Meeting people and making friends are part of the challenges new homeschooling families face. Home education extends to social interactions as well as educational opportunities, and juggling them along with the usual household responsibilities can be overwhelming. Typically, they don’t know other homeschooling families yet, might be new to the area, and likely have most of their friend circles connected with the local public school.
Covid has made it 1000x harder for nearly two full years. Homeschoolers have experienced difficulties with isolation, cancellation and limits on activities and classes, uncertainty about health protocols, and so on. It's not just a public-school issue.
Difficulties making new friends are one of the top reasons new homeschoolers return to their local public schools.
However, even with Covid and health concerns, it is possible to meet people and make new friends. It takes extra effort, but it’s so worth it for parents as well as the kids. It's not automatic - for better or worse - like public school.
I say this with love -- families need to make it happen. If it is that important to you and your child, then get out of the house, invite people over for something fun, or host something in your community and invite people to join you. No one else will make it happen for you. There are lots and lots of families searching for connections, too.
So.... what are you going to do about it?
Make It Happen
It takes deliberate efforts to find your tribe.
Homeschoolers are not limited to age peers or people who share the same zip code. We’re free to choose which activities to attend, decide when they fit into our busy schedules, and pick engagement with people we like.
Go to activities; there are events posted in our social media groups (our main FB group is very active) all the time, admittedly slower during the holidays. Organize something your child likes, maybe a sledding outing, ice skating meet-up, or winter scavenger hunt.
Join a group or start one -- maybe monthly field trip adventures, a book or gaming club, or crafting regular meet-up, or something else your child likes.
Start with your child’s interests and host something in your home or community. Create an event in one of our social media groups, then share it and invite people to join you!
Want additional ideas? Host a cookie decorating and movie afternoon at your house. Organize a service project. Does your child like board games? That would be fun, too.
If you want outdoor activities only, then organize something near you like a sledding outing, a winter scavenger hunt, a cardboard fort construction day, or something else that's fun. Do you have a favorite sledding hill? Is there a cool hiking trail nearby? Is there a pond frozen over (maybe not yet, but soon)? Boom -- right there you have the opportunity for a winter meet-up!
If you're comfortable with inside activities, there are lots of educational centers that offer programs; consider organizing a group field trip and maybe a luncheon afterwards to meet each other and talk more. The GSHE website has an extensive list of field trip ideas to explore.
Here are more suggestions. Consider organizing a homeschool group class for something your child likes. What does he/she like to do -- art, dance, martial arts, theater, animals? Reach out to a local business, maybe an art provider or gymnastics/dance studio, a music teacher, or local animal education center, about offering a daytime program specifically for homeschoolers. The GSHE website has a huge list of places that have educational programs, many just for homeschooling families. There are so many good programs available. Take advantage of it!
There are also structured programs such as scouts, 4-H, and Classical Conversations co-ops that have multiple groups across New Hampshire. The GSHE Support Groups page has lots of local groups, co-ops, and small learning groups listed from all over the state. We also have tips and suggestions for how to start a family-based learning group.
Take the Make-a-Friend Challenge
Homeschooling takes effort, even for social connections. If you and/or your child are struggling to meet people, make this a priority for the coming couple months.
Here’s the Make-a-Friend Challenge, three things to do before the end of February:
1) Host another homeschooler at your home for a play date.
2) Host anything - a field trip, outdoor activity, or something else - create an event in our social media group, promote it a few times, and invite people to join you.
3) Attend something that another family organizes.
If you're serious about meeting people, this will work. Repeat as needed.
There is no magic bullet or easy fix. It takes effort, but it is for your kids, and if we're honest, for ourselves, too. Even introverts need human connection. The huge plus with homeschooling is that socialization is what you want it to be. If you don’t leave your home, it is impossible to meet new people. Know that your circle of friends is not limited to your child's age peers in a particular zip code. YOU choose what to do, when to do it, and who you interact with.
No one is trivializing or minimizing the struggle in meeting people, especially in Covid world. NH is so spread out and does not have mass transportation, so that complicates things for more remote areas.
All aspects of homeschooling -- the educational and social parts -- take effort, time, and persistence. Nearly all of us have tried hosting park meet-ups that weren't especially well attended, or hoped to connect with folks but just didn't hit it off for whatever reason. Covid is definitely making things much harder, too.
If you host some kind of activity of any kind, please make an event in the GSHE group because it's so much easier to find than a random post that can get buried, and promote it, share it often, invite people, let people know you are doing XYZ on a particular date and location.
Making friends and finding your peeps is worth the effort for your children and yourself. Nothing is automatic, but it's so worth it. YOU decide what to do, when it happens, and with whom you engage. It can be so rewarding!
Keep at it. It will work. Be patient.
By Michelle Levell