What if...my kids are craving community?
Part 1 of 2
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One of the myths of homeschooling that we constantly try to dispel in the podcast is that homeschooling doesn’t allow for socialization.
Our kids are out and about during the day, interacting with clerks at grocery stores, librarians, the postwoman who saves a packet of cool canceled stamps. They see other kids at story time, at the park, at robotics class.
Socialization is not a problem, as our kids navigate life and engage with people of all ages, genders, cultures, socio-economic statuses…pretty much anyone and everyone who enters their world!
However, socialization is not the same as community.
Feeling of Fellowship
In its most basic sense, community is a feeling of fellowship. A group of people who share your values and behaviors. There’s a sense of togetherness that isn’t found in other groups we belong to.
Being part of a community helps us form our narrative about ourselves; it defines aspects of who we are.
And our kids crave that.
As young children, they take part in dance class or a tee-ball team, story time at the local library or open gym at a fitness center. And these are all wonderful activities that help them begin to develop a sense of who they are. They look forward to seeing their friends and adding adventures to their stories. That might not spin off into a close community, but it really is okay to just enjoy the activity for what it is, and not feel a deeper connection.
Community can be harder to find, though, as our kids move into the teen years. They are forming distinct identities and it might not be enough anymore to be in a group that just shares one common interest, like figure skating, but doesn’t connect on any other personal levels.
Our kids are looking for a deeper connection to a community that helps them continue to build the narrative of who they are. They want to participate in something that feels meaningful to them. They want to be seen for who they are.
Brainstorm, Google, and Time
And that takes the Big Three: a combination of brainstorming our teens’ interests, searching for groups that meet those needs, and just giving it time.
We may feel like we’ve failed our kids when we see their struggle to find something that they feel is missing in the homeschool we’ve created. But consider this: homeschooling has given them that margin, that space, to grow into themselves on their own terms, in their own time. And that’s a good thing!
Now they’re ready to take the next step to finding the community that represents who they are.
Sometimes the community is defined by affinity: something they like to do. Other times, community can be affiliation, sharing values and experiences.
It could be as easy as joining a local theater group, if that’s an integral part of your child’s identity. Tapping into a creative inner life and sharing that with others who feel the same way—that’s community.
Or if volunteerism is a passion, look for groups to join that focus on service to others. The camaraderie and empathy of a band of people working to help others can develop into a tight-knit community of friends.
The nexus of finding the community they crave can be focusing on parts of their identity that they value most. Maybe that’s cosplay or antiquing. It could be cleaning up streams or immersing in a new language or cooking and supplying meals. Only they know what kind of community will meet their needs. It’s your privilege to help them find it.
It’s not always “Just add water”
Sometimes the feeling of belonging is immediate. But there may be an interim where the focus of the group is right, but the connection simply isn’t there. Heading back to square one can be discouraging…but consider what your teen has learned about themselves through that experience!
The point is this: community is rarely instantaneous, but it’s out there if we look for it.
And as homeschoolers, we have myriad opportunities to help our kids seek out those opportunities to be part of a community that is meaningful for them!