Forcing Children to Make Friends

forcing_children_to_make_friendsI don’t understand. Help me understand. They asked to participate. They were looking forward to today’s event. Now, all of a sudden, they would rather not go. As we’ve started branching out in our homeschooling endeavors, this seems to be a recurring issue. Do I start forcing my children to get outside and make friends?

The Lord has opened incredible doors to us recently. Nature groups, book clubs, and more are all becoming available. While I’d love to participate in everything – that’s just who I am – I also understand this is not physically possible. Thus, I often ask my children which activities they would most like to attend and try to make them happen. Sounds great, right? One would think.

The dilemma is not in the planning, but in participation. Inevitably, the morning of, my children express disinterest in the activity. They hem and haw, unsure of whether or not they wish to attend. To make matters slightly more difficult, these are not events which require our presence or activities which have been reserved. Nope; we are free to come and go as we please. Which is lovely, unless your children use this as an excuse not to attend.

What’s a mom to do?

Understanding the Problem – Perhaps my children’s disinterest is a mask to cover their fear or anxiety. Making new friends isn’t easy. New venues can be stressful. Maybe they are currently content and have no interest in making new friends. It happens. It might be our schedule has been over-busy and our kids need a break. I won’t know what the problem is until I ask. Open communication needs to take place, and my children need to know they can trust me. I want to help, not push them further away.

Working Together – Great, we now know what the problem is. Let’s find a way to make this work. Prayer is always the best first step. Finding a working plan is the next. Maybe a current friend could attend with us, helping us feel more at ease and breaking the ice. Whatever we need to make this work, we’re willing to give it a shot.

When It’s Time to Move On – Let’s face it. It takes time to do all this research. If our children are not expressing an interest, it might be time to move on. Instead, let us focus our attentions on activities they do wish to actively participate in and make the best use of our time.

Here’s where we now stand: I will present an event or opportunity to them. If they say, “Yes”, then we go. Period. Let your yes be yes, and all that jazz. However, if they consistently say no to a group or set of activities, it’s time to put it on the back burner or lose it altogether. It’s just not the right time. No harm done.

Emergencies and inclement weather aside, my children need to understand the value of committing to planned activities. By doing my part and better understanding their desires, I can help them make wiser choices in which events we should attend. Together, we can go forth and have fun, making new friends along the way.

This shouldn’t be me pressuring them to get out and have a good time. Instead, it should be a family endeavor to enjoy each day, prayerfully making new friends along the way. It is only by understanding, encouraging, and forging the way will we arrive.

“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”
~ Matthew 5:37

Your Turn!: What’s the furthest distance you’ve traveled to make a homeschool event possible?

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Do You Have a Tribe?

do_you_have_a_tribeDo you have a tight group of friends? A ‘tribe’, if you will. You know, those friends who call you simply to say hello and ask how you’re doing. People who you attend gatherings with and go on occasional field trips. A group who will encourage and edify. A tribe.

As a family, I would say our tribe starts here. We might seem small, but we are strong in Christ. From our inner circle, extends outer rings which add to our lives. Part of our tribe consists of family members, while others are friends. Members of our church and homeschool groups make up a few of the tribes we are proud to call ours.

While the bulk of our tribe is physically present, able to participate in activities together, we are blessed to have a few online as well. These are friends the Lord has brought into our lives who – even across oceans and continents – are a blessing. We pray for one another, encouraging each other in the roles God has given as Christians, spouses, parents, and homeschoolers. True, these are not common, but the Lord can do wonderful things when we seek Him out.

What is the function of a tribe? To edify, assist, and encourage. We look out for each other. We inspire one another to seek righteousness. We learn from each other, help one another, and lift one another before God.

Our tribe has not always been as large as it is now. At times, it felt as if our family and a very small group of friends were the entirety of our circles. And that’s okay. Perhaps you’re there now? Don’t be discouraged. The Lord has you here for a reason. When the time is right, the Lord will increase your tribe and have new lessons for you to learn. Until then, be prayerful in your desires and rejoice in where you are. Having a larger tribe increases fun, but it also increases responsibility and activity. And in harsh circumstances, drama. Times of quiet refresh the soul and prepare us for more.

Don’t be surprised if, on occasion, the Lord changes the dynamic of your tribe. (I think He likes to keep us on our toes.) At times the tribe will decrease, other times it will evolve in nature. On occasion, the Lord will have you step back from everything and regroup as a family. Keep Christ as your center and you can trust any change to be for the better.

As we struggle through our day-to-day activities, it helps knowing we have someone to share this journey with. May the Lord give us wisdom in selecting our friendships with care and grace to cultivate edifying relationships. And may we seek to be the iron which sharpens those we’re blessed to call family and friend.

“Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.”
~ Proverbs 27:17

📢 Chime In!: What about your tribe inspires and helps you to be a better homeschool teacher/parent?

