioritised them in my time budget. Quality over quantity. If you want to teach those subjects, even one family is enough. Do any of them want to learn Greek too?

But yes, it's a constant juggle. My kids would always like more time with their friends but reality has to be understood! We are also fairly rural, we have 2 homeschool groups now, each is fortnightly (on opposite weeks) - 1 is more older kids, unstructured and support for me. The other is more co-op like and younger kids, but I run it so I only do exactly what I want to do. As they get older it takes care of itself a little more, they grow closer with their own friends and can chat/visit without it being a big family deal.

But really, it is okay to just be with family/siblings for a good portion of your time. Down time and family time are important too, they have their whole lives to work on friendships. Don't fall into the trap of romanticizing childhood friendships, focus on what you do have. It sounds to me like you're doing great!

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Thank you, LMD - those are all good points.  It has been only 6 sessions, I guess I just hoped my kids would have made some friends at this point.  I've tried to get to know some of the moms too, but it has been a struggle (I'd say I'm more introverted, but I really put myself out there when meeting new people).  But, maybe I just haven't given it enough time.

Yes, we're still trying to prioritize the 6 family friends we have.  It has gotten more difficult now that we have this co-op commitment every other week.  I guess maybe I have unrealistic expectations of getting together more often...which really isn't something I have time for either.  I want the best of both worlds - lots of time for academics and lots of time for friends - ha!

Thank you for the reminder of romanticizing childhood friendships - very true, I'm not in contact with any of my childhood friends but have made some great and close adult friends.

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I agree with LMD that sometimes it takes time and that many people stress about friendships for their young kids without a whole lot of good reasons to do so.

I would also say that it's rarely successful to form real, lasting friendships when you join an activity specifically so your kids can make friends there. Proximity and forced togetherness =/= relationship. However, whenever we choose activities based on what my kids are interested in and we make a commitment to keep that activity going and invest our time in it, then I often find that my kids make friends naturally and organically.

Edited by Momto6inIN
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What if you set aside one afternoon a week and just planned to get together with one or more of the six homeschool families? You wouldn’t always have to host, you could meet at a park or museum or something. But in your mind and schedule, just plan on trying to always have something planned with at least one other family for that afternoon.

My son was an only, so I often found myself in the position of volunteering to take other people’s kids (he was friends with lots of sibling groups) for part of a day and eventually them asking me to do it fairly often. Sometimes I felt a bit used by the situation, but it was great socially for my son, so I continued to do it. And usually they just played nicely together and I was able to get other stuff done, so it really wasn’t much extra work. We were fortunate to have many friends who had no problem with kids, especially those as young as yours, playing for a good chunk of the day. It’s tough, though, if you can’t find like minded families.

 

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My kids and I joined a couple of other families for a fortnightly Story of the World co op three years ago.  It was a great decision academically and I "clicked" really well with one of the other mothers in particular, so we have kept it up.  I just wanted to encourage you that now our kids are great friends and catch up for fun outside co-op as well, but it probably took most of a year for them to get that way.  The co op activities were the focus and gave us a reason to keep meeting regularly, and over time they slowly warmed up to each other.  Hoping along with you that as you continue to invest in relationships wherever you can find them, some will begin to sparkle even if they didn't seem too promising at first 🙂

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Patience, time, and exposure.  You may not make close friends at co-op this year, but you'll make acquaintances.   And you'll keep strengthening some of those bonds over the years. 

Funny story: we moved here a few years back and I signed up my kid for a weekly summer program.  He and another kid who had just moved here gravitated toward each other and toward the end of the program I started getting to know his mom better, chatting about our moves and kid stuff.  We both moved from pretty awful places but she really missed her old community.  Anyhow, the relationship fizzled flat when we talked about the fall and she was aghast at our decision to homeschool. "Why would you do that to a kid??"  So, uh, I decided it was not in our best interest to keep trying to get the kids together after this activity and I'm quite certain she was more than in agreement on that decision.

