I was an only child who – for many years of my education, at least- was homeschooled. Now, I’m homeschooling my daughter who is also an only child. If there’s one homeschooling stereotype that I ran into often growing up, it’s the same one that people like to dish out to me about my daughter today: “But what about friends? Doesn’t she need friends?”
I mean, I get it. People already have this idea that homeschoolers are totally isolated and friendless beings anyway, but throw “only child” in there and – yikes!– you basically have an Eleven-from-Stranger-Things sort of case on your hands, right?
Wrong. Today’s post is the second in our series on How to Spot a Homeschooler (You can read the first one here.), and we’re going to talk about How to Spot a Homeschooler by Our Friendships.
Written by Kathryn of Write Where You Are.
How to Spot a Homeschooler by Our Friendships
Despite the fact that homeschooling stereotypes often do miss the mark, we homeschoolers know that there are certain ways we stand out in a crowd (sometimes for better, sometimes for quirkier). In this second article in the How to Spot a Homeschooler series, we’re going to discuss a few ways that you can spot a homeschooler by our friends!
Spoiler alert to all those stereotype founders out there: We actually do have friends!
(Yes, that’s right, even homeschooled- only-children have friends! )
1. We share passions more than space.
The stereotype about homeschoolers having difficulties making friends is based on the assumption that you can only be friends with people you share classroom space with on a daily basis. And – okay- it’s true, homeschoolers don’t spend every day in the same space as same-aged peers.
“So,” inquiring minds want to know, “where do homeschoolers make friends?”
Well, co-ops for one, but also – and more prominently perhaps- extracurricular activities: sports, church youth groups, local theatre, community outreach projects, 4H, ballet, karate, etc. You find an extracurricular activity for kids, and you will find a homeschooler. Actually, you’ll probably find a disproportionate number of homeschoolers. We infiltrate the extracurricular world.
And this actually makes for a unique opportunity because it means that homeschoolers get to meet people who get excited about the same stuff that we do. I mean, sure, kids in public school are often drawn towards like-minded peers as well, but (as someone who had some of both worlds growing up), the vibes are completely different.
For example, there’s a big difference between being the literature enthusiast in your public school classroom and being involved in a creative writing group that voluntarily meets on Saturdays. There’s a big difference between being the girl who danced in the talent show and being part of a close-knit ballet class that meets several times a week.
For one thing, I think there’s a certain amount of collective respect and understanding for the people you meet in extracurricular activities. You all are interested in the same thing. You all want to learn more about it on your own time. And (maybe most important of all) you are likely there voluntarily.
Friendships made in these kinds of environments are unique. These are the friendships that support learning, growing in the things you love, and just generally feeling free to be excited about whatever your particular thing is (even if it’s not “traditionally” cool). I think this may be one reason that many homeschoolers feel so comfortable being themselves. They are often in a network of family friends that supports who they are, and they don’t feel as much peer pressure to conform to some other mold.
Meaningful friendships can come from anywhere, but the interest-based friendships we make in our extracurricular activities are definitely an important part of any homeschooler’s life.
2. Our friends might be older or younger than us (and we don’t really care).
Homeschool-y people know that grade level isn’t really a factor when it comes to making friends.
I mean, tell me truly: Do your homeschoolers even know what grade they are in? 😉
So, unlike in public school, where it’d be weird for a senior to be friends with a freshman, etc., grade barriers don’t really matter much for homeschooled kids. It might surprise some people to know that age, in general, doesn’t play a huge role in homeschooler friendships.
Your homeschooled 12-year-old is probably comfortable hanging out with 16-year-olds and isn’t embarrassed to be seen associating with a 10-year-old, either! If there’s something to connect over, something interesting to talk about, or a common goal to be accomplished, homeschoolers will likely want to engage, and age just doesn’t really matter much.
The thing that freaks a lot of people out is how comfortable homeschoolers are with adults. It makes sense though. Homeschoolers spend a lot of time being taught one-on-one (or in a very small group) with Mom and/or Dad. They have a lot of personalized conversations with adults through extracurricular involvement, co-ops, or even online teachers. Homeschoolers don’t see adults as a whole other brand of beings, just as slightly older people with whom they talk regularly.