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Searching For Unicorns

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.
~Ann Landers

Searching_UnicornsThey have a park day, but field trips are a little lacking. The group is small. They’re open to a nature club, but finding someone to step up and lead might be a challenge. The ladies seem great, but not all the kids are as well-mannered as we’d like… Have you discovered sometimes finding the ‘perfect’ homeschool group can seem akin to searching for unicorns?

The notion of being involved in an active homeschool group is wonderful. The outings, learning opportunities, and edification sounds lovely. The issue of socialization isn’t high on our list of homeschooling concerns. But, let’s face it, we all like having friends.

What happens when we can’t find the right homeschooling group? For whatever reason, we never find a proper fit for our family. Mom isn’t building relationships, the kids dislike the activities available,  and/or our local group isn’t as organized as we’d like them to be.

Perhaps we’re overlooking a few things.

No group is going to be perfect. None. Even if the group seems wonderful at the get-go, something is bound to come up. There will always be difficult situations to work through, opportunities to practice flexibility, grace needed, and patience tested. We also need to keep in mind groups are only as good as we put into them. If our local homeschool group has potential, but needs a little boost, the Lord might be using us to step up and help. It won’t be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a blessing.

Our family is a group! Sometimes we don’t need to find these activities outside of our family – even though we might enjoy participating in these particular activities with others. All we need is right here. We can go on park days with our cousins, enjoy field trips with auntie, and learn baking from grandpa. Family is wonderful.

Searching for perfection, like unicorns, is pointless. It doesn’t exist this side of heaven, except in our imaginations and movies. It can also be dangerous. Instead of being grateful for the lovely in front of us, we are obsessed with finding the unattainable.

May we be open to the possibilities Christ is putting before us, praying carefully over our homeschooling decisions. May the Lord bless each of our families with close friends to share in the journey.

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
~ I Peter 4:8

📢 Chime In!: How are you making the most of your homeschool group?

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Locked in a Closet

Friends and "Family"If you’ve ever come across the numerous blog posts written by ex-homeschooled kids, you will notice a trend. Generally speaking, the complaint lies in socialization. It seems they did not have enough friends, go on enough outings, or have the privilege of attending prom. To their way of thinking, they might as well have been locked in a closet.

While we’ve discussed the silly myth of socialization among homeschooled children, it does seem there is a certain percentage of children who are not enjoying enough interaction with other people.

As a parent who truly does want my children to enjoy meaningful friendships and have lifelong relationships, how then do I go about the act of socialization? I think there are numerous ways in which this can be accomplished:

  • Church
  • Sports
  • Co-ops
  • Family
  • Fellowship with Friends
  • Ministry Opportunities

I am sure the list could go on; however, I doubt it is necessary. To be honest, I believe opportunity is not the issue. There are more than enough venues to offer socialization if one simply makes an effort. Perhaps the problem lies somewhere deeper… a lack of relationship with our children.

As parents, it is our responsibility to pay attention to our children; to understand their needs and provide for them. If my children are expressing a desire for interaction and fellowship, it would behoove me to listen and help them in this area of development.

Is this going to mean a little more work for me? Possibly. Will this mean I might taxi people around a little bit? Perhaps. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely!

Through careful study of my children, I can begin to encourage and help forge those relationships which would be of benefit. With an observant eye, I want to offer plenty of opportunities for my littles to meet new people and build lasting friendships.

It doesn’t take a public school to socialize a child. It does take an involved parent with a heart to meet their children’s needs and guide them into meaningful fellowship.

Time to Chime In: How do you teach your children the fine art of socialization? Which venue has best met that need?


(Another guest post from my husband)

Actually, I won’t be discussing other stupid myths. The myth about “socialization” is stupid enough. It’s one which has been dealt with so often that I thought it was a dead issue. Yet, critics of homeschooling continue to beat this drum, and as long as they do so, it will require a response.

Critics of homeschooling fall generally into two camps: those who are simply ignorant and easily persuaded by the sophistry and constant drum-beating of anti-homeschoolers, and the anti-homeschoolers themselves. The former group, thankfully, can usually be educated about the facts. The latter, on the other hand, usually have an ideological prejudice (e.g., “it takes a village” collectivism) or a pecuniary or power interest that drives their bias against homeschooling (e.g., public educators, teachers’ unions, or those who trust in big-government power interests). Such anti-homeschoolers will not be convinced by the facts. They will not be convinced by propriety. They are driven by emotion and/or personal prejudice, and no amount of reason will change their mind. What follows will not alter their position.

Let’s get one thing out of the way. Homeschoolers, in general, outperform public-schooled students, which is why anti-homeschoolers cannot attack homeschooling on the issue of academics. Hence, they desperately seek something about which to complain. Like most criticisms against homeschooling, the “socialization” myth suffers from a host of false assumptions.

False Assumption #1 – “Homeschooled students don’t get to interact with others.”

