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Inside: When you decide to homeschool, your friendships are not usually at the top of your mind. You don’t realize at the beginning how this one decision will affect every part of your life, including your friendships. But when your friends don’t homeschool, maintaining those friendships can be seriously difficult.
Thoughts run rapid-fire through your brain.
“Why doesn’t everyone homeschool? I can’t imagine raising kids any other way.”
“Look at her running around like a crazy person – can’t she see how much simpler life is when you cut the extracurriculars?”
I often find my thoughts galloping off into oblivion at break neck speed, and before I know it, I am either extremely prideful or extremely resentful of my friend who has made a different educational choice for her kids. I left homeschooling come between us.
It starts innocently enough – with simple gratitude. You think about just how much you love your life.
You love the choices you’ve made! You are SO thankful for the winding road that led you to these choices that you love so much and are the perfect fit for your family.
But thankfulness and enthusiasm quickly turn to judgement. You want to share your passion for your choices with your friends, to reach those who might be floundering like you were and looking for change…and pride creeps in.
It’s subtle, really.
One minute, you’re thinking, “Wow, I love my life.” And in a split second it morphs, and you go from passionate sharer of ideas to extremely arrogant judge of every life choice that is different from yours.
It’s often difficult, by the way, to trace the train of thought and determine at which point exactly you went from being thankful to being a complete jerk.
And in a split second it morphs, and you go from passionate sharer of ideas to extremely arrogant judge of every life choice that is different from yours.
Because if you stop to think about it, you don’t really want everyone to make the same choices.
Learning to Love Different
I once visited a dear friend, a friend whose oldest daughter attends the local public school. This same friend consistently opens her home to people, whether it’s for a weekly small group, watching other mom’s kids so they can go to appointments, or for hosting overnight guests. She also coordinates awesome social justice initiatives, like rounding up toys and toiletries for arriving refugees, and plays a key role in her local church.
The amazing thing is, all this doesn’t exhaust her.
The number of activities she does, the errands she runs, the sheer number of people she interacts with and helps on a regular basis — it exhausts me. I cannot imagine living life that way.
Sometimes, my train of thought leads to judgment (how could she possibly send her daughter to public school?!). I shamelessly manage to work in homeschooling plugs into our conversations as I silently question her crazy busy life…the life that she loves.
And while I’m busy judging her, I forget.
I forget that she happily babysits my kids at the last minute.
I forget that she happily hosts the playdate I dread hosting.
I forget that she happily hosts my family of six overnight (even though she is also babysitting another friend’s two kids that same night).
And why can she do all this? Well, first of all, she’s an extrovert. Secondly, she chose to send her child to school, which saves some of her energy for all the things she loves.
And all of a sudden, I’m so thankful that she did not make the same choices. I’m thankful she is being herself.
The fact is, we all benefit from those who are different and who have made different choices. We weren’t designed to be carbon copies of each other.
I’m an introvert; she’s an extrovert.
We’re both wired so differently, so is it really a surprise that we’re naturally drawn to different lifestyles? That different things excite us and help us thrive?
So do you stop talking about how much you love homeschooling? No. You still love your choices, and hiding that wouldn’t be friendship.
How to Maintain Friendships (when your educational choices are different)
1) Write down your judgmental thoughts. Say them out loud.
In our internet world, we often don’t stop long enough to hear how our words actually sound and could potentially affect the recipient. If all the people typing rude, mean comments actually said them out loud before they pushed the “send” button, all sorts of pain would be avoided and relationships preserved.
Even if those thoughts never leave your mouth, they still affect your friendship. They affect how you say everything else and can potentially drive a wedge between you and your friend.
Judgmental thoughts often have a root, one that may not be obvious to you. It could be loneliness. It could be resentment. It could be a past hurt.
Figuring out why you struggle with negative, judgmental thoughts in the first place will benefit you, your friend, as well as all your future relationships.
Regular journaling can be especially helpful to get to the root of your negative thoughts. Journaling gives you a bird-eye perspective, allowing you to find behavior and thought patterns from regular processing.
Related Content: Fighting Stay-at-home Mom Depression
2) Be honest.
You might be afraid to be honest about your thoughts. Vulnerability can be scary, but when you choose to be honest, you build trust and strengthen your friendship.
It’s pretty simple. Just tell your friend how much you love homeschooling and all the reasons why.
Your friend will NOT always ask you. Maybe she’s afraid of offending you. Maybe she doesn’t know that you want to talk about it. Maybe she has tons of misconceptions about homeschooling (denim jumpers and awkward social interactions, anyone?).
Whatever the reason she doesn’t ask questions, you need to be the one to start the conversation.
Share any insecurities and fears you might have:
- Are you afraid you will drift apart? Tell her.
- Do you wonder what she thinks about homeschooling? Ask.
- Are you struggling with confidence in homeschooling? Voice your doubts.
If your friendship is built on a strong foundation, conversations like these will make your friendship stronger. If it doesn’t, you’ll know it’s time to pursue other friendships.
3) Be intentional. Make time to maintain your friendship.
Homeschooling and traditional school families often operate on different schedules. Depending on your style of homeschooling, you may have a lot more “free time” than your friend.
At the same time, your free time is with kids – pretty much all the time. That makes it challenging to have a good conversation without interruptions (it’s hard not to envy all those moms with kids in school, enjoying their coffee dates sans kids).
Make room in your schedule for friends. Ask your husband to watch the kids so you can have a free hour. Arrange to meet up at the gym if you have childcare included in your membership.
Be creative, and find ways to make it work.
4) Consistently work on building new relationships.
As good as some friendships are, circumstances can cause even the best ones to change.
People move away. They have twins. They start businesses and just don’t have the same amount of time that they used to. If you are dependent on just a few friends, you may find yourself pretty lonely for long stretches of time.
I know: when you homeschool, finding the time and energy to invest in new relationships can be tough. Just maintaining the friendships you have takes enough work, let alone making new friends.
But you need to develop a habit of “scattering seeds of friendship”. I first heard this phrase at a women’s retreat. The speaker encouraged women (not just homeschoolers) to always be on the lookout for potential friendships. Have a conversation here; put out a feeler there. Start seeing every person you encounter as a potential friend.
It is so easy to go the park and just sit there with your smart phone. You can go to co-op and just focus on your kids. You can watch your kids play outside and never talk to your neighbors.
The only way you will find new friends is if you try. Make a habit of having a brief conversation with other moms at the park, at co-op, in your neighborhood. Tell them what you’re interested in. Share your flavor of homeschooling. Be open. If it goes nowhere, don’t worry about it. At least you tried.
I’ve been there. It’s so hard to get the conversation started, but the times I’ve made an effort have been so rewarding!
Not every conversation will lead to your new BFF. But you never know, you might find a friend in the place you least expect it.
What tips do you have about maintaining friendships when your friends don’t homeschool?