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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

3 Ways Homeschooling Changes your Friendships

The changes in my friendships took me a little off guard when I began this journey of homeschooling. Your journey will look different than mine, but I will share some of the changes I have witnessed along the way, and what to do about those changes.

We need other women, and division over our choice to homeschool should not tear us apart.

Fewer shared experiences

Homeschooling is a lifestyle, not just an educational choice. Acknowledging this fact will prepare you for many of the changes in your other relationships. Intimacy levels change when you choose a different lifestyle.  You will not be able to talk about PTA schedules together or discuss your kid's teachers.  You can't moan over E-learning/Snow Days together. You won't understand the morning struggle of getting four kids ready to get on a bus.  You will feel left out of these conversations, and sometimes frustrated with others's lifestyles.

 Your public school friends may also feel left out of your life too, or frustrated with it. They won't understand the mind numbing struggle of choosing a curriculum.  They don't get the worry of making sure you are following state laws when you begin, the stress of finding a co-op, or figuring how to organize all your homeschool subjects.

 I know that when I share my parenting issues with homeschool moms, their reaction will not be "all those problems would be solved if you just put your kid in public school".  Yes, homeschool is not for everyone, but if you deeply believe God has called your family to this lifestyle, you need to have friends who encourage you in that goal.

Intentional conversation about Non-Homeschool Topics
There are parenting struggles that are universal, and it is ESSENTIAL to find common ground to maintain your friendship.   But to maintain an intimate friendship, you will need to connect deeper on subjects that don't necessarily involved your kids. PARENTING IS NOT THE ONLY THING ABOUT US LADIES.  We are mothers, but we are also wives, friends, daughters, and women.

One of my best friends in the world moved to a different state last year and the last time she came to visit me, we talked for about 4 hours without stopping except to eat, and even then we talked while eating. We MAYBE spent 10 minutes of that time talking about our kids. She is a public school mom. She supports me, and I support her, but we just don't have all the same parenting experiences in common. We connect on so many other levels that it is OK that we don't share school experiences.

 We have so much in common otherwise (faith, being a wife, being a woman, humor, etc) that a boundary on divisive topics is good if I want to maintain certain relationships.  I believe some compartmentalizing can be very healthy if we want to maintain friendships when we have very different lifestyles. For example, I don't discuss politics with my in-laws because it would be too divisive to a valued relationship.

Save the homeschool talk for your homeschool tribe, those are the mamas with whom you can talk to about how hard teaching math is in February, or how hard it is to get your kids to write cursive.

Different schedules
During the school year, I can't go to a play date at 10 a.m. on a Monday, talk on phone for an hour during school time, or attend a morning Bible Study. I can't meet for coffee after school drop off.   Back to School season is a huge marker of our friendships changing because our schedules change drastically. Most of my public school friends understand this and still love me, but it does mean that I missed out on get-togethers of my mom friends a lot as my kids were in Elementary and Middle School.  As they become more independent, I am able to be a little more flexible, but my main priority still has to be their education.

 Sometimes it can hurt to see everybody getting together when you know you can't join.  It can either breed doubt  in your choice, or bitterness at your friends. It is essential to recognize these feelings before that take root and lead to hasty decisions or more hurt. In the end I have had to see that this is the schedule of the lifestyle that God has called me to, and I believe that the sacrifices are worth it.

Intentional Scheduling
Sometimes people ask me how my homeschooled kids make friends.  I always respond, "My homeschool kids make friends the same way all adults do, intentional planning."

Sometimes homeschooling means getting creative with your schedule. I invited a friend over tomorrow and she's going to bring her preschool-age children to play with our stash of old preschool toys while my older kids can do their independent school work and us Moms chat.

 Sometimes it means blowing off school and making a friend connections a priority over Math that day.

Sometimes it means that a relationship drifts out of your life because that person can't accommodate your homeschool lifestyle. This one is tough, but I have had it happen. An old friend felt frustrated that I wasn't available to her the same ways her non-homeschool friends were, so our intimacy stagnated and changed to more of an acquaintance, and that is OK. It's important to surround yourself with people who encourage you in your goals, and if your goal is to homeschool then real friends will understand.

Defensiveness on both sides. 
Parenting is one of the most personal things you will ever do. It is natural to see a friend's different parenting choice as a condemnation against our choice. It is so natural to mistakenly hear "I home school" as "I think public school is wrong", or vice versa.

