Homeschooler Doesn’t See Friends Often Enough

My son, who is soon to be 10 in a few months, boldly told a stranger today, “We’re homeschooled! That means I get to spend a lot of time with my family. It also means I don’t get to spend enough time with my friends.”

Doh! Talk about pressure!

So this is what went through my head during the 1.2 seconds that it took for him to say this, and for me to create some kind of reaction:

What? He’s never told me that!
What will this person think of me after this?
What will she think of homeschooling?
I have to be a supermodel of homeschooling. I wrote a book about it for goodness sakes!
Is this really what he meant to say? Cam’s still learning about how to use words in a way that express his true thoughts.
What can I say after that? Do I apologize? Ignore it? Change the subject?
Do I need to get him more friends?
Am I ruining my son?
He seems happy with our social schedule. Why is he saying this?
It’s just his perception of what school is, not reality.

So all of that went through my head. What I chose to say and do:

“Is that so Cam?” I said this in the same tone I would ask, “How are you doing today?”

He quickly moved on to another subject because he apparently had more to say, “If I did go to school, math would be my best subject!” Then he added, “See, I have this cool math book (and he did), and a calculator (and he did.)”

After that, the stranger seemed very uninterested. Was she afraid he’d start rattling off the quadratic equation to her?

Soon after, we left. And again I asked him if he really felt like he doesn’t see his friends more. He said, “Yes.”

I replied with, “Well, get to it then! Make playdates and get together with your friends. What’s stopping you?”

He thought for a bit, then brightened up. “You mean I can call them when I want?”

“Of course!” I said.

“Do we have their numbers?”

“Of course!” I said.

“Alright, I’ll call them and we’ll get together!”

That was five hours ago he said this. Apparently, he doesn’t miss his friends THAT much. He hasn’t asked me for my phone, or their numbers.

I wonder about things kids say, and I think that perhaps there is no way to avoid the “grass is greener” approach to life that they have. And that we can’t blame ourselves if they want something different. It’s normal and natural to think that maybe a different life would be better. So I tried not to make him think that he is just fine how he is now, that he’s wrong, or that he’s not perceiving it the right way. I let him feel that he doesn’t see his friends enough. And waited. I waited to see if just how real, and life-pervasive that feeling is. Or if it was something that he just said as he imagined the life of a school kid during the conversation about school.

I am not above admitting we aren’t seeing friends enough if that’s really the case. And if he wants to be with his friends more (and it isn’t a sign that he’s not happy at home), he can be with his friends as much as he wants. Invite them over! Go over there! Call them! I am not attached to being the keeper of his social schedule.

But, from what he actually does, he seems to still like hanging at the house, and letting me take care of social hour. He gets enough. If he didn’t, he’d have already called his friends by now. The phone’s right there. He knows how to use it. And he’s got permission. Is it really a parent’s responsibility, or even a good idea, to jump up and make more playdates because of one comment, and to fix it for him? What would be the real reasoning behind doing that? Especially as a homeschooler?

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8 Responses to “Homeschooler Doesn’t See Friends Often Enough”

  1. Louisa Says:

    Hmmm…this is so interesting and your reaction to your son was well… on. I have not even started to think about tackling the ‘problem’ of social isolation yet for my two children (this is still all very new to me). The most important point you put across is that it is THEIR choice and up to them to make contact with friends, with your help if they need it. This is a very important lesson for me, as I have found myself already obsessing about how I will keep up the social interaction that school provided when they were there. The answer is to be sensitive to their needs and take the cues from them. Simple.