My kid has made a lot of friends over the past few years, mostly either out of commiseration (he and another older learner hating swim lessons) or team building activities where they have to work together to accomplish goals.  This year he joined a new hockey team and all the kids have been great.  They are fabulous and the team aspect helps them all to really get to know each other.  My kid has found that he's closest to a few of the boys, including the coach's son, but all of them are great.  Anyhow, he asked if we could have the coach's son over to come play during their rare free time. So we started getting to know his parents outside of practice.  Turns out they're recent transplants, too, having just moved here a few years ago...........from a pretty awful place..........and his mom..really...missed her old........oh, jeez.

I have no idea how this will all turn out, or if the last 2-3 years have broadened her horizons some, but it will be an interesting next few years since neither of us plan to leave the hockey program.

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Several years ago I might have described our situation the same way.  My kids are now 5th and 8th grade and things feel very different, but not in the way that I expected.  Now, my kids have buddies at our co-op.  It takes a while - many public school kids wouldn't make good friends in the first week or 2 of school, but because co-ops only meet once/week it takes a while to have more than 1-2 weeks worth of 'school days'.  After a couple of years of being in the same co-op my kids have great co-op friends, but this doesn't always translate into getting together much outside of co-op.  We live almost an hour away from some of these folks, so we aren't likely to do weekly play-dates.  As the kids get older and can be dropped off at things, or talk on the phone, text, or chat online these friendships change.  My kids and a subset of the co-op friends are involved in an academic competition team, and they have really gotten to be friends with those kids...but they see each other twice/week for much of the school year.  

One other thing that has changed for our particular family is that my kids are involved in some time-consuming activities that involve practices or games several days each week.  At younger ages, these activities were just once/twice each week and left us with plenty of time to wish that there were other kids aroud, but at this point my kids are around other kids at some sort of practice or game almost every day.  These other kids aren't necessarily 'best buddies' but there is definitely plenty of social interaction and it adds to the large group of folks in the community that we now know and enjoy bring around.  One of my kids has a good buddy at church that she gets together with occasionally outside of church (they see each other Sun and Wed), while the other gets along amicably with the kids his age but doesn't have any particular close church friend.  One is only sometimes involved in youth activities due to sports schedule conflicts, while I imagine that the other will strengthen her friendships at church when she goes all-in with the youth next year because her activity schedule won't conflict with youth activities.  

I would suggest looking for things that your kids might enjoy, not as a way to find friends, exactly, but as a way to learn a new thing and be around folks.  When mine were little, we unexpectedly met somebody at the mommy-and-me swim lesson that led to weekly outings for 2 years until they moved.  And, while my older doesn't have any 'best buddies' in scouts (which isn't his main activity), he enjoys socializing with the other boys when they hike or camp.  Other than co-op/science competition team, most of my kids' social time is with kids who go to traditional schools in activities that take place in the evening.  Very little of this is what I imagined our life and schedule would be like as homeschoolers, but the kids are happy, if busy, so for now it works for us.  

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19 hours ago, LauraClark said:

Thank you, LMD - those are all good points.  It has been only 6 sessions, I guess I just hoped my kids would have made some friends at this point.  I've tried to get to know some of the moms too, but it has been a struggle (I'd say I'm more introverted, but I really put myself out there when meeting new people).  But, maybe I just haven't given it enough time.

Yes, we're still trying to prioritize the 6 family friends we have.  It has gotten more difficult now that we have this co-op commitment every other week.  I guess maybe I have unrealistic expectations of getting together more often...which really isn't something I have time for either.  I want the best of both worlds - lots of time for academics and lots of time for friends - ha!

Thank you for the reminder of romanticizing childhood friendships - very true, I'm not in contact with any of my childhood friends but have made some great and close adult friends.

We typically only have one afternoon per week available to hang with homeschooled friends.

My kids do a drama class one afternoon where they hang with some friends.

We have music lessons one afternoon.

I work one afternoon. 

I have a "stay home and let mom catch up day too."

And that last day is our hang out with friends afternoon.

 

So it may not be you.

IF you have friends with toddlers and babies, they may sttruggle with naptime.

If you have friends with middle and high schoolers, I they probably just don't have time for that. It's hard to explain the work load of high school and middle school until you're in the middle of it. 

The best way to have friends is to offer to host other people's kids and be willing to be the host mom a lot of the time. I'm usually willing to take the kids with no mom, although I'd love visiting with moms. But they're busy.  That's just the reality that I've found. We're the inviters, the planners. It gets old. But that's what it takes.

