Q&A Friday: Do you think homeschooling is a lonely lifestyle?

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and writer at Steady Mom

I often write that homeschooling is not for the faint of heart–it always takes courage to choose a different direction from the majority. And though there are serious benefits to the lifestyle we’ve chosen, there are also sacrifices we make when we decide to home educate.

Recently Weiyun Lee asked this question on my Facebook page:

“Has anybody ever felt that homeschooling can sometimes be a lonely route to take? This is our first year, and overall I have to say it’s been a rewarding and exciting journey.

But every once in a while, it does feel like the path less taken and we as parents need to shake it off, pray for strength and persevere on.”

Our experience of whether or not homeschooling feels lonely could depend on a variety of factors: our personality type, the homeschooling support in our neck of the woods, our location, the relationships in our life or our kids’ lives, and so on. What has your experience been like?

That’s our question for the day:

Have you found homeschooling to be a lonely lifestyle? How do you deal with the loneliness and challenges? Any advice for Weiyun Lee or others who may feel like her?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.

Comments

  1. Steph says:

    I haven’t started homeschooling yet but I was homeschooled for 1st through 8th grade (back when a lot fewer people were choosing to educated at home). I would agree with Weiyun that it’s a mix: sometimes is very exciting and there are other times it can be a bit lonely. Thankfully there are a lot of ways (especially now) you can reach out and find people to connect with.
    Steph’s latest post: An Open Letter to Introverts in the Church

  2. Jaime says:

    I think homeschooling has the potential to isolate you or your family unless you’re intentional about fostering relationships with those outside your own home. We have such fun schooling at home, and that fun takes up a lot of time – it’s great time, but it doesn’t always leave us with time to connect (or reconnect) with others. We have to put energy into getting with other people, whether through a homeschool support group, co-op, small group, etc. For instance, when we take field trips to local parks for nature programs, will I make the effort to talk to other moms whose kids are playing with my son? I might make a new friend, or have a chance to be a friend to someone else. This is relatively easy to do, but requires a bit of forethought and a little risk. But, it’s worth it!

  3. Angela says:

    I think it can be lonely, and sometimes I like that it lets us be alone (which is not the same thing as lonely). But I think maybe ‘isolated’ is a better word, especially when you live in a place where there aren’t many other homeschoolers, or the homeschoolers that *are* around don’t mix with your particular philosophy.

    Having grow up as a public schooler, myself, though, well that was extremely lonely, too. As they say, you can be in the middle of a crowd without feeling a part of it. I wonder how many homeschool parents are introverts?

    For those who are (myself, included!), forcing yourself to just GET OUT THERE can be difficult, but when you do, you begin to realize you aren’t as secluded as you might think (at least that’s been the case for us).

    And don’t you love how awesome the online communities for homeschool are? :)
    Angela’s latest post: Homeschool Parents: A Question.

  4. I agree with the above comments. It is difficult to force myself to look for friends, when most of the time my family is sufficient for me. As my oldest become teenagers, however, I have noticed how much they need a little more social activity. We work hard to connect often with their friends even when the conflict between homeschool schedule and public school schedule makes this difficult. This helps us to keep a balance between alone and lonely.
    Jen@anothergranolamom’s latest post: 3 Great Places for Young Artists

  5. Emily says:

    I don’t think it’s lonely for my children at all (they are 5 and 3 and this is our first “official” year of homeschooling). They are involved in lots of activities and classes and see friends and community members all the time in daily life (i.e, the library, friends’ birthday parties, etc.). It can, however, feel lonely for ME. I think this is because going against the grain (in any arena) can feel lonely, since you’re walking an independent path. Plus, a lot of my friends don’t really “get” homeschooling. They don’t really seem to understand what goes into homeschooling and I think many just see me as a glorified housewife or something, which is obviously demoralizing. But I do have other friends who are supportive and I am optimistic that as my family continues along our journey, I will find more and more people in my area who are homeschoolers/like-minded. (Additionally, I think it’s worth pointing out that I think many people our age–just in this phase of life with young children–would point out things can get lonely whether they’re homeschoolers or not, working moms or stay-at-home moms. It’s just plain hard to make friends at this life stage. A recent article in the NYT by Alex Williams called “Friends of a Certain Age” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/fashion/the-challenge-of-making-friends-as-an-adult.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all illuminates this idea further. So we should be careful not to confuse homeschooling lonliness with just plain mid-life loneliness, know what I mean?)

