The only thing better than the family you’re born in is the family you choose. Born an only child, I learned to be content entertaining myself. Not one to surround myself with an entourage of friends, I’m completely comfortable shopping, dining and traveling alone. Interestingly enough, my mom is very much like me in the sense that she has always had very few and distant friendships as well. Therefore, it was an easy decision for me to abandon the comforts and familiarity of my hometown and relocate to a city nearly nine hours away that I had visited only a few times in my life to pursue a fulfilling career. I literally relocated without the certainty of a full-time job.
Since I had become a workaholic at a very young age, even before I had relocated, I rarely made time for meaningful relationships beyond the traditional childhood friends I had already established. When I relocated to North Carolina, the move further isolated me, because I traveled a lot for my job, which included international assignments lasting up to a month at the time. When I worked from the home office, I worked seven days a week in some shape or form. In order to feed my ambitions, however, I eventually left that job to start my own business. As I developed my business, I found myself constantly surrounded by clients and employees, and from the outside looking in, I appeared to be an extreme extrovert with an abundance of friends. Sure, I was popular in various circles and invited to many events, outings and client’s homes, but in all honesty, it all felt so superficial and mechanical. Although I presented this extroverted facade that earned me success as a business owner, my preference was to go home at the end of the day, draw the curtains and turn off the phone. The crazy thing is that I rarely felt lonely. My ambitious desire for worldly success took the place of both family and friends.
When I became a mom, however, I realized that my support system was severely lacking, and for the first time, I desired to develop meaningful relationships not just for me, but for my kids. What I once ignored became a huge spotlight that revealed my lack of personal connections. I found myself scrambling through an array of unbalanced and mismatched friendships in search of a meaningful support system. Once I was introduced to homeschool co-ops, I began to meet people with similar family structure/dynamics and belief systems. Through these co-ops, the family interactions became a welcomed outlet not just for my kids, but for me as the mom’s nights out became something I actually anticipated doing. My husband jokes about how I rarely miss an opportunity to hang out with my homeschool sisters.
As I look back over the last five plus years of my life and the evolution of my homeschool family, I’m overjoyed. Like blood relatives, we can be dysfunctional. We don’t always agree about things like politics, historical perspectives, whether we should we celebrate Halloween, or a host of differing parenting styles, but the upside is that we are joined by a common bond and a common purpose that binds us together through this amazing homeschool journey.
I can understand why some homeschool families may want to limit their interactions to only their immediate family. Why should they expose their family to the possibility of rejection? Why should they expose their family to the untoward influences that could derail their desire to buffer their children from the inevitable horrors of this wicked world? I know it’s a cliché, but the benefits are worth the risks. I have only to look at the loving and supportive relationships that our family has developed through our decision to take this leap of faith and manage these risks. In fact, instead of protecting your children by isolating them from these risks, I have found that you protect them better by putting them in a supportive environment where not only they, but you, have the support to face these risks collectively as a group. I feel that we are all more able to effectively navigate this toxic world with a community that has embraced us through the good, bad and the ugly.
Now, you might ask, do our kids have dozens of BFFs? No, but they do have a handful of loyal caring friends and a community of pretty amazing playmates. Are we dropping our kids off for sleepovers? Absolutely not! Do we ditch school work to meet friends for lunch, go to our favorite bounce house or field trip outing? Absolutely!
I’m writing this article to thank my entire crazy, loving, homeschool community that saw past our differences and loved and embraced us with a godlike love. I want to thank all of you who challenge and motivate me to be the best I can be. I want to thank you for looking past my faults and forgiving me for all the times I’ve made mistakes. Thank you for the unconditional support and encouragement you have shown me as we navigate this thing called life together. I realize homeschool support groups and co-ops are not for everyone, but I suggest you open yourself to the possibility of giving and receiving what God created us to be to one another.
The final question that I would like for you to consider is, how can we be the hands and feet of God to a lost and dying world, if we are isolated from everyone around us? I know you often hear this question when people realize you have chosen homeschooling over traditional school; but from where I sit, there are plenty of people struggling with their faith and family in our own homeschool community that simply need someone to come alongside them and be the hands and feet of God.