As mentioned briefly in the post Homeschool ala Sophea, one of the struggles we had when we started this first year of homeschooling was acclimating to a different kind of social structure.
The days for Sophea in kindergarten and first grade were much too long and stressful. Being around that many children for that extended period of time was more than she could tolerate. She came home every day stressed to tears and crying each morning before school. I thought once we started homeschooling all would be well with the world.
What I found out though is that Sophea is a very social child. She wants to spend time with and around people, especially her peers, on a nearly daily basis. At her age though smaller time periods doing things that she enjoys is a much more fulfilling way for her to engage in social activity.
This was especially challenging for me because I am a bit of an introvert. I needed to break out of my shell and become a “yes” parent if homeschooling was going to fulfill her social needs as well as her academic ones!
Here are the 5 Keys I found to really help her maintain her current friendships and add to them.
I’ve always said that I didn’t want to overschedule the kiddos with different activities when time to just be kids seems so limited. This changed though once we started homeschooling. There is plenty of time for 1 or 2 different group activities each week and it doesn’t feel like we are taking away from her personal time one bit. She’s been able to reconnect with friends from the school she attended and make new friendships that extend past the activity and into her expanding social circle.
Here are a few of the activities that she’s participated in.
Local Homeschool Co-Op
This was the first thing that I sought out when we were considering the option of homeschooling. I wanted her to be able to meet and know other children who were schooling the same way she was. I felt like it would make her feel like less of an “odd-duck” if she wasn’t the only one she knew who had school at home. It worked out fabulously for us. She has a very small class that only meets one morning a month, but has made friends of all of the children there. There is one girl whose company she particularly enjoys. It’s VERY nice to have a friend we can call up to go swimming or to the library when all of the other children are in school!
This one is her favorite of all of the activities we do. She has made a few close friendships with girls she plays with regularly outside of choir. They practice once a week in the evening and do several performances a month with various community involvement. They’ve sang the anthem for a semi-professional basketball game, rode a float in the parade of lights, and had guest performances during local college and show choir performances. All very exciting experiences for her. It’s also one we intend to keep for as long as we homeschool. It’s hard to do a good music class with just one child!
This is the physical activity that we have chosen that lasts through the winter. We are currently taking a break as summer activities that Sophea wants to participate in will be starting soon. Practices are once per week and there are no competitions or travel involved. She hasn’t really met anyone here that she feels close to but loves the new skills that she is learning and her new flexibility. It is also really helpful in learning to work together with new people as her classmates change every 6 weeks, some she will know and some not.
Recreation Center Summer Activities
Tennis & Softball are the activities she chose last year. These summer programs are a wonderful way to stay involved in the community, meet new children, and check out a fun new skill for a short time period and at a very affordable cost. She really enjoyed Tennis and is planning on doing that again this year. Then we will look through the brochure and see if there is anything else she wants to try. If she does find something that she really loves there are usually actual teams that she can join to do these activities on a more permanent basis.
The recreation center also offers art and other classes for grade school age children. Last year Sophea was involved in Dakota Kids where they did art projects, games, and learning lessons with a group of about 15 children. We are planning to chose another one or 2 of these classes this summer as well.
Swimming Lessons – They are offered each summer at our Aquatic Center and are taught by lifegaurds. She was so excited to find out that if she completes all of her lessons there is a lifeguard training course that she can take. She would LOVE to be a lifeguard when she is in high school.
#2 Community Events
There are a lot of community events that we have always attended. We made sure this year to always make time for these and to invite friends along to as many as we could.
But one great thing that homeschooling spurred me to do is to look for more community events. I was amazed at the number of things there are to do in our community All The Time and almost always free of charge. It’s really helped us all to feel really connected to our community. We wind up seeing faces that once were strange but now are becoming familiar. In the 20+ years I’ve lived in this community I can honestly say that the last year has made me feel a part of this community more than the other years combined. I can see that sense of social connection in Sophea as well. That’s a really good feeling!
#3 Neighborhood Friends
I’ve told my husband numerous times that the neighborhood we live in is the best part about having bought this house. There are several families around the block with children of a similar age to our children. After we moved my younger girls became particularly close with 2 of the girls from across the alley. Since having started homeschooling I reached out and introduced myself to a few of the other neighbors that live nearby.
This was probably the step that made the biggest difference for Sophea. On the nice days in the neighborhood there is nearly always someone to play with without ever crossing a street, and many times without leaving our yard. It also takes down some of the time it takes for planning out playdates and activities. Spontaneous play, we’ve found, is the best kind. It starts whenever they are ready and they can run inside and be done whenever it feels right.
We have also made an attempt to connect more with extended family. The weekends feel more free since its not our ONLY 2 days home of the week. I’m finding it easier to say yes when people invite. Sophea has also been able to go spend a few days this year at her grandmother’s house. There are a couple of other homeschool children in that community and cousins from out of state that also homeschool for her to play with there.
All I can say is invite, invite, invite! Without this step, most of the others don’t matter. I’ve really made an effort to invite whenever Sophea asks to see friends. It’s made our home more open. The noise level definitely went up, but so has the fun. And believe it or not, it gets easier over time to have a house/yard full. It also allows me to get to know her friends and her friends to get to know our family. As those bonds all grow, so do the friendships. These children are becoming a bit like extended family to us.
I think we’ve found a wonderful balance that keeps Sophea fulfilled socially without being overburdened. She has more choices. Her social time isn’t limited to the rules that she would have in a school setting