  6. I agree with the above comments, too. I have to be very intentional about making sure my girls are involved in outside activities. It was easier when they were younger. Now that they are 8th & 11th grade, they don’t always have an interest in field trips or social gatherings. Fortunately, one is on our worship team at church and the other volunteers at a marine aquarium with a group several times a month. I do think our family is very close knit because of homeschooling. I have friends who have 16 year olds who are never home. We like being at home together!

  7. I think loneliness for me came more when I became a stay-at-home-mom. I didn’t know a lot of other moms, and the friends I had were not moms, but by homeschooling and trying to meet friends for my kids, I have slowly begun to meet other mothers with similar interests and that helps a lot. And getting out into community classes with the kids has been great too.

    I have always been the kind of person who has taken the road less traveled, and though it hasn’t been easy at all, I guess it has made me thick-skinned when it comes to homeschooling.

    It remains to be seen how I’ll feel in the future, especially as I watch my boys and want them to create meaningful relationships with other people. If we have trouble with that, then everything will change. But so far, so good!
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Losing a Canine Companion

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I have found it can be lonely but we are also a large family, 10 of us total, so that plays a big part in feeling like an outsider. We have a couple close friends that we hang out with regularly but for the most part we tend to stick to ourselves. We do have a homeschool co-op in our area but for personal reasons have withdrawn from it.
    Elizabeth’s latest post: Peach Tea

  9. melyssa says:

    I think this time of year particularly it feels a bit lonely. I keep running out for butter or milk, and see all these moms back to school shopping with their kids, and even if the moms are stressed and the kids are acting up, it still seems like a silly little thing we’re missing out on. I look back to MY mom, homeschooling back in the day before internet, and think she must have felt quite isolated. But she powered through! At the moment, my 12 year old is lonely, but I think she would be in public school, too. She’s a tomboy and doesn’t seem to make friends easily. We’re excited to start the new school year next year, and join up with some new groups. Maybe her best friend is in there, waiting for her. :)
    melyssa’s latest post: Conservatively Liberal

  10. Becca says:

    Yes it can be. The aspect of going against the stream is one piece that’s made it feel a little lonely for me. I have had moments of stunned awe as I realized I was the one making decisions about what we study and no one else. It takes a certain amount of confidence and independence to be comfortable with doing things differently. We also homeschooled for 18 months before we connected with other homeschoolers in our town. That was tough. Thankfully there are quite a few homeschoolers in our town and we all just persisted in getting connected, so now we have a new active group. WHile I waited for a local group, connecting online with people really helped me.
    Becca’s latest post: Thankful Thursday – August 30

  11. Kim says:

    I am about to enter my third year of homeschooling my son, an only child. We live in an urban area with many activities nearby. However… My son came to us through adoption, later in our life, so he is the only young child in our extended family. We also live miles away from extended family (meaning no cousins, no grandparents nearby). The kids in our neighbourhood all attend school. I work 20 hours per week in addition to homeschooling, and due to child care needs must work on Fridays, when most local homeschooling support groups meet. Although I’m convinced that homeschooling has been best for our son so far, I do find it lonely. My son is very social, and I find myself often falling short of the energy to supply his social needs. He is not an extrovert or a loner, and craves constant interaction with people. We attend church, got to local parks and rec centres often, are members of the YMCA and have my son enrolled in enrichment classes and community camps. But he is missing the regular interaction and long-term relationship building skills (including conflict resolution) that comes with seeing the same kids over and over (either through school, cousins, etc.). Sunday School and other activities are structured and leader-led, and often are just too short to provide the relational skills practice that my son could really benefit from. I have tried reaching out to other homeschooling families I know, but they have more than one child and are so busy attending to the needs of their families that it falls to me to pursue playdates, etc. with them and feels very one-sided. So in all honesty, homeschooling (even with all of the wonderful benefits and even if it’s the right choice for your child) can be very lonely even if one is doing all they can to provide social activities for their child. I am thankful for homeschooling blogs, which help me feel connected to a broader homeschooling community.

