If anyone was set up to be an awkward homeschooler, it was probably me.
I lived at least 20 minutes from the nearest Dollar General and a good hour from a bowling alley or mall. We bought most of our essentials in bulk, not because we had a large family but because we couldn’t just take a five minute drive to Kroger when we ran out of milk.
Not only did we live out in the country, but I also grew up with one sister and 52 chickens. I was inclined to spend most of my free time in my own imagination while playing dress up and climbing trees (often simultaneously).
So, I guess you could say that my social life was doomed to be nonexistent if we didn’t make a conscious effort to “go to town.”
Thankfully we did.
I’d like to clarify that my adventures as a country girl fed my soul and I have never wished for a moment that I grew up in the city rather than on our 100 acre farm. I still long for those days and would experience it all again in a heart-beat if I ever encountered a time machine. Our location and our serene surroundings just meant that we had to dedicate extra time and effort when it came to “socializing” and “getting out of the house.”
Once I made my way to college, I found myself having a rather repetitive conversation with new friends and acquaintances. As I would get to know people and exchange names, majors, where we were from etc., another common question would pop up: “where did you go to school?”
When it was my turn to disclose that I was homeschooled, more often than not I was met with jaw dropped exclamations: “You were homeschooled!? But you’re not awkward at all!” In those moments, I typically chose to confront the stereotype and explain, “actually, I think I was more socialized than most public schoolers.” At this point, I was usually on the receiving end of questioning stares and looks of doubt. As the conversation progressed, I would pull out my metaphorical laundry list of activities:
- I participated in 4-H while in elementary school.
- I got to go camping with my family and visit different states throughout the year.
- My little sister had a lot of doctors visits and I got to go with her and my family to all of those appointments.
- I took weekly horseback riding lessons in 3rd-5th grade.
- I was part of a college preparatory tutorial program.
- I did Russian ballet 5 days a week for 3 hours a day from the time I was thirteen until I was 17.
- I travelled the region with my speech and debate league and competed at the local, regional, and national level every year of high school.
- I took swing dance lessons, created a swing club, and began teaching west coast swing.
- I travelled to 7 different countries for arts education and mission work.
- I was accepted into the Center for Western Studies (an intensive gap year program) and participated while I was still a junior in high school.
- I was a youth leader at my church and performed in church productions every year.
Needless to say, my mom was very excited and relieved when I was finally able to earn my license and transport myself to most of my classes and extracurriculars.
This may sound like an exceptional checklist of involvement and achievements but in my circle of friends, it was normal to be immersed in many endeavors and excel at our interests. As part of a strong local homeschool community (though it was an hour from my home), I had friends who participated in other activities as well:
- Visual Art Programs
- Martial Arts
- Book Writing
- Mock Trial
- Internships in their field of interest
- Dual Enrollment
- Robotics Competitions
- Community theatre
… and the list continues.
And of course, even a day at the zoo is educational. The field trip possibilities are endless! Homeschooling allowed for time not only with family but time for exploration and self-development as well.
These opportunities are made possible when parents support their student’s interests and then guide them to pursue their talents and abilities. Not every child is going to want to do 50 things every week, nor should they. But it’s also important to make sure that their world is much bigger than your living room or back yard.
My parents were faithful to encourage me and hold me accountable to my commitments while also making sure I learned to prioritize my studies and determine when to let some activities go. I had so many foundational and crucial conversations around the dinner table with my family after encountering difficult situations involving peers or topics that came up in my speech and debate rounds.
All of this to say, your home should always be a safe haven where your children can find acceptance and peace each day. Just as a home should be a place of belonging, the world should be a place of growth. There is no better time for your children to get involved in their interests and socialize than now when you are beside them helping them make wise choices and try new things.
So, feed all the chickens and leave the Hundred Acre Wood for a day. Take advantage of the opportunities near your family and help your students build a community that they can invest in! Sometimes, homeschooling is best when the day begins and ends at home with lots of adventure and exploration in between.
— Bryanna Ruesche