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On 10/28/2019 at 9:02 PM, Momto6inIN said:

I agree with LMD that sometimes it takes time and that many people stress about friendships for their young kids without a whole lot of good reasons to do so.

I would also say that it's rarely successful to form real, lasting friendships when you join an activity specifically so your kids can make friends there. Proximity and forced togetherness =/= relationship. However, whenever we choose activities based on what my kids are interested in and we make a commitment to keep that activity going and invest our time in it, then I often find that my kids make friends naturally and organically.

That's good to know - ditching the co-op idea next year and instead doing some kind of activity they enjoy has been on my mind.  I wonder if there are any clubs where the kids do nothing but talk about Star Wars...haha!

 

On 10/29/2019 at 7:26 AM, ClemsonDana said:

Several years ago I might have described our situation the same way.  My kids are now 5th and 8th grade and things feel very different, but not in the way that I expected.  Now, my kids have buddies at our co-op.  It takes a while - many public school kids wouldn't make good friends in the first week or 2 of school, but because co-ops only meet once/week it takes a while to have more than 1-2 weeks worth of 'school days'.  After a couple of years of being in the same co-op my kids have great co-op friends, but this doesn't always translate into getting together much outside of co-op.  We live almost an hour away from some of these folks, so we aren't likely to do weekly play-dates.

Good point - I'll try waiting it out a bit longer.  We're in the same situation - most of the people in our co-op live at least an hour away.

 

18 hours ago, fairfarmhand said:

The best way to have friends is to offer to host other people's kids and be willing to be the host mom a lot of the time. I'm usually willing to take the kids with no mom, although I'd love visiting with moms. But they're busy.  That's just the reality that I've found. We're the inviters, the planners. It gets old. But that's what it takes.

I'm glad to know I'm not alone as a planner.  Sometimes we get invited somewhere, but usually we instigate all of play dates.

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What about 4-H?  You have the overall group, but you also break down into smaller groups by interest.  Lots of involved parents.  Some events or groups are local, some county-wide, some state as the kids get older.  

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Y'all need a park day. If you can't find one, make one by showing up at a centrally located park with clean bathrooms and good visibility every week or every other week at the same time. Bring snacks, drinks and camping chairs and a game or two to keep in the car. Also a basic medical kit for scrapes. Stay at least 2 hours, maybe more. Moms can talk or crochet or whatever, kids can play very open-endedly. We always had a group building forts, some moms walking circuits, some moms breastfeeding, and everything in between. Even if other homeschoolers don't come, by hanging out regularly in the same time frame you may find them or find other friends. I hope you can find that.

My family has also done 4-H. It led to adult mentors for a couple of my kids, but not too many same-age friends. And it was GREAT preparation for public speaking (we went to statewide competitions several years) and learning the rules of order for conducting a meeting.

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I agree you need a park day. Instead of trying to wrangle play dates for six separate families you set up one day a week that you invite all of them to the same park. Invite people from co-op too. Some weeks no one may show up, other weeks may be chaos. But if you keep it consistent people will come. 

Or anything else that works. A local mom here started a board game day every month at the library, and also put together an event for kids to play games on tablets/laptops at the local coffee shop weekly. that's what her kids like, so she set it up 

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5 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

Or anything else that works. A local mom here started a board game day every month at the library, and also put together an event for kids to play games on tablets/laptops at the local coffee shop weekly. that's what her kids like, so she set it up 

 

Another mom and I from our co-op started a teen game night to help our girls feel more comfortable with the new group. It's been pretty effective.

 

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I am feeling very encouraged!  My current plan is to finish out co-op (because we're committed for the school year and maybe it will turn out to be a good fit after all) and then try the park day again next year.  Maybe I'll add in an optional craft or board games for the older kids that no longer enjoy running around the playground.  I'm also going to talk to our library today and see if they would be willing to let us meet there when the weather is bad.  And, even if no one shows up, it still gets us out of the house once a week.  Thank you, all!

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Do you have a library that offers any kind of kids programming? We met our first homeschooling friends at the library. 

 

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