You know the story about all work and no play... How did you play with others this year? Let your hair down and share how you escaped for an hour, a day, or more.
Finding friends for my kids to play with takes work. Since we homeschool, we aren’t on the same schedule as our public school neighbors and church friends. And we aren’t on the same schedule as many of our homeschool friends…so we have to be very intentional to make sure the kids get time to play and hang out with other kids. This is harder some years than others.
When the kids were all elementary school aged and younger, we lived across the street from another homeschooling family. At first we thought this would afford insta-playmates, but alas, it didn’t. The other family’s schedule was the complete opposite of ours. We stayed home in the morning doing school work and turned the afternoons over to project-and-play time. The other family ran around town all morning and then came home to study in the afternoon. By the time 4 pm hit, our families were headed out for dance, karate, or church activities. It was frustrating, and I often found myself cutting lessons short and hurrying my kids outside to play when I could see the neighbor kids outside enjoying “recess” while their mother prepared their lunch. My kids loved their friends across the street, but they didn’t get to see them all that much---weekends were a little better, though.
Then we moved to a smaller town and the ten minute drive to get to our old area so the kids could get together to play suddenly seemed like the most insurmountable obstacle to overcome. Our families gradually quit seeing each other socially (much to my family’s sadness) because it was a hassle to try to coordinate schedules.
We joined a homeschool co-op with about 20 other kids of various ages and we did that twice a week for three-ish years. One of the best things about the co-op was lunch time, when the kids could really cut loose and just play and run around. Eventually, we left the co-op—which was sad, because there were some really good things happening there, but when we left, it was because it wasn’t fitting our academic and scheduling needs. We spent a semester away, thinking we’d join up again the next fall, but after the planning meeting that involved a complete restructuring of the co-op, it all fell apart and didn’t happen.
A couple of the moms decided to continue getting their families together, and then a third family joined them (essentially re-forming the co-op) but we just found out about it in December, via Facebook. I don’t know that they were intentionally trying to leave us out—I think they just picked days that worked for them and went with it. My kids were a little hurt when they found out, but when I pointed out that we have since made other friends, they decided to focus on what they have instead of what they don’t have.
This fall, we were invited to join another co-op, but it didn’t quite mesh with our schedule. Undaunted, we asked if we could just crash their “post-co-op-playtime” and just come over after the co-op and let the kids run around and play games and just have a big playdate. We were welcomed enthiastically! This has worked really well, and so we go over to this family’s house every week and there are usually upwards of 30 kids in various age ranges that all my kids always have SOMEONE to play with. While there are some regulars, each week usually includes new kids to play with, so the group dynamics have never gotten clique-y, and everyone has a friend. The little kids run around pretending to be kitties or playing with toys and the big kids play board games, flirt, and otherwise goof off. When the weather is nice, the kids run around outside. Also, there are usually other moms to talk to---obviously, the mom hosting is there—and she’s a blast! But sometimes the other moms stay and visit. Other times, they are off runnig errands or prepping for school or whatever. It’s a pretty great set-up, with my kids’ only complaint being that they wish we could do it more than once a week! It has been fun to see the kids become friends and share a few activities outside the play day….again, my kids only wish they could do more!!!
My teens are the most vocal about wanting more “friend time” and we’ve gotten them involved in several community and after-school activities (choir, book club, church youth group, dance) in the hopes that they make more friends and meet different kinds of people. They enjoy these activites, and have occasionally reached out and invited kids from those things over, but trying to schedule a playdate is hard, even among homeschoolers. You have to cast your net