Our first homeschool co-op of the new year was yesterday. The kids were SO excited to see all their friends, who were bubbling over with laughter and chatter. The moms, on the other hand, all looked a bit dazed. There were lots of hugs and catching up on all the holiday trips and activities. Some new families were there, too, looking nervous like we all do the first day of anything. It made me remember what it was like when we first started coming to our co-op.
We began our co-op specifically for friendships, which is funny. So many times when I mention we homeschool, people are always asking about how our kids will develop socially without being around other kids all day. Other homeschool moms have shared the same experience with me. We just have to be more intentional about getting involved, whether it’s through church activities, sports or homeschool groups. But just like my public school mom counterpart, there are struggles even when you find a group. Typically, the public school mom does not get to choose her school, so she is stuck with the group provided to her. With homeschooling, you get to choose your groups, but that doesn’t mean the process is easier. Our biggest struggle was finding boys my sons age. We had friends with boys, but they were always a little older or a little younger. It worked up until a point, but they go through so many phases we really needed a boy or two his age.
We tried multiple groups! The difficulty for us is our son is soooooo into history, which is not really common among boys his age. The other boys typically lean towards video games, which we don’t allow. I watched as he would struggle to find something to talk about with other boys. Plus, he often would go on and on about his interests and not engage the other boy about what he liked. We talked about it often, but he didn’t seem to get it. Finally, a friend, who had a son our sons age, mentioned her co-op had a handful of boys our sons age. We made the decision to join hoping he would find a boy to share his interest. Unfortunately, that friend would be moving over the summer and would not be at our co-op when we arrived.
The first day we walked into the co-op was overwhelming. My youngest was a baby and I was tired from late night feedings. My middle is shy and clingy. Thankfully, she had taken ballet with one of the other girls and quickly attached to that friend. I watched as my son, who is very outgoing, walked up to the other boys and introduce himself. The boys were playing with a toy we did not own. He had brought some toys of his own, but they weren’t interested in what he had to show them. My heart sank. It was nice when the class started and there was a distraction, but that first day was indicative of that year. The boys were nice, but he just didn’t click with any one in particular. And I prayed. I prayed for a boy he did click with. He struggled at lunch/play time. There were tears at night as he shared how lonely he felt. Even though it was difficult, it was a profitable time. We were able to relate to him that we as adults often struggled with finding things in common with other people. It is a rare gift to find that one special friend who shares common interest and makes your heart sing. It was also a good opportunity to talk about how it feels to be the new guy and how one day he wouldn’t be the new guy any more. Then, he would need to work hard to make the new guy feel welcome knowing how it feels to be new.
As an adult, it’s easy to forget what first days are like for our kids. I grew up in the same town and lived there until my thirties. So, there were very few times where I was doing something new for the first time without a friend or family member around. I remember the first day at a new job, which was nerve racking, but it was easy to focus on the work and doing a good job and not worry so much about making friends. It wasn’t until we moved away from family to a new town and I was a stay at home mom that I experienced that “new kid” feeling again. I didn’t have a work place with peers who shared my interests. Personally, I am a homebody, so I could have relied on old friendships and family members long distance to get me through. But for little kids, making friends is THE important part. And as parents, we know this. They long for it. They say ‘Hello’ to EVERYONE they meet. So, I looked around for play groups. (I would love to say that I prayed about it all before I went. But I was still at that phase of my Christian walk where I charged into the fray and prayed only when I finally came to the end of my rope. Thankfully, God knows what we need.) That first day walking up to other moms is HARD! It’s overcoming those nervous questions: will they like me? what will we talk about? Our common interest in our children pulled me through. Little did I know, I would be repeating this process multiple times as joined a new church, a life group, a bible study, and other homeschool groups. God really helped me through this process as I struggled to overcome my own shyness and reach out to others, which was all so valuable when it came time to guide my children through the process. God is soooo good in all of this! He truly never leaves us or forsakes us. And during that time of struggle, I turned to him and grew in the process.
This past summer as we were attending a homeschool conference with our homeschool group, I met one of the other families in our community. They had been there off and on due to military commitments, so I never had an opportunity to get to know them during the school year. As the conversation always does among parents, it began to drift to our children. They shared how their oldest son loved history. Literally, my heart almost came out of my chest. I quickly brought over my son to meet their boy. He was a year older and in a different class at our co-op, so they had not really talked during our co-op. We, the parents, shared how they both had a common interest in history and, basically, they became best friends in that moment. It was so amazing to see how God answered my prayers!
So, yesterday as our homeschool group came together for a new semester, I intentionally walked up to a new mom and welcomed her to our group. Do you remember what it’s like being the new person in a group? Are you going through it now? Is your child struggling with friendships? Those special friends are rare diamonds. And just like diamonds they are sometimes difficult to find and it takes a lot of mining, but they are there. Pray God will guide you to your diamond 🙂 He is faithful!