How to Help Your Children Form Good Friendships
Advice for Homeschoolers
If you homeschool your kids, you’ve probably found yourself thinking deeply about things parents take for granted if they send their kids to public or private school. Friendship is a good example. A parent of kids at public school might wonder whether their kids are making friends, but a parent of homeschoolers has to wonder how they’ll meet enough people to make friends in the first place. Thankfully, at least in this case the solution is simpler than you’d expect, because homeschooled kids make friends just like any other kids. They just need to be introduced.
Where to Start Looking for Friendship
If you’re a kid, it can be a little lonely to be homeschooled. What grade are you in if you’re a twelve-year-old reading Milton? What does it mean that you’ve never sat at a desk? How come all the homeschoolers on TV are in cults?
With all of that in mind, it’s crucial to introduce your child to friends. If there’s a homeschooling co-op where you live, that’s a great place to start. If not, think about starting your own. After all, one of the pluses of homeschooling is that you never need to get any forms made out in triplicate—you can just start an informal homeschooling meet-up and go from there. Church groups, volunteer groups and afternoon classes activities like art or yoga are also great options for homeschooling parents.
And depending on your comfort level with traditional school, you might also consider enrolling your child in an after-school club or a sport. The Home School Legal Defense Association has a comprehensive list of states that allow homeschooled kids to play interscholastic sports, and if it’s allowed in your state this can be a great way to introduce your child to new friends.
Before you unleash your child on the world of traditional schools, though, it’s a good idea to stop and consider what kinds of friends you want them to make. Traditional school can be a tough adjustment even in small doses, and your child might not immediately take to it, or might take to it in the wrong way. A good safeguard against this is to spend some time at home studying philosophy together—not necessarily so your child can recite the formulations of the categorical imperative, but simply so that they understand how to think clearly and logically about situations they’re going to face in traditional school.
This is a good preventative, but it’s not infallible. If it becomes clear that they’re not good for your child, then you have a problem that’s separate from a sense of isolation, and probably more pressing.
It sounds counterintuitive, but kids make friends with their bullies all the time—although perhaps “friends” should be in scare quotes. Click to Tweet
What to do When Your Child’s Friends Are Bullies
All kids can get into poisonous friendships. It’s a risk that comes with friendship per se, and homeschoolers aren’t exempt. As a parent, you need to face up to that, and if you see your child spending time with kids who are clearly not good for them, you can’t ignore it. You’ve probably heard horror stories about kids getting into drugs via their friends, but in most cases the problem is the much more mundane cruelty of bullying.
It sounds counterintuitive, but kids make friends with their bullies all the time—although perhaps “friends” should be in scare quotes. James Lehman on Empowering Parents explains that kids sometimes make the calculated decision to befriend their bullies because it seems like a safer decision than going it alone—they might have to put up with torrents of cruelty, but at least they won’t get shoved in the halls. Homeschooled kids can be susceptible to this kind of reasoning, especially when they’re newly enrolled in sports or after-school clubs, because they’re simply not used to the kind of social maneuvering that characterizes traditional school.
Lehman writes that if you notice your child getting bullied by friends, you should talk to them like an adult: sit down with them and, on the level, ask what they hope to get out of being friends with their bullies. Luckily, homeschooling tends to foster strong, open relationships between parents and kids, and your child might be more willing to confide in you than you’d expect.
And if you’ve been talking about philosophy at home, this is a great opportunity for a teachable moment. Try to clear away the haze of social anxiety from your child’s mind and talk to them in clear, reasonable terms. Would they want everybody to treat each other the way their friends treat them? Are they really friends with their bullies, or are they just being used as a means to an end? These are questions that might not occur to your child when they’re acting as a normal kid, but when they’re acting as a student of philosophy the answers should become clear. Focus on questions rooted in philosophy, and you’ll have a better shot at convincing your child to back out of their toxic friendships.
If all else fails, feel free to take matters into your own hands by confronting the parents of said bullies; this is a great chance to let parents with out of control children know exactly how ineffective their parenting has been. It’s also a great opportunity to nip future bullying problems in the bud, especially if parents know that you’ll confront them on this behavior. This does take some courage, but it’s worth it when you know that your child feels safer with you at their side.
Homeschooling might make it a little exasperating to find friends for your children. Still, you may find that the rewards outweigh the costs: a network of strong friendships that exist outside school is probably healthier for your children than a few friends they only see at recess and lunch. Homeschooling friendship, like homeschooling philosophy, is a big investment of time and energy, but it pays off.
For more resources on teaching philosophy to your kids, look at p4c.com, a rich collection of tools for philosophy teachers and parents.
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photo credit: symphony of love <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/85608594@N00/10153010585″>If you talk to your children, you can help them to keep their lives together. If you talk to them skillfully, you can help them to build future dreams</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>