Honestly, I kind of love this about homeschoolers. Therefore, it always annoys me when people express concern about homeschoolers not being able to associate with peers. Almost every single homeschooled kid I’ve ever known is respectful and friendly to people of all ages. I mean -yes- this is an anecdotal and probably biased claim. But also: you know what I mean, right?
I’m always tempted to reply:
“So as an adult, should I be comfortable only interacting successfully with other 31-year-olds, or is it cool if I make friends with a 23-year-old and 52-year-old as well?” *blank stare*
The truth is that homeschoolers’ tendency to not discriminate against others based on age is something that hopefully everyone learns at some point. Personally, I think the world would be a better place for it.
3. Our friends might be a different gender than us…and that’s no big deal.
For some of the same reasons that homeschoolers don’t mind being friends with kids or teens of different ages, it’s also a bit more common to see boy-girl friendships develop in the homeschooling context.
Maybe some of this has to do with extracurricular activities. Granted, there’s some natural division there. There are always more girls in a ballet class, for example. (But those lucky boys who take ballet get plenty of friends and stage time!) However, if a boy and a girl get to be friends in a gender-neutral, extracurricular setting – like an art group or karate class – they already have something to bond over, usually without any kind of gender-oriented cliques to make them feel like they can’t be friends.
However, I think it’s more likely that a lot of boy-girl friendships happen among homeschoolers because of the way that homeschooling families tend to connect with each other. You know how it is, right? If you’re a homeschooling mom and you bond with another homeschooling mom, and one of your kids bonds with one of her kids, pretty soon you’re just all hanging out together… and you’re all friends! Boys, girls, different ages…it doesn’t matter! And in those kinds of contexts, boy-girl friendships – that actually are purely platonic – can naturally develop (which I think is pretty cool!).
4. We know how to be there for our friends.
I met my best friend when I was 12. We were both bookish, nature-loving homeschoolers, looking for a true-hearted friend who wouldn’t let us down. Almost 20 years have passed, and she’s still my best friend. We’ve gone to different colleges and lived in different states (and even different continents). Our families have been there for each other in good times and bad. If ever anything goes badly wrong, or magnificently right, she’s instantly in the loop.
Now, am I saying that this fantastic friendship is all because we were homeschooled? No! I’m not saying that! Being homeschooled didn’t magically make our friendship what it is today.
However, I do think that the fact that we were both brought up in close-knit homeschooling families contributed to the way that we have been there for, and looked out for, each other more like family than mere friends. Again, this quality is certainly not limited to homeschoolers. However, I do think it is commonly found among homeschoolers because we typically have strong family ties and are often instilled with a sense of responsibility for others.
(And look–I have interesting research to back up my seemingly subjective claim!)
This 2005 research study collected data that indicated that homeschoolers demonstrated a higher-than-average level of altruism and social involvement. In other words? Homeschooled kids demonstrated greater-than-average care for others.
The researchers hypothesized that this had to do with the parents taking extra time and effort to foster moral development and values in their kids. Now, it’s no secret that many parents choose to homeschool in order to have the opportunity to also focus on moral development, or teaching “to the heart” (not just the head), so this makes a lot of sense.
Personally, I also think that these qualities may have something to do with how many homeschoolers see their family members take care of and support one another. Even though homeschoolers may not have as many friendly acquaintances as public schoolers, I’d argue that they are really excellent at being friends. If you have a homeschooled friend who loves you, he or she is probably going to go the extra mile to help you out when you need it.
I hope you enjoyed this look at How to Spot a Homeschooler by Our Friends! In all honesty, while homeschooling friendships, in general, may have a few distinctions, the truth is that every individual friendship is unique; it’s not really something you can truly calculate or qualify. And great friendships – no matter what educational mindset they come from- have more in common than not!
Where does your homeschooler meet his or her friends?
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