Last Updated on November 9, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
Making homeschool friends is something people are concerned about even before they decide to homeschool. If you make homeschool friends easily, it is not always easy to figure out how to help your kids do the same.
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1. Making Friends Isn’t Easy For Everyone
For many years, I Ied a homeschool co-op and watched this scenario happen over and over. Some families would join co-op and would seemingly have a whole group of instant friends overnight…and others would join and really have a hard time making even one friend. Over time, some patterns started to emerge as I watched this happen a number of times and wanted to figure out how to help people feel more connected in our community.
The funny thing is, when I sent some of my kids to private school, I actually saw a very similar pattern start to emerge. My kids who went to school immediately made friends and felt connected even as new kids. But I talked to other moms and their kids had been there for years and had no close friends. This was starting to feel familiar. And I started to see some patterns.
2. The Importance of Making Friends
As a child, I was socially awkward and didn’t have many friends. I always had one or two, which was enough for me, but I didn’t have a lot. With my own kids, it actually took me a while to tune into the fact that my kids wanted these outside friend relationships…because I didn’t have that burning desire as a kid.
Also, since we had 9 kids, there have always been a LOT of kids in the house and several are very close in age, so I thought they had built-in friends. They sort of did….until they didn’t.
I would say that for mine, around 5th grade, they really started talking about wanting to make more friends. I think it was their identity starting to form individually…apart from their large family. So for each one of them, we really started looking at how to help them make friends.
7 Places for Homeschoolers to Meet New People…but there’s a problem
- Homeschool Co-op
- Trips to the Park
- Library Classes
Making homeschool friends can be difficult for some people. You will quickly see that my list has a problem that is inherently not there when you go to school. When you go to school you see other people multiple times per week…usually every day…and often multiple times a day or in elementary…all day. Friendships are built on regular interaction with people. I’m not saying school is the solution…but looking at that list differently is important.
Another mom called her solution “Criss-crossing.” I don’t have a better word for what I’m talking about so I’m going to borrow it. Criss-crossing is the idea of creating multiple touchpoints with a person or group of people during the week. Rather than just seeing them once Monday morning for co-op…it is seeing them several times per week at different activities.
3. Homeschooling Without Criss-Crossing is Lonely
Making homeschool friends requires a lot of intention but it is totally possible for anyone who wants it.
The problem I commonly saw in our homeschool group was families that wanted to join for “social interaction” but who wanted to do their core academic subjects at home. Our co-op was academic in the morning and had more social fun classes in the afternoon. So families would want to join so their child could take a fun class or two and meet friends. But kids who just came for ONE class missed all the touchpoints with kids who came all day.
Additionally, many students in our group crisscrossed regularly and did other activities together. They did dance class together, were in a band together, went to church together, or played sports together. We had co-op on Monday but students who felt the most connected had other touch points with friends during the week.
This problem affects more than homeschoolers though. It is completely possible to be lonely in school. When some of my kids started attending the local Christian high school, I saw the same thing. We live far from the school so I knew if my kids were going to make friends, they had to do extracurricular activities so they could get to know people. Getting together with friends would just be too inconvenient due to the distance people live from the school.
Many families live more than 30 minutes from the school in opposite directions so “play dates” for our teens is kinda inconvenient! My daughter does cross country and track (lots of touch points year-round), and my son does (robotics nearly every day and track). Another son plays multiple sports. It is a lot of running around for me…but it is filling a need for them in this season. All those touchpoints have led to them feeling connected.
On the other hand, there are some students who go to school who don’t join anything. They hope to make friends with kids in their classes. But they change classes every hour and they are with different people in these classes. The reduced number of touchpoints during the day makes it so much harder to just make friends in class.
When my teens were homeschooled, we actually struggled to have enough touchpoints during the week to create the kind of meaningful social connections they needed. I am more of an introvert and am happy to stay home. They are more extroverted. That is difficult to reconcile sometimes!
So if your kids are struggling to make friends, consider adding more touchpoints during the week with the same group of kids to increase friendship opportunities.
4. Making Homeschool Friends Means More Touch Points During the Week
So let’s boil this down to a big takeaway. In order for our kids to make friends, we have to increase the number of interactions they have per week with the SAME PEOPLE. That may mean you choose to intentionally go to a co-op, play sports with and do scouts with the same families so your kids will make friends. It is often a choice you make…before the friendship is cemented.
Some of the benefits of making friends for my kids have been:
- Increased interest in hobbies (that they share with friends)
- More awareness of themselves and their behaviors
- Willingness to try new things when there is a friend involved
- Making intentional choices to be with people over doing their favorite activity alone
As they have made friends, now I see them developing confidence even when there are no friends around to try new things. They have also improved their communication skills with me and their friends, because communication is foundational to them getting what they need and want.
Plan Your Social Calendar Like You Plan Your Curriculum
Many of us plan our curriculum very carefully. We actually take hours or days to map out our weeks…planning carefully how many lessons to do per day. With that level of intention, we drastically increase the chance of finishing textbooks and helping our kids learn to read. But if your children struggle with friendships, then you need to plan your social calendar the same way. It won’t work to do random activities here or there. It will require committing to an activity…or a group…and then building out your social activities from there.
BONUS: The big bonus of increasing touch points on your calendar is that your kids will make friends…but so will you. My best friends are other homeschool moms I got to know while my kids did all these activities. This investment has resulted in lifelong friends for me and them. Making homeschool friends is for moms and kids!
My Favorite Homeschool Books!
5. Learn Social Skills For Making Friends
Of course the elephant in the room is that even if you go to every social activity, it doesn’t guarantee your child will make friends. It’s a thing so for some of us to really struggle with the basic social skills that lead to friendships.
So if your child struggles with basic social skills, I invite you to check out my free E-book…..“Making Friends Can Be Easy.” It’s a short downloadable book of ideas for helping kids improve their social skills. Inside you will find great questions they can learn to ask to have better conversations. There are basic things covered like hygiene and reading social cues as well as how to talk to people. I always said I had to learn social skills like other people learn math…so I know that some kids and teens need more help in this I definitely did!
Making Homeschool Friends Is A Worthwhile Investment!
At the end of the day…or the end of the school year…or the end of our lives, the only thing that matters on this earth is people. If you are a person of faith, you will probably agree that faith in God and relationships with people are all that matter really. So when we invest in these deep relationships…and when we help our kids make friends…we are actually helping them invest their lives in one of the only things that really matter.
And that is truly important. I’ve certainly never regretted helping my kids learn how to have good relationships. Enjoy the process…you will probably grow and learn as much as they do! The important thing to remember is that YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD better than anyone else. You are an expert on your child. Trust yourself and you will likely find that the process of making homeschool friends is much easier…and more natural than you could imagine!
- Thinking About Homeschooling? 7 Steps: How To Start Homeschooling Today
- Are You An Overwhelmed Mom? How to Overcome Loneliness as a Stay at Home Mom
- What is Unschooling Compared to Traditional Homeschooling?