Building Like-Minded Communities for Our Home Educating Families
by Beverley Paine, Feb 2014
The hardest most enduring issue in home education and although we quickly jump on the suggestion that home educated children are not socialised and cite plenty of reasons and examples why they are, we - the parents - crave social opportunities for our children and ourselves.
It's heart breaking when we put our children back into the school system because they are lonely. Or sometimes because we are lonely too.
I appreciate that many of us try and try and try again to find our niche in the local community and it's never going to happen. Round pegs in square holes. Been there, done that. And I appreciate that many of us travel or move, seeking to find a local community in which we will naturally and comfortably feel we belong. Been there, done that too. Some of us are successful, many - like me - are not.
I have a theory why: expectations. My expectations were this: I was looking for a like-minded community that would accept me as I am and support me. So far so good, nothing unusual about that. But my notion of what support is and was and should be was flawed and, to be honest, immature. I was operating from my beliefs and attitudes developed during my childhood, one of traditional parenting and schooling. I thought support was unconditional praise. I thought support was liking what I did and how I did it. I thought support meant not being objective or critical of what I did or how I did it. I thought support was walking my path with me, just like me, doing what I did and how I did it. My idea of support didn't tolerate difference or diversity: these things challenged my sense of security and confidence. I wanted support that reflected my life, offered a sense of sameness, so I didn't feel different.
Naturally I didn't find the support I sought. I found enough tiny pockets to sustain me though, and was silly enough to not recognise what was on offer and usually ended up rejecting them because I saw them as only fragments, not the whole thing (not realising, of course, that in doing so I was still looking for the mirror, which I didn't actually need, but craved).
A wise person - not a homeschooler, a mother - scoffed at my stated need to find like-minded community. She said, "Community isn't something you find, it's something you build around you." I was young, in my mid-twenties, and didn't want to know that, didn't want to do the work, wasn't well enough, was too busy, etc. I was still in the stage of life where I wanted to blame and project: I wasn't ready to take responsibility and control, didn't feel confident enough. Hadn't deschooled enough and was still convinced that the fault wasn't mine because others are supposed to provide all that stuff for us... If we've lived within the school system long enough that's what we learn: how to be passive consumers of life and learning, not creators of our own existence.
I knew this woman's words were wise and sensible and true and what I needed to do: we all do. But knowing something doesn't necessarily change attitudes and actions, definitely not overnight. It took me years to discover that I needed to continually challenge my thinking and behaviour, which had largely been trained into me during childhood. And to realise that most of the time my choices were actually reinforcing those old patterns and habits. I knew what I had to do but kept believing it was hard, beyond my abilities, etc. Plus, I honestly didn't want to be different, I wanted to be normal, like everyone else. I wanted what I thought they had!
I still find it difficult. I've learned some important lessons about finding and becoming friends: support is unconditional. That one still bites me now and then because I still don't want to do the work required of friendship and of building community. I still have self-esteem issues, still feel fragile, still need others to affirm that I'm okay, that they like me and what I do and how I do it. But what has shifted for me - gradually - is the focus. Support isn't about me as much as it used to be. It's about me supporting others. And creating a sense of community for others. Little by little I'm allowing myself to feel at home in the communities I'm helping to build by my support.
What feels good and right and proper about that approach is that it's organic, it grows from the centre, from the heart and works with what we have, rather than what we desire we have.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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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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