  12. Kristin says:

    I think I’m very blessed. Because I don’t feel lonely at all. I have a great church and lots of amazing friends, many of whom homeschool also. We get together often, with kids and without. And my boys have many, many great friends also. I know it might not always be this way, so we try and enjoy it now. I will admit, I’m a introvert too. :) So that may color my perspective bit. Still, I feel I have lots of support, encouragement, and friendship.

  13. Teish says:

    I know that some people thrive on a busy schedule and really enjoy being out and about most days. Being an introvert, I actually prefer being at home most of the time. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy getting out. I just find it exhausting rather than energizing.

    I go to the local homeschool support group that meets once a month at the library. For me, that’s perfect! But if you are an extrovert, you will probably need to find a way to have contact with other adults (besides your husband!) more often.

    I go grocery shopping and run errands about three times a month. When I do that, the kids stay home with their dad. It’s as much about me getting out of the house and having a few hours alone as it is picking up diapers and milk!

    I guess my advice is to figure out what YOU need. Maybe a once-a-month group meeting and grocery shopping alone will work, or maybe you need to get out and interact with some friends at least once a week. These things are important for homeschooling Moms. Taking time to refresh and recharge will help you all have a better school year!
    Teish’s latest post: Back-to-School Organization

  14. When I was homeschooled, I was very lonely. I was an extrovert with an extremely introverted mother, so she didn’t understand my need for people. I swore I would never do the same thing to my kids. Now that my oldest is in 1st grade, I am making an effort to go on field trips with other homeschoolers, have crafting days, etc. My BFF and I are even discussing starting a co-op. Homeschooling is becoming increasingly widespread, so if you ask me, there is no reason to feel like you’re doing it alone. You just have to make the effort.
    Jennifer Campbell’s latest post: Knobby Crochet Gnome Baby Hat (6-9 Months, Multi Fall Colors) by PlainOldUnromantic

  15. Laura says:

    Absolutely! The area I live in has plenty of homeschool groups. Unfortunately they are exclusively christian based. They do not welcome outsiders, I even attended a meeting of one group and was informed I was not welcome. I have attempted to connect with a few other homeschool mothers to discover there seems to be a divisive nature to them. There are K-12ers, curriculum buyers, purists who create their own curriculum, and unschoolers. In my experience most have nothing good to say about the others :( It’s very sad. We should all be working together to maintain our right to teach our children at home instead of fighting over the “right” way to teach at home.

    • Julie says:

      Just starting this road, and I haven’t as yet been lonely. We go do lots of stuff with friends from meetup.com and with other moms who send their kids to school. (DC area) I too am having a tough time trying to find the homeschoolers who aren’t on a Christian path, and the groups I’ve found don’t want me because I don’t believe in God. First week under my belt, and I’m feeling like this is definitely what my family needs.

      • Laura says:

        My style leaves me in a strange limbo when defining the kind of homeschooler I am. I’m use curriculums to give me ideas, but I also wing a lot and prefer the learning from life style. I visited with a mother last summer for pointers before I started. She laughed at me a bit and said she thought unschooling would be best for me. It was a bit of an insult the way she said it. I started looking for groups then. I found one secular group that was defunct. So, I looked into more extracurriculars to fill the gap. Soccer was a great source of social time for me as well as my oldest, but we moved in February (from one suburb to another, but far enough away it was inconvenient to drive to our old league area 3 times a week). We were unable to join the spring league here. The last 6 months have been especially lonely us, but with fall soccer about to start I’m hoping it will turn around. It appears our only hope are friends that do conventional school.

