Lonely Homeschoolers

cat-hugWhile there are many benefits of home education, one of the perceived downsides to homeschooling is that many of our children are lonely.

Are homeschool children truly lonely?

In our own homes, there are many children, but each child, in different seasons, has experienced a lonely period. Some friends moved into mainstream school, another family moved away to another province and some of our children just couldn’t find other homeschooled kids that they ‘gelled’ with and so they have all had these seasons of loneliness.

Before we discuss lonely homeschoolers, let us also remember that there are many children in the school system, surrounded by their peers every day, who also feel lonely and isolated…so loneliness is not just a phenomenon caused by home education.

As homeschooling mothers, we have also experienced times of loneliness, for similar reasons. Friends moved away, stopped homeschooling and found other friends with common interests. Sometimes there just wasn’t anyone to connect closely with us or our family for various reasons.

Is loneliness bad?

It is our opinion that it is not, however, ongoing loneliness can cause children to become depressed and then start reaching out for a false sense of friendship via online social media and gaming acquaintances. These we know are not healthy, real life relationships and they can actually lead to more harm than good in the long term.

Aloneness is different to loneliness.

Some children are quite happy to be alone and spend time thinking, reading, creating or pursuing their own interests. Give them the freedom and space to be “healthily” alone; always letting them know that you are there and available should they want you.

Unhealthy aloneness is when children are behind closed doors, on screens (smart phone, computers, TV) for hours on end to fill up time. Your parental radar should be on high alert in these situations.

The first thing parents need to do in remedy of these situations is address their mindsets about what friendship is actually for and how many friends children need in their formative years. Many parents have accepted the mainstream idea that “a happy child needs to have lots of friends” around them. Skeptics of homeschooling say that for a child to be properly “socialized” they need to be with their peers for more hours in a day than with their families. We have addressed the issue of socialisation on our site here: Homeschool Socialisation

(Most of us adults and) most of our children only need one or two good friends and then they can develop deep, meaningful long-standing relationships with these peers. However, we do need to help them find the right friends and create opportunities for them to be together with them.

If you have lonely younger children here are some ideas:

  • Find other homeschool moms in your area (just ask on the South African Facebook groups – many of the popular ones are listed here)
  • Find a local support group, set up a picnic to meet with other families. Watch to see with whom your child connects and then set up another date. You could also arrange arts and crafts or science days or other play dates.
  • Find interest groups: Join existing homeschool electronics, carpentry or robotic days and don’t be afraid to initiate a friendship with moms who share similar interests and parenting styles.

Teens involved in a Lego robotics club

For older children, who are lonely it becomes a little trickier to help them connect, as the teen years can be awkward and interests quite specific, but try some of these suggestions:

  • Establish a group of kids around a common interest. Wendy’s son enjoys hiking and board games and has a group of friends that join him on two different monthly events. What are your children’s interest?
  • Science, maths or technology workshops for those who have those interests are great for the more studious types where they can discuss and do the things that interest them while not feeling to “on the spot.”
  • First Lego League is a great annual competition and dads who have engineering strengths can get a team together.
  • Moms who like to bake, sew or garden can get groups of teen girls and their moms together to learn these skills alongside her.
  • Food is a great uniter and there are many ways to get kids together around pizza and games evenings, braais or even picnics at lovely spots.

Friendships can spring out of all these situations naturally and spontaneously.

In the end, the relationships that count first are those within the home. These need to be where the emphasis is as you learn to love, honor and respect those within your own four walls. From there springs the ability to build healthy relationships outside of the home. Do not chase so hard after friends, that you lose this perspective.