Homeschooling and Feeling Lonely or Isolated?
© Beverley Paine
Often when homeschooling my children I would feel isolated and lonely. I was never alone - I had the company of my three wonderful children all the time and my husband most days. We were always busy, building and learning and gardening, looking to squeeze an extra hour or two from every day. Yet still the sense of isolation would creep into my life.
My loneliness and isolation stemmed from not being able to talk to people about worries and fears. I found that most of the issues that cropped up in daily life I solved, or didn't solve, on my own. I longed to talk things over with other people, to listen to their opinion without being ear-bashed about what I should or shouldn't do...
Often my issues or worries were so different from those of my friends that I couldn't talk to them. The same went for my parents and in-laws. If I looked like I was struggling with issues they'd advise me to put the children into school, like any other 'normal' family.
Like many, many other homeschoolers I searched for like-minded homeschooling families, hoping to find a niche of friends that could build a sharing network. Few families homeschooled back then and most of the time my friends lived 60 - 120 km from home, so visits were rare and STD rates meant casual chatting on the phone never happened either.
And then along came the internet and email and suddenly I could communicate cheaply whenever I needed or wanted to... But it's not the same as sitting in the garden on a sunny day with a close friend or group of friends, sharing time and helping each other find solutions.
I am ever so grateful for the wonderful network of good friends I belong to on the internet - even now when our homeschooling years are far behind us. We are all so busy and rarely write, but we know we care and share. And Facebook is beginning to change the way we communicate.
Homeschoolers are different and it can be hard to cope with feeling so different from our neighbours and peers. I found it hard to socialise with families whose children went to school as so often the discussion would leave me questioning my conviction to homeschool. Especially if my friend's daughter was doing something exciting and special at school, or was learning something I wish my children had access to...
And then there was the surreptitious testing of the children: a question here or there asked of them to assess their 'level'. Sometimes it became too draining and we wouldn't bother going out for a while.
I believe it is important for us to recognise these feelings of isolation and work out what we truly need to do about them. Sometimes I would need to simply accept them. Sometimes I would need to work on the communication in my marriage. Sometimes I would need to reach out and express an irrational fear to a close friend who would give me a hug (or a virtual hug). And sometimes I needed to change my routine, add a little variety, do something different, to help me change my perspective on life.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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