  16. Nicole says:

    I do feel lonely sometimes because almost all co-ops either are religious or are held in a church and I want my children to go to a co-op but I don’t want others involved in teaching my children religion or having to explain the statues and things that they see around them.

    • Laura says:

      I wouldn’t mind going to churches with my kids, but I am very open about different religions with my children. I don’t want them indoctrinated by my incredibly christian family so I have already introduced my 6 year old to many of the world’s religions and explained all are viewed as true to those who believe in them and no one has the right to say anyone is wrong. The only truth she needs to think about is what she feels in her heart and to not allow anyone to tell her what she should believe even if it is family. I think children deserve the right to discover a religion that speaks to them as they grow. I have met many people that feel tremendous amounts of guilt when they realize they do not believe in the religion they were preprogrammed for by their parents.

  17. Rebecca says:

    I think I do find it a lonely prospect at times. The other homeschoolers that I have managed to find in our area, school at home for religious reasons so they all go to the same churches, and participate in the Friday co-op that is very religiously based. We do not feel comfortable having our kids participate in the co-op. And my one daughter would probably refuse since the uniform does not allow skirts and that is all she wears! :) I am trying to find other opportunities for them and me.

    • Laura says:

      They don’t allow skirts?? On what grounds? How very strange. Do they allow dresses? That would knock us out too since my girls prefer dresses to anything else.

  18. Darby says:

    Like life in every situation, it is what you make of it. I certainly think it can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. I live in an area where there is a large homeschooling community. Well, let me qualify that. There are several homeschooling sub-communities within the larger community as a whole. When people raise the socialization flag I cringe. It’s not about socialization, it’s about being social. What people are really asking is, “Won’t the kids get lonely being isolated?” Kids?! Hardly. It’s the adults who get left behind in the frenzy of available homeschool activities.

    For the homeschool parents, there is nothing wrong with planning a weekly or monthly a Mom’s Night Out or Parents’ Night Out. Put together a booklist and start a monthly mom’s bookclub with your friends if the local homeschool group does not already have one. It gives YOU some much needed mom time. You cannot spend all your time with your children and not expect to go insane, lol!

    That said, there are other ways a homeschooler might be isolated. Many of the families in my community are Christian homeschoolers and are members of Christian homeschool groups. Even then, some of the Christian groups are more exclusive – granting membership only if you are affiliated with a church or a specific church, or if your faith is in agreement with their mission statement (which you have to sign) and so on. Not fitting the requisite can definitely get lonely.

    There is also a significant number of secular homeschoolers in my area. They call themselves secular, not because they are not Christian, some of them definitely are, but because they are either not homeschooling for religious reasons or somehow otherwise do not fit/meet the criteria for the other, more exclusive groups. There are also several groups based on locale – neighborhood, city, county. Some are small and do not get much mention, but others are quite large and create a sort of spider web of support.

    Neither type of group is inherently better; they both fill a need within the community. Some families I know are members of more than one group (that used to be me) to fill their own needs. We were in one group because of scouting, another group because of co-op, and yet another group because it was closer to home. Well, we’re not doing Boy Scouts or co-op anymore, so we are no longer members of those groups. I could have continued, but they were further than I wanted to travel, and they were no longer filling a need. While, I am willing to drive 15-20 miles to attend social events for my children, I’d rather not and am glad I don’t always have to. We remain friends with some of the members, so if nothing else the friendships are still in place. I don’t have to pay membership dues to maintain a friendship.

    If you can find another homeschool family in your area, you might consider starting your own group. Chances are you are not alone and soon your small group will grow. It can begin with something as simple as a weekly park day meet up.

  19. Stephanie says:

    I started out homeschooling in a relatively big city (100 000) that had a well established support network, and zero oversight/restrictions from the provincial government. it was a great place to start and i felt soo supported *by other homeschoolers*.

    Then we moved to small prairie towns – three in total over the next nine years. Those were survival homeschooling years. In every town there was at least one other homeschooler, but two families does not a homeschool or a culture make. it just makes it a little easier to endure.

