The number one criticism homeschoolers usually receive is that they’re isolating their children. Well, if I am isolating my children, wouldn’t that also suggest that I am isolated?
There have been moments that I felt my world shrinking to a pinpoint. Friends used to be so easy. I inevitably made friends at work and saw them every day. The truth about those friends was that work was almost all we had in common. Actually, the job I had when Pumpkin was between five months and three years old brought me some pretty good friends, but when the business closed and I was the only one transferred to another facility out of more than twenty employees, I had a terrible case of survivor’s guilt. I would have loved to maintain friendships with some of those people, but I felt so badly about their situation that I couldn’t bring myself to call or meet up with them. Most of them were unemployed for months and I couldn’t help. I’m only now rebuilding friendships with the few I can find. I don’t know what happened to the others.
As for the job I left to homeschool Pumpkin, I again tried to maintain friendships. Once more, I’m the one who got out right before the business really hit financial difficulties. This makes for strained relations. We have exchanges, but they are awkward because work was the driving force behind our friendship and because times are so tough for them.
The first thing that happens when you make a life change this serious is that you find out who your real friends are. The ones who stayed in my life and who still go out of their way to check on me are the friends worth having. Being able to sort those out is pretty priceless.
Like so many beginning homeschoolers, though, I wasn’t sure what I was doing when I decided to take the leap. I reached out to local homeschool groups, hooked up with other homeschoolers at park days, and joined some yahoo groups. What I found was that other homeschoolers are incredibly genuine, helpful people. If I needed something, they were there for me, sometimes over hundreds of miles. A lot of these friends are only available to talk thanks to social media, but I don’t have a problem with that. Others talk on the phone or in person at least every other week. Yeah, I can’t chat with them over a microwave lunch in the break room, but I feel the connection is better.
And sometimes my new friends have come to my aid in the most unexpected ways. When I was struggling with Pumpkin over math, Corin of the Gifted Homeschool Forum sent me some math reading books that her son had used when he was younger. When a series of posts turned ugly, it was Jen who we all know from Laughing at Chaos that came to my defense and reminded me that into every life criticism must fall. Michelle who I met in several of my favorite yahoo groups moved close by and has turned into the gal I dish with while our kids play dinosaurs. I’ve met people at baseball, scouts, and field trips who have turned into wonderful, permanent friends. And the family I thought would never forgive me for telling public school off, they came back too.
Homeschooling brought me a tighter, closer circle of friends that I have much more in common with than just an employer. And I think it’s good for my sons too. If they really will learn about friendships by what I model, then they are seeing much more real, permanent connections than they would have seen earlier. That’s powerful. And I’m grateful.