Written by Amida at Journey into Unschooling. She has met a lot of friendly moms at park days.
Socialization seems to be a sort of taboo subject among homeschoolers. More often than not, when questioned, we get defensive and rattle off a whole list of opportunities that meet our child’s social needs.
Most veterans I know scoff at the notion that there even is an issue. After all, they argue, my kids have ample opportunities to meet with a wide range of people and ages in a natural, organic way. They aren’t just limited to their peer-group.
It’s the way friendships work in the real world!
It’s been my experience, however, that socialization, and specifically, friends, don’t always come easily when you don’t have a ready-made peer group. Sure, your kids may have a knack for talking up the local postman or supermarket clerk, but, I also want my kids to grow up with friends their age.
Fortunately for you, the rumors are true. Kids do make friends almost effortlessly. Just throw them in with other kids and eventually, even your shy wallflower has a good chance of clicking with someone.
It’s the moms I’m worried about here. Certainly, your career-minded best friend isn’t going to understand your survival mechanisms for 24-7 mom/chauffeur/teacher/housekeeper duty.
You need another homeschooling mom.
One obvious way to meet this friendship need is the homeschool playgroup, where like-minded families gather to just play. Having children in a wide range of ages, I’ve gone to my share of new groups in an effort to meet other hip moms and their (hopefully) charming and appropriately aged kids.
The good news is, the more gatherings you attend, the larger your pool of familiar faces, even if they aren’t immediately BFFs.
Photo by Britney Randolph
Here are five easy steps to becoming a more socialized mom.
Find a playgroup
In a big city like mine, there seems to be no end to the amount of homeschool groups popping up on the Internet. Ask other moms which groups they belong to and if you can tag along on their next park day.
If you’re starting at ground zero, just google for homeschool groups in your area and check out their age ranges. My kids span twelve years, so every few years, I go scouting for another group to hook up with so my younger ones have playmates their own age.
Attend a park day
Once you find a potential match, ask the group coordinator if you can attend a park day to check it out.
This is perhaps the hardest part about socializing for moms — taking that first step.
Don’t overthink it and don’t overdress. Just take the advice you always give your kids — be yourself.
Remember, you’re not signing any marriage contract. You’re just checking the group out — if you click with someone, great! If not, don’t despair, which brings us to…
Attend another park day
Yes, you should go again. Sometimes, you can’t really connect with anyone that first day. Usually, everyone already knows everyone else, and you need time to be a more familiar face they can hand a baby over to while they settle whose turn it is to be It.
More often than not, they are probably also checking you out and wondering if you’re future playdate material. It’s a bit like dating…for moms.
Also, given the nature of park days, you’re bound to see someone who didn’t come that first day, or if you’re in luck, another newbie shows up and you are suddenly propelled into old pro status.
If you were lucky enough to make connections with another mom, and find her kids passable, be sure to exchange contact info and write her a follow up email.
“Hey, it was wonderful meeting you at the park today. You children are adorable and Josie enjoyed playing with them. What days are you free? Josie would love to meet up again to play …”
You get the idea. For gosh sakes, be sincere.
Photo by mrhayata
Pencil in a play-date
Not to be confused with the Park-Day, the Play-Date is much more intimate and usually involves just a few moms and their kids. These are special arrangements away from the larger group and affords great opportunity to bond and get to know each other.
One of the most awesome experiences of homeschooling is seeing the children in the play groups grow up together and have their moms know exactly what you mean when you’re complaining about a bad school day.
Pay it forward
Congratulations! So you’ve made connections, you’re an integral part of the group.
You can now dangle the park day carrot in front of the kids to get them to hurry up with the school work! You have peeps to make play dates with and commiserate with you on on those days you wonder why you ever signed up for this homeschooling gig.
Remember to pay it forward. Next time you go to a park day and see a newbie, don’t leave her sitting by herself pretending to have fun pushing the swing. Go introduce yourself and your kids and strike up a conversation.
Tell her all about the group and the wonderfulness it entails. Sometimes, it’s hard to make a new friend.
Socialization takes effort but in the end, it pays off. And remember, just be yourself.
Do you have advice for reaching out to other homeschooling parents?