    Then last year we moved to another relatively big city (100 000), which is hugely Christian (so are we), which has a huge amount of homeschoolers – especially our church, where all families with school aged children (except for one family) homeschools. (That family sent their children to the Christian school, where my husband is the principal!). It feels so nice to be surrounded by people who *get* the homeschooling, who *get* the large family (i have eight children, other families have 7-8-9). I know it for the luxury it is – and i am so used to being insular and doing it myself that i even have trouble uncurling and making time for other homeschoolers, but i do make it a priority and i am so grateful.

    So for me, it’s been mostly geography that’s contributed to the loneliness…

  20. If I didn’t have the parents in our homeschool co-op I think I’d feel quite lonely. I do feel a little out of sorts when summer’s over and so many of our friends return to school and are unavailable most of the week.
    When I’m plagued by fears and doubts my local homeschooling community is a true gift.
    Rachel @ 6512 and growing’s latest post: science espeerment

  21. Lana Wilkens says:

    If it weren’t for Classical Conversations I might feel lonely. But because they are so awesome, I have a community of accepting mom’s and my kids have a weekly class and field trips. It’s the best of both worlds for me. If anything, I need to plan time to be alone! haha

    I do sympathize though; it’s tough to have all your friends freed up to have lunch etc and you’re at home with the kids cause you value home education. I have felt that with mom’s I know outside CC. It’s a tension that will always exist, so I’m on the search for that balance emotionally when I see them.
    Lana Wilkens’s latest post: What is art?

  22. I love this discussion, because I was literally just thinking about this subject yesterday. What a blessing to wake up and see this topic being addressed and hear from so many other moms about how they handle the challenges, as well as the blessed & rewarding “other side” of the coin, which is the valuable time you spend with your family.

    Since we started homeschooling in 2010, I’ve been involved in a local homeschool group that offers a few limited “co-op” opportunities, as well as field trips, monthly moms support meetings, and more. I am so thankful that I started out with this network of support from amazing Godly and wise women who could reassure me during those transitional growing pains that we all face when we make the switch to a homeschooling lifestyle from a traditional school schedule!

    I think there are SO MANY more amazing opportunities for most homeschoolers to find resources in their communities to get their kids plugged in: Compared to when I was a homeschooled high schooler in the late 80s, the landscape has surely changed for the better when it comes to co-op classes, homeschool sports, and more. But I agree with the moms who say that the loneliness is mostly for mom: Even if I am attending all these activities for my three girls, I don’t always get the social time I really need with other women — and I think I still need completely “unplugged” time with women that has nothing to do with our kids’ extracurricular activities.

    I remember reading a blog post once about a mom who intentionally set out to cure the mama isolation with a planned coffee date with just the moms she knew who were homeschooling. I thought back then that I know I personally would LOVE that, but the biggest struggle I have faced in trying to plan such an activity is that most homeschooling moms do have challenges getting away on their own without the kiddos. I would love to hear more ideas from any moms who have been able to successfully create a support time for just the moms — how do you pull it off? I know I need more quality mama time WITHOUT my three girls… to develop those deep friendships we all need. Ideas anyone?
    Renee Gotcher’s latest post: Because there will be days that challenge us…

  23. Jess says:

    I have to say that being a stay at home mom and a homeschooling family that this is the best time ever!! We have a great homeschooling community and I have 3 best friends 2 of us home school and 2 of us don’t and we do some awesome things and have such a great time! There is so much that can be considered homeschooling besides just bookwork which we do . Our daughter who is now nine felt more alone in public school and now that she is homeschooled she is much happier and less stressed and able to be outside where she wants to be!

  24. R. Dotson says:

    I live in a community with many homeschoolers and have plenty of friends that homeschool. I found that homeschooling for me is lonely because of the choices I have to make. To go to the gym and work out for an hour and leave not stopping for coffee or to talk because getting home at the right time is essential to the flow of our day. Same with missing activities that regularly interfere with our nap/ quiet time. Lunch or brunch with girlfriends is regularly off the table because the kids are not at school but with me. This is where I am self aware that my loneliness stems from mourning the loss of that part of my life. The relationships I am building with my children are defiantly more important and the benefits of homeschooling outweigh the negative. That however, does not mean there are not days I do not mourn the loss of drinking a coffee in silence or having a quiet lunch with a girlfriend and when that happens homeschooling can feel lonely for me.

