Like it or not, homeschooling can be a lonely existence. Your children don’t have the instant friends that going to school offers and forget the social events — no school plays to be a part of, no teams to try out for, no year-end parties.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Most of us make a conscious effort to get out and meet people, through local homeschool days or extracurricular activities — just to avoid the dreaded socialization issue.
Yes, there is the argument that the world is your friend and there is no need to remain in one peer group. But kids generally do want to play with other children their own age. They are likely to have similar interests and laugh at the same silly jokes.
One good way to meet socialization needs is through co-ops, a core group of like-minded folk who get together and learn.
Not only will it give your kids a chance to burn energy with others who can keep up, it’s also a chance for the parents to indulge in adult conversation. Whether that be a discussion of the latest vaccines, the state of the laundry, or homeschooling concerns, it’s nice to have someone who understands.
In the beginning, it’s good to just get out and meet people. Like any good relationship, a co-op doesn’t happen instantly. You may love the mom, but don’t like the kids–or vice versa. Give it time and you will find that core group of families who you love hanging out with and growing with.
There are no hard and fast rules as to how to get a co-op going, but here are a few guidelines to get you started:
- Pencil it in — Meeting at a set time, preferably weekly, gives everyone involved a welcomed event to look forward to.
- Learn something — Learning is more fun with friends. Pick a subject and have the kids study it together. This works especially well for science and art. Field trips are also great if you can squeeze one in here and there. For a wide range in ages, it may be a good idea to split the kids up into two groups — a less structured one for the younger kids and another for those with a longer attention span.
- Location, location, location — Where to meet is as important as when. If you’re learning together with a large age range, it may not be ideal to meet in the local library. Likewise, if the weather is freezing or wet, outdoors isn’t going to work.
- Common courtesy — Treat each other with respect. And if you’re sick, by all means stay at home. Nobody wants to share germs.
- Relax — Remember, the co-op is there to help you, not stress you out. If it becomes a chore to meet and study, then something is not right. Re-evaluate your structure and see if you can get to the root of the problem.
Homeschooling co-ops can add another positive dimension to your students’ lives. Try an online search to find out what groups already exist in your area. If you can’t find one that fits with your family, don’t hesitate to start your own.
How do your kids learn with others?
Amida and her three kids meet up with a fantastic group of homeschooling friends on a weekly basis. You can see what they learn together at her blog, Journey Into Unschooling.