I was raised as a diehard Auburn fan. My parents didn’t say, “If you go to college…”. It was, “When you go to Auburn…”. But at the end of my senior year of high school, going to Auburn wasn’t a foregone conclusion. I considered several different schools, and it finally came down to two: Auburn or Mississippi State. After going back and forth with that decision, there was one deciding factor: I had been offered the chance to play the piano for the Auburn Singers, and I thought that would give me some built-in friends from the very beginning.
I was wrong. I wasn’t wrong to go to Auburn. (Going to Auburn is NEVER a bad idea! ) I was wrong to assume that having one thing in common would be enough to create a friendship.
When we started homeschooling, I thought I might make lots of new friends. I expected to find a BFF among the other homeschool moms, but it didn’t happen. I met some people that I like, but it wasn’t the instant bond that I was expecting.
Homeschooling can feel isolating, so it’s important to have friendships, but this can be especially challenging for introverts. Finding a kindred spirit isn’t something that’s guaranteed, but I do think it’s possible to at least form some acquaintances and then deepen them into friendships. Here are some suggestions:
1. Try to find an activity that you do without the kids.
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time carrying on a decent conversation with a bunch of kids around. This is one reason I don’t particularly relish play-dates. I find myself so distracted by what my kids are/aren’t doing and what the other children are/aren’t doing that I’m not fully engaged in the discussion.
Over the years, my closest friendships have grown out of things like a women’s Bible study or MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). While my children are having fun playing with the other kids in the childcare area, I can actually get to know someone else and also share with them. It can be very tough for homeschool moms to do this because many such groups don’t offer childcare for school-aged kids. (Attention churches: you’re missing a ministry opportunity here!) You may have to get creative and even start a group on your own that meets in the evenings or over the weekend.
2. Look for people with other shared interests or even with no shared interests!
I mentioned above that one shared interest is not sufficient for forming a bond with another person but that doesn’t mean it never happens. I think perhaps it depends on the particular interest. Music and homeschooling were not enough to form a bond for me, but studying the Bible together and being able to laugh together is often enough for me. I think one thing may be key: find a shared interest where you feel no need to compete. (That may not be true for everyone – like if your shared interest is a sport – but it’s true for me.)
What interests you? What sounds like it might interest you but you’ve never given it a try? Perhaps try out a cooking class or a dance class. Join a book club. Try a new class at the gym.
3. Get comfortable in your own skin (especially if you are a new homeschooler).
Deciding to home educate is a rebellious choice. It takes a pretty high degree of conviction and gumption to say “no, thank you” to the status quo. To get to that point, a person has to be very convinced of the benefits of homeschooling and that the Lord is leading them in that direction.
But conviction doesn’t always equal confidence.
As a new homeschool mom, I was convinced about what I was doing, but I wasn’t yet confident. I often felt defensive yet not sure I could actually defend my choice. This was especially true in interactions with non-homeschoolers who seemed dubious. It was even sometimes true in conversations with other homeschoolers. With so many possible methods for homeschooling (Classical, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, etc.), the tendency to compare my choice to others’ choices was very present. Sometimes I was sure my way was “better.” Other times I was sure their way was “better.” Most of the time I just wasn’t sure what I was doing.
Over time, your confidence will catch up with your conviction. You’ll no longer feel the need to defend your decision to homeschool. You’ll no longer feel the need to talk everyone else into homeschooling. This will help immensely in making friends.
4. Pray about it.
When we moved from Seattle, Washington, to Jacksonville, Florida, I entered a very dark period of life full of anxiety, panic attacks, and chronic insomnia. I was extremely isolated in Jacksonville. I was teaching full-time but had very little interaction with my coworkers. We attended church and a Sunday school class but never truly connected to anyone. I felt incredibly lonely.
About a year later, we had the opportunity to move to Knoxville, Tennessee, and I was thrilled. I needed a change of scenery as soon as possible. I prayed and specifically asked God for a Fun Friend. I desperately needed to laugh again. And God sent us to live right next door to Rose. Gradually, I made other deeper friendships in Knoxville, but Rose was my first friend there, and she was certainly fun.
God has created you with a need for connection and community. He has promised to supply all of our needs, and that one is included. Don’t hesitate to ask Him for a friend.
Friendships are important for everyone – including introverted homeschoolers. We often have to work harder to start those relationships, but perhaps the ones we do find end up going deeper. It’s worth the effort.
Now, I’ve said a lot about getting out there and going places to meet people, but let me end with this: one of my closest friends right now lives several states away. I haven’t seen her in person in years. We don’t even e-mail each other every day or even every week. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can share my struggles, triumphs, laughs, and tears with her, and I believe she feels that way about me, too. I treasure that relationship partly because of the distance. While I would love to be able to go out to lunch with her, it’s kind of nice to not feel any pressure to do that. We’re much closer now than when we lived in the same town.
The point is this: don’t try to go through life – or homeschooling – all on your own. If you already have a friend or group of friends, pour into those relationships. If you don’t have that now, ask God to meet that need and then pursue the opportunities that He provides. Yes, it’s a big effort for an introvert. Yes, you may need to take a nap when you get back home. But it’s worth it. Really.