  25. Lacey P says:

    I feel this also and I know many homeschool parents feel the same. I think for my family (I include my husband because he feels it too) it is really easy to forget to go out because you caught up in homeschooling/living we live in a city with a lot of home schoolers but, we all tend to keep to ourselves except for school or church. We have to be intentional about getting out of the house together or separate. I try to get out with my friends once a week some weeks twice. The same goes for my husband if he needs to get out he can. One huge thing for our family is that our friends don’t have to be the same as us. Most of our family friends are older than us but, have younger kids or their kids go to public school. Our kids don’t notice. Its working so far hopefully it continues!

  26. Jill says:

    I was a little worried that it would be kind of lonely, but so far it has been great. I too live in an area where the few homeschooling groups available were strongly Christian based, and since my family is not Christian, it wasn’t a good fit for us. I decided to start my own secular (or rather not based on a faith) group and it has been wonderful! We are now 15 families strong and it happened that most of us have kids the same age (all around the K age) so we can do a lot together. The best part has been doing play dates where the kids just play in the yard or playroom and all the mommies sit around and chat! We also have a group of friends who are not homeschoolers, but good friends who meet every Friday for dinner and games. This has been a great outlet for my husband and I and something we look forward to every week :)

  27. Christina says:

    We are embarking on our second year of homeschooling in a couple of days and my kiddos are 8 and 12. Even though my 12 year old is a natural introvert (and so am I) it has been somewhat lonely at times throughout the past year. What we have both learned though is that “putting yourself out there” while very scary the first time gets much easier the second, third and so on and so it’s been just recently that we’ve connected with other families in our area. My 8 year old being the complete opposite of us is a total extrovert and actually helps me connect with other moms even when that fear of “putting myself out there” creeps in.

  28. Myriam says:

    It’s so ironic because I was inspired by friends around me who assured us that homeschooling was the best thing to do. While they were right, today all my friends who did homeschool, stopped, moved or somehow disappeared on us.. I feel like I’m the only one left. Homeschooling became my top priority, call it a passion, for I love seeing my kids succeed.. just that I have no one to share it with, really. It is indeed easy to get “lonely” since our school is to the most part at home and I feel most comfy at home, so once school is over all I want to do is relax, and not go out and “socialize”. While I don’t mind being alone, I am always on the look out for my boys to have company. They do make friends easily, on the playground, park etc. what is missing I think is friends they can see on a regular basis. We are not originally from the states and just recently moved so I also miss having my long term friends that all would have kids now.. (on the other side of the world) My boys go to school once a week and I did start talking to other parents, and will definitely make effort to maybe meet so the boys can enjoy some playtime. Time will tell.. This is our 3rd year, I have s 7, almost 5 and 3 year old.
    Myriam’s latest post: Some Thoughts about Homeschooling

  29. Debbye says:

    This is my second year homeschooling and yes, I feel lonely sometimes. My daughter enjoys being homeschooled, but I worry that she doesn’t have “enough” friends… This is our second year going to a once a week family started and run community homeschool co-op, which really helps combat loneliness, and is a great place to have fellowship with other parents, and other kids for my kids!
    Debbye’s latest post: Why Newborn Babies Are Fussy In The Evening (Besides Colic)

  30. BC says:

    Yes!! We are in our 4th year (ages 10, 8, 6). My mother lived with us for 6 years and since she has moved to assisted living I can’t believe how lonely I am. I am concerned less for my kids since they are involved in a co-op, a church, and have several neighborhood friends who home school. Lately, the issue has been with me. I have made a list of my besties and have made a promise to myself to arrange something each week with a friend; just for me, not a get together for my kids. They’ll have to come along, of course, but I need the adult conversation. :)

  31. Rachel says:

    Im

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