Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Social Circles

A question that I saw asked to secular homeschoolers in Facebook the other day was, ‘How do you overcome feeling like an outcast in your social circles?’

This is an interesting question to me. I see the same question asked to natural-minded mamas, too – ‘how do you fit in when everyone around you is so different?’ when it comes to breastfeeding or co-sleeping or sling-wearing… like those things aren’t ‘normal’. Weird.

Truthfully, it’s been so long since I wasn’t surrounded by a group of like-minded mamas that when I am confronted with someone who is ‘different’, it’s just such an odd feeling when I notice them noticing that I am different. When I was a new mom, I purposely sought out other moms who did the same things I did or had the same idea of how to raise kids that I did. That search led me to La Leche League, which was a gathering place for moms who did things outside the norm. Eventually, I started a playgroup with an emphasis on attachment parenting and natural mothering and so my social circle as a mom really grew from that foundation. Homeschooling was then and seems to be now an extension of that ‘type’ of parenting philosophy, and I am still friends with many of the mothers that I met through those avenues.

Overall, I’m not a big ‘joiner’ of things. I know that sounds like a contradiction when clearly I do join things: La Leche League, my local playgroup, my local homeschooling group… but I’m not just a member of those groups; I volunteer in a leadership capacity. I don’t usually set out to be a leader, but if there’s a position open in an organization that I believe in, I’m willing to step up for the chance to do something worthwhile. There have been times when I sought out to fill a role; LLL comes to mind, but only because they had training that I needed in order to accomplish a goal. Other times, there’s been a void that no one else was interested in filling, so I volunteered. In other instances, I set out to start something and worked to make it successful.

But that’s really only part of the picture. Being the leader in a group makes it easier to ‘set the tone’ of a circle, but it’s not easy to find people to fill it. Stepping into a leadership role in an established organization is challenging, but easier because you already have the framework ready-made. Starting something from the ground up takes a lot more… moxie, as hockeymom at SecularHomeschooling.com says. I call it ‘fake it till ya make it’. There’s a great deal of presentation involved, and confidence. In effect, you’re selling an idea, so making something look appealing is a big part of what goes into making a group successful.

I recently advised another mom seeking friends to not let the lack of a social circle prevent her from doing things – to go out and do things with her kids and just pretend like the other moms in her group couldn’t make it that day. In essence, that’s exactly what I did when I started a local playgroup, and again when I started homeschooling. It wasn’t a lie; the other moms weren’t in my group yet, so they really couldn’t make it that day {wink}

This to me is at the core of the ‘socialization for Mom’ issue… feeling confident enough in ourselves. People like being around people who are confident; who seem like they know what they’re doing. If you can project that image, then you’re ahead of the game! I’m not confident a lot of the time, but you probably wouldn’t know it. I was a painfully shy kid, and missed out on SO MUCH that I really, really wanted to do. I’m just not willing to let life pass me by anymore.

One of our local libraries hosts a homeschoolers book club that just got started for this school year, so I took the boys. I started talking with one of the other moms after the book club and found out that she is one of the chairpersons for another, faith-based group in town. She was super sweet and really nice and I am looking forward to chatting with her as the book club progresses, but as far as joining in with the groups for stuff? Probably not. I don’t think anyone would be comfortable with that – but that’s not a ‘loss’. I’m not willing to fake who I am in order to try to fit into a mold that does not fit me. I don’t see that as setting a good example for my kids, or as netting anything of worth to me.

So the short answer to the question is that I don’t want to ‘fit in’. I want an environment in which I am comfortable being myself and am willing to completely re-vamp my entire social circle in order to accomplish this. I hope that you will be, too. You deserve it!

Warmly,

~h

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6 responses

  1. Amanda

    This hits close to home for me; I feel that I have to “fake it” to have a social life, and am not surrounded by like-minded people.

    September 15, 2010 at 10:56 pm

  2. ((Amanda)) Hang in there, mama 🙂
    I get a lot of support and ideas from forums (SecularHomeschooling.com is a favorite. I’m easy to find there). The parents there are amazing and willing to do a little hand-holding, especially on days when the sky is dark and gloomy.

    ~h

    September 15, 2010 at 11:20 pm

  3. We’ve never quite fit in, so it’s not new to us now that we’re homeschooling. It’s strange, because I always got along well with all of the moms in our playgroup, but they just weren’t my people. And, you know, that was such a short period of our lives and I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to hang out with them without the kids, so it wasn’t a big deal. LLL was a great place for us, but it was just a once a month deal. Homeschooling is a longer commitment for us, so I think the pressure to make like-minded friends is greater. But no, I have no desire to fit in. And I think, after meeting with a bunch of people at the park yesterday, that we may have found our people. We STILL don’t quite fit in (they are super-waldorfy), but they are probably the closest thing I will find to me. And my kids had a blast climbing trees with their kids and just being themselves.

    September 16, 2010 at 7:46 am

  4. I *just* had a conversation with a fellow homeschooler about this issue. I know that I can chat and be friendly with moms in some groups, but joining their group would feel odd to me – like being something I’m not. I get that there are those that can join and not feel that way and I’m glad they can do it if it meets a need. I decided several years ago to foster friendships with people that helped me become a better version of my true self, and that includes the homeschool circle, too. Great post!

    September 18, 2010 at 7:59 pm

  5. What a great post! I love finding a community that I can fit into! You are very inspiring to me! 🙂

    September 19, 2010 at 3:22 pm

  6. Great post and your final paragraph is exactly how I feel.

    September 27, 2010 at 11:24 pm

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