I would often talk to other moms who were busy at PTA meetings, or soccer practice, or kung-fu practice, or meeting up with friends at swim lessons, and I'd feel so left out. I need community, I'd think. I need people around me to support me and uplift me in what I do as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom!
But, as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, I've come to discover that community is something you have to create for yourself.
In order to feel a part of something, you really need to be proactive in making a life for yourself and your kids, or it gets lonely. At least for me. I am a very outgoing and social person who thrives on the energy and company of other people. I love my family and love being with them, and for some homeschoolers that is enough community, but for me, I need to see and be around friends during the week. I need like-minded folks to validate my lifestyle and share in the ups and downs.
So why don't I just sign my kids up for sports and go out and make friends? For two reasons: The first is that this area doesn't have a strong, cohesive, homeschooling community that does regular, fun stuff together. And second, because God thought it would be really funny to give me an extremely shy, introverted child who likes to stay home. And my eldest is not only shy, he gets downright anxious and panicky at the mere mention of taking a class or joining a sports team. Never!! I hear him say. I am never, ever, doing that!
I've heard of other parents forcing their children to join a team, for the benefit of learning social interaction and boosting self-confidence. I couldn't force Zadok with all the promises of money and computers in the world; he simply would not go, and it turn he would get very sad. Like big-puppy-dog-tears-sad. The kind of sad that makes you melt into a big, sappy puddle, and promise never to mention soccer, or kung-fu, or swim lessons ever again.
So, to make the long story of my life (sort of) short, I realized that I needed to let go of my angst about having an anxious and shy child, and get on with life. I needed to sign my younger kids up for fun stuff and pull him along behind us, even if it meant dragging a miserable 6 year old out the door every week. It's hard. It's exhausting, but I feel like the Lord is answering my prayers for help in so many ways. He gives me strength each day to battle my challenges, and it's slowly getting better for all of us.
For starters, I started taking Odin and Jonah to a free mommy and me-type pre-school program called Keiki Steps, which is really fun for them. We sing songs, do crafts, play games, and learn Native Hawaiian culture and values in a real Montesorri-type setting. It is 4 days a week, and we try to go at least 2-3 out of 4 of the days.
I love it. It has given me a small sense of belonging and community, even if it's just for a few hours a day. I get to talk to other adults and enjoy the company of my children. Zadok is too old for the program, but they let him join along (mostly because this is Hawaii and everything is pretty laid back anyways. Thank goodness.)
He gets really bored and irritable sometimes in there, but I've explained that, "as a homeschooling family we need to allow each other opportunities to learn and grow." I also feel that he needs to do this for his brothers, especially so they don't end up wanting to stay home all day, too. That would super-stink. So this has been really good for all of us, including Zadok. I feel more connected to those around me, and feel less isolated during the day with my boys. Yay for Keiki Steps!
I think back to when I first started considering homeschooling our children. Zadok was just 2 years old, and I was excited about all the fun possibilities we'd have as a family. I never thought in a million years that I would be homeschooling a child with very unique needs, and that because he has these needs, I would need to be homeschooling him. It's like the chicken and the egg. What actually came first, I don't know, but I am so grateful that God has allowed me to see what needs to be done, and gives me strength me to do it. Even when some days, it's not fun at all.
All in all, I've finally found some peace to my homeschooling problems. I was struggling a lot this past year, feeling like homeschooling was suffocating my life, but I realized it wasn't homeschooling in itself; it was more of a combination of the unique family dynamics we have, and the area we live in. But, it's getting better. It really is. We are making friends, we are finding things to do, and we are making big leaps forward. Big leaps for me and the keiki!