Please note that there is a difference between 'defending' and 'defensive':
*Defending is standing up for, or justifying a worthwhile cause.
*Defensive is anticipating an attack, even before it comes. Defensiveness is taking  everything personal, like the above mentioned differences in schedules and experiences.

Many things are very worth defending, but a quick jump to defensiveness can really hurt your friendships.

Security in your choice AND Boundaries in Relationships 
 Honestly, I have no perfect answer for this because you can ONLY CONTROL DEFENSIVENESS ON YOUR SIDE. In my case, I deal with my defensiveness by addressing my insecurity and setting boundaries.

Security In My Choice
 I think we fight defensiveness by security in our decision. Read books about homeschooling, read articles, and pray about why you homeschool. Listen to podcasts who affirm and encourage you. Find Homeschool Co-op or Community.

Surround yourself with moms who have done this before and ask them questions on how they dealt with their insecurity. We ALL have it, you are not alone.  I myself learned this lesson through seeking healing from my own deep insecurities that kept me from friendships with homeschool and public school moms alike. If your insecurity is keeping you from intimacy with women, then it needs healing. Seeking healing for insecurities is up to you, your defensiveness is your responsibility.

If you  have a public school mom friend who is insecure and defensive, and it shows in her conversations with you, you are not responsibility for someone else's defensiveness.  You do not need to change your life. Don't couch you sharing because of someone else's insecurity.  You don't need to apologize for sharing all the amazing things in your life in relation to homeschooling. You are only responsible to adjust your expectations and set boundaries.

Boundaries & Expectations
It is OK to not talk about EVERYTHING in your life with EVERY FRIEND. Healthy conversation filters are really just realistic expectations of others.

My husband, and maybe two other women, are my only friends with whom I have almost no filters. Even then I don't expect my husband to discuss some women issues with me, not because he'll judge me, but because he won't be able to help me the way I need. It would be an unfair expectation to put him the position to fill all my needs.

 I am not advocating inauthentic conversation, I am advocating having realistic expectations of other humans. It is unrealistic for a public school mom to expect me to vent with them over parenting choices I just don't understand because I haven't experienced them, and vice versa. I can't talk to you for hours about PTA because I just don't get it. My PS friends also can't give me advice on the best Math Curriculum to use with my 7th graders.

All parents have the SAME GOAL, but we walk different roads to accomplish that goal. We can talk about our parenting goals together, but boundaries on how, and to whom, you talk about the roads you take to reach that goal.

I have learned the hard way there are just women who I can't talk about homeschooling with because their lack of experience with homeschooling, or disagreement with my choice, may lead them to giving unhelpful advice or comments that are either based on false assumptions or their own opinions. This unsolicited advice has damaged a few friendships, and I don't like it. It hurts. Adjusting my expectations of certain relationships is the only way to keep them.

The response ,"That is why we ___________ (insert homeschool or send our kids to public school)" is NOT an appropriate or helpful response when a friend is sharing a struggle with their child.
 Seriously, both sides of public and homeschoolers have to stop this.  I have been on the receiving end of  "That is why we send our kids to school" more times that I can count; it is hurtful and judgmental. When a friend who has a different schooling choice than you, confides a parenting struggle, please prayerfully answer with scripture and encouragement, or keep your mouth shut.

 I need these types of boundaries on many topics, not just homeschooling. I have loved ones with whom I can discuss politics, and some the topic is off limits if we want to preserve our relationship. I also have friends who have food allergies like me, so I know I can vent to to them and they won't say anything hurtful or ignorant.

 Boundaries help me keep amazing and wise people in my life, who happen to disagree with me on a few non-essential subjects. Homeschooling is a big part of who I am, so I need my closest most intimate friends are the ones who are supportive of that choice, but I also can not define myself completely by homeschooling. If we make homeschooling deal breaker in relationships, you will miss out on many amazing people who can give wisdom on other topics. It is a fine line to walk, but it can be done.


Please see the other articles below on how  we can have more unity as women of faith.

I truly hope this helps a homeschool mom out there!

Unity in Regards to Homeschooling

Defending or Defensive in my Choice to Homeschool

Satan is a Mean Girl, he wants to divide women

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