Creating a homemade extended family

brookemain

The following is a guest post written by Brooke Scott of Violicious.

We are a family.

We are a family of homeschoolers.

We are a family of homeschoolers who lives far away from its traditional family.

And so, we created a new one.

Two years ago during the winter holidays my eldest son said to me: “Isn’t it sad that everyone else has something to do and we are just waiting for our friends to come back?”

It was startling. Like a slug in the stomach. I thought I had been a good buffer, soaking up that particular sadness in the face of comments like, “Oh, we are just so busy with family, you know how it is!”

Actually, I don’t. I did, but immigrating  to Canada has taken a few tolls on us as a family.

I have lived away from my family for nearly 20 years and have worked through my own sorrow of missed birthdays, holidays and impromptu barbecues.

Up until five year ago we had lived near my husband’s family where holiday gatherings were attended like clockwork. Our move put a dead stop to those gatherings for us.

During certain points in the year, our friends disappear. But whether it be for summer or winter, this family stays right where it is. Vacations don’t work for us now and traditional family visits to us are few.

I looked at the situation through our own family prism of needs. I peered through the facets and asked myself: What does each individual need?

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The simplest, most glaring answer was that I needed to expand my view of family.

By way of:

1. Finding a tribe

We are facilitating friendships with families and friends who are always available and keep this up throughout the year.

This does not necessarily mean families without families nearby. It means families who are searching for community.

How do you find families and friends who are searching? Ones that get back to you, the people available for short jaunts and meet-ups whatever the time of year; the people who drop a line of friendship every few weeks; the enthusiastic plan-makers.

2. Coming up with big ideas

For Halloween this year, our first rural Halloween, we had a big shindig — with a play, potluck, costumes and individual family forts (constructed by my brood) for trick-or-treating.

That meant that each family brought treats and parents handed out these goodies to our own little trick-or-treaters, we all practiced a play within our families before the event and everyone got to show off their costumes.

Hosting parties creates more community, tradition and more parties!

3. Being flexible

At the beginning of my parenting career I was a painful hostess, sweating the small stuff.

I am now by no means the “perfect” hostess (not that I ever was) and do not sport an immaculate home, but I had to let go of my old notions in favor of relaxed hosting.

Long term party planning-out the window. Five families for an afternoon? Sure! A butchering party with three days notice? Why not?

Be open. Make a big pot of soup, don’t be afraid to ask others to bring snacks and to help clean up. You will be much more likely to say yes to a hosting event if your children have eaten and you have had a few other hands help you clean up by the end of the day.

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4. Stretching

We have joined an outdoor community that is thankfully full of like-minded folks and opportunities.

Being outdoors for a considerable length of time is an “edge” for me, but my children? Their bread and butter.

And so, I stretch.

Held in the hands of this community, we have celebrated a rite of passage for one of our sons, obtained mentors for our children, and this year attended two Thanksgiving celebrations —  0ne traditional, the other a Gratitude Fire with a potluck.

5. Creating special connections

Another avenue we explored was the concept of god-parents.

We currently have four children and had never given it a thought before. It was the former priest at the church we regularly attend that opened our eyes to the prospect.

What a blessing it has been. We have instantly added eight new people who focus on our children.

6. Adding new traditions that make it easy for others to celebrate with us

In the past five years we have added mid-summer, harvest and a Candlemas celebration with candle dipping.

I have been very careful to pare these events down to a manageable load, some of which the children can carry. There is nothing more invigorating than the afternoon chore of gathering wood to burn for an evening bonfire celebration.

These non-traditional opportunities are out there. I was just holding our family in, trying to be “normal” and create the similar memories for our children that my husband and I had.

The days are now filling up — sing-a-longs, potlucks, day trips.

I look at it from the perspective of sharing the wealth of our family with others. Maybe friends don’t ask because they feel like holidays are sacred.

They are and should be shared with everyone!

There is a rosy glow to the faces of our children when they see newly expected friends at the door.

A home is, after all, what you make it.

So is a family.

What has your path to an expanded family been?

About Brooke Scott

Brooke is a homeschoolin', homemakin' mama and wife in Ontario.
She regularly blogs about life at: Violicious and at Sense of Story, a collaboration of mama writers: snippets, stories, accumulated life : a weekly update.

Comments

  1. I really needed this. Although, we do have family nearby, everyone is so busy that we often see each other only once or twice a year. I always feel so overwhelmed at the prospect of entertaining because, with so many kids, my house will never be immaculate, and that really bothers me. Maybe it’s time to step outside my comfort zone and get on the ball because my kids get pretty lonely sometimes.
    Shelly’s latest post: Weekend Review: Breathing a Sigh of Relief

    • Shelly,
      I grew up in an immaculately cleaned home and have found that stepping away from my ingrained idea of clean and the reality of a homeschoolers home with many children in it is. Soup is also my best friend!

  2. Hey Brooke,
    Love seeing you here!
    Your thought about being outside all day and how that stretches you is such a great example of how homeschooling makes us grow in so many ways we probably don’t expect when we are first starting out.
    Hope you are well and enjoying that new baby!
    sheila’s latest post: Teaching Cursive Writing

    • Hi Sheila,
      Thanks and I never even had the appropriate outdoor clothing before homeschooling. I always thought it would be too expensive to kit myself out and the children so I would miserably shuffle along behind them. The thrift store is teaming with outdoor clothing for adults, I had just never thought to check that section! And yes, I am thoroughly enjoying this little baby. He’s a dreamboat!
      brooke’s latest post: child study.

  3. Yay Brooke! It is absolutely amazing to see how you have created community with intention, sincere thought, and of course, a lot of mama sweat. Even though I have family nearby, my homeschooling community is just as important – y’all get my crazy. Love this post – a reminder that it takes effort from all sides.
    Rozanne’s latest post: our homeschooling story. part 5.

  4. Hi Brooke!
    I loved this post and related to it so much. Thank you for sharing so many wonderful ideas :)
    Kara’s latest post: The two little things that are changing everything.

  5. I can really relate to this topic! We have lived away from both sides of family for 17 years now. I can even relate to living in Ontario, Canada for 4 years! Right now we live in Lima, Peru, which sometimes feels like an alien planet. For us, we are blessed to be a part of a world-wide church, so we always start there. Here there is an expat community both within our church, and with my husband’s job. One group of wives has a pot luck lunch every month, rotating homes. Another group has impromptu get-togethers as couples where each brings an appetizer to share. My daughter has organized trips to an orphanage with the youth in our church. For my 11-year old son, I’ve invited our maid’s 4 boys over to play. As a family, we have invited Peruvian families over for Saturday bbqs where they eat like Americans and they bring a Peruvian dessert to share with us. I love your Halloween idea. I miss my Canadian friends! We really enjoyed living there. Thanks for your post!
    Camie’s latest post: One of My Favorite Blogs

  6. Wonderful post Brooke! It was very eye opening. My experiences with living away from family were before children and finding other Canadians always filled the holidays. I love celebrating new and different holidays with friends; Michaelmas; Candlemas; summer solstice. What a great way to share the holidays with your chosen tribe!

  7. this is something i’m much more mindful of now that i’ve had my daughter. she’s only 8 months, but my mom isn’t nearby, and hubby’s mom passed before i met him. i want my daughter to grow up interacting with people of other generations too! finding other people to take the place of family is good for everyone, we all need a community :)

    • It’s the perfect time to meet new family members, Beth. I adore thinking back to when my children where infants and seeing them play with the families they met then.

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