While it’s likely that there are children out there that are sheltered from the outside world, such a condition would be the exception, not the rule (so if you were sheltered as a child, please don’t bother to offer anecdotes as if they are representative of the entire homeschool community). The fact is, homeschooled students interact with others on a normal basis.

False Assumption #2 – “It’s the public-school’s job to socialize children.”

What do the critics offer in support of this assumption? Nothing. In fact, such an assumption is likely ground in the abdication (or attempted usurpation) of parental authority and duty, which I covered in a previous post (See “The Village  School System“).

False Assumption #3 – “Socializing with others makes one well-socialized.”

There are two ways one might understand what it means to be “socialized”. The first simply has reference to socializing i.e., hobnobbing with others. The second understanding has to do with propriety, i.e., learning to behave in a mature and morally proper way among others. What’s important to note is that there is not an iota of evidence demonstrating that hobnobbing with others leads to mature behavior. Children are taught proper behavior from mature adults, not from hobnobbing with other immature children. Which leads us to…

False Assumption #4 – “The public-school properly socializes children.”

The evidence hardly supports such an assumption. Public-schooled children often act contrary to most every notion of a well-socialized, mature person. They often ditch school, cheat on their schoolwork, engage in narcissistic behavior, are slaves to peer-pressure, join gangs, use drugs, abuse alcohol, are promiscuous, behave disrespectfully toward authority, are cruel toward one another, etc., etc., with no indication that this behavior is any different by the time they graduate (and they often take this behavior with them to college, and even adulthood). What’s worse, the only models they have from which to learn are one another, i.e., it’s a case of the blind leading the blind. These children are away from the only authorities (i.e., their parents) capable of administering proper discipline. Note that I’m not suggesting homeschooled children are perfect, nor am I suggesting that all public-schooled children are little monsters, however, children are less likely to get into trouble if they’re not spending most of their day in an environment that encourages poor behavior. This is not a question about whose child is better than the other. This is a question about which environment is more conducive to producing a mature adult.

False Assumption #5 – “A public-school environment best prepares a child for the real world.”

Is there any one of you out there who works daily in an environment where everyone is the exact same age, and of the same level of experience about the world as yourself? Yeah, I didn’t think so. That’s because the public-school environment is nothing like the real world. Homeschooled children interact with people of all ages and are often out in the real world, learning at their own pace as individuals; while public-schooled children are stuck in a box all day with others their exact own age, secluded from the outside world, and are treated like a monolithic group of robots, expected to learn in the same way and at the same pace.

Other Criticisms – My wife sometimes informs me of blog posts she encounters, written by formerly homeschooled students who complain about having been homeschooled. Some of these children have legitimate complaints, but any such legitimate complaint never actually addresses the principle of homeschooling.

One such legitimate complaint had to do with a student whose parent tried the unschooling method, which failed to prepare the student for college. Unschooling is a method by which a student is essentially left to himself to learn out of curiosity or interests (I’m probably not describing it perfectly, but that’s the gist of it). While some people may have had success with this, I would have to say that no parent ought to assume that a child will learn by such a method. Also, note that this is not a criticism against the principle of homeschooling, but against a particular method of teaching (or lack thereof). One is not logically warranted in criticizing a principle because of a poor method.

Other criticisms I’ve encountered were from children who were abused or poorly raised. Because such children were also homeschooled, they erroneously conflate homeschooling with their parents’ poor parenting methods, blaming their childhood traumas on the principle of homeschooling.

There is also the criticism regarding “awkwardness”. This is a supremely banal criticism, but it’s emotionally persuasive to many who have suffered from awkward situations. Suffice it to say that everyone at one time or another will have awkward situations, none of which are in any way worse than the trials and tribulations one faces in public school (and many awkward experiences do occur in public school). To suggest that homeschooling is bad because one grows up to be the only person in the workplace who failed to “get the joke”, or because one finds it difficult to converse about trivial matters regarding pop-culture is hardly a convincing argument against homeschooling. The fact is, attending public school will in no way inoculate a person from encountering awkward situations in life.

I’ve also known of troubled (or anti-social) children who were pulled out of public school and then were homeschooled in hopes that being home would solve their behavior issues. When homeschooling failed to correct their problems, such children were then held up as examples of how homeschooling does’t work. But note that such children entered homeschooling as troubled students. Their problems were not the product of homeschooling.

Also, there are some who simply resented not having gone to public school, believing that they somehow “missed out”. The response to such persons would be the same as the response to those who resent being raised with a religious upbringing (which you can read in a previous post, “…And They Will Not Depart From It“).

Finally, there are those who hold the view that only those with academic credentials are capable of transmitting knowledge. Given that homeschooled students generally excel academically (usually better than their public-schooled counterparts who receive their education from professional pedagogues) this is a rather toothless criticism.

Conclusion – I already noted that anti-homeschoolers will not conform their position to the facts. Attempting to reason with such persons is futile. However, if you encounter someone who has simply been misled by the “socialization” myth, the former ought to provide you with something to offer them for consideration.