  2. Dawn Says:

    We’ve been homeschooling our 9 year old since December. I’m surprised at how many people have said to me ‘aren’t you concerned about her social life?’ ….especially when it comes from people that know mmy daughter. She’s VERY social and homeschooling hasn’t hurt her at all. Her little brother is still in the school she was in previously. He attends afternoon kindergarten and so when I take him to school she can come along and see her friends. At first it was really important to her that we get there early enough for her to have plenty of socializing time. I noticed lately that she doesn’t always want to come with us now and sometimes when she does she stays in the van and reads. I asked her about it the other day. Her response was interesting. I said to her, “I noticed you don’t seem as interested in playing with your friends every day anymore. How come?” She looked up from her book and wrinkled up her forhead and said, “Hmmm….you’re right. I don’t know why!” She did some thinking about it I guess because later she came to me and said that she realized that she really wasn’t missing anything. She talks to them on the phone and arranges play dates when she wants to. The comment that I silently celebrated was when she said that she used to really care about what her friends think and worried about that a lot. She doesn’t worry about it so much anymore. She’s still friends and wants to be friends…but she’s much more comfortable with herself.
    If nothing else is gained from our stint at homeschooling, that will be enough for me!! I’m thrilled to have a child who seems to have recognized peer pressure for what it is and that there’s more to life than having to worry about what her friends think, do, say, wear, want, etc.

  3. Laura :) Says:

    >>So I tried not to make him think that he is just fine how he is now<<

    That is my favorite part! 🙂 I’ve heard it hundreds of times from parents to their kiddos….the kiddo says “I’m hungry” or whatever…..and the parent says, “You just ate, you’re fine.” Insert whatever it is a child could say about their own body or mind and you’ll hear a parent say, “You’re fine!” I won’t say I’ve _never_ said it myself, I’m certain I have…but reading your post, Tammy, brings it to mind that I don’t want to tell my kiddos how they feel, I want to allow them to feel how they feel, just as I would any other person.

    Great post!!

  4. tobeme Says:

    Your response to your son’s comment was excellent! You opened up the oppportunity and enabled him to cure this issue up himself. Truth in the end is that this wasn’t an issue. He simply wanted more say, more control. Once you gave that to him he was satisfied because in the end he enjoys his home school life. Thanks for sharing

  5. Joanne Says:

    Briilliant response. The isolation issue is an interesting one to watch and see what happens. I love that you didn’t tell him how to be or feel.

  6. Sandra Foyt Says:

    Great response! You listened, threw out some information, but let him decide whether or not to solve the perceived problem. The power to change things is in his hands.

    And, kudos to you for keeping your cool in front of the stranger. It’s hard to keep your own ego in check, especially when our parenting skills or homeschool choices are called into question.

    My kids tell everyone, everything – often in a way that I don’t consider flattering. And it’s oh so hard to not redirect or restate what they say.

    But, by saying “just enough, and nothing more” promoted open communication with your child – a much more important goal than whatever the stranger thinks.

  7. Aimee Garcia Says:

    I think your son is not really “complaining” about not being with friends because of his homeschooling, because that life is normal to him. If he experienced studying outside your home, then maybe there will be a comparison from him.

  8. Tammy Says:

    Louisa – Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I think most homeschooling moms obsess about this issue at some point, if not repeatedly. Perhaps, all moms do. It’s a constant balancing act, isn’t it?

    Dawn – Thank you for that story. It really points out how distorted our ideas of social interaction can be when we are in an environment where we have to find friends as a survival technique. We grasp at them. Your daughter is lucky. You were patient with her, and let her discover at her own pace how she can enjoy her own company.

    Laura – It’s funny. When you pointed that out that sentence, I realized that I have said the exact opposite than that in other contexts – They are fine exactly how they are now… as in, they do not need to change to fix themselves. But in this context, and you caught on to this, I meant it as a way of saying, “You know better than me how you feel, and whether you want to change that.” I deem them OK how they are right now, but if they want to change things, that’s OK too. Great observation on how important it is to acknowledge the legitimacy of their feelings, Laura.

    tobeme – Nice to see you again. I think you’re right about Cam enjoying his school life. All afternoon they’ve been singing that song that’s popular with the kids these days, “I don’t wanna go to school…”

    Joanne – Hi there. Yes, it’s interesting to watch, isn’t it?

    Sandra – Thanks! Embarrassment is a strong emotion. It’s hard sometimes to decide between protecting ourselves and removing our own feeling of being uncomfortable, and observing what’s going on with our kids so that we can see the whole picture.

    Aimee – I thought about that, that maybe if he had been to school, he would have a much different idea of the kind of social opportunities are there. But maybe not. Maybe he’s right. In any case, I don’t think it matters so much why he has a feeling, but rather to acknowledge it and find out if there is a real need being expressed, and what we can do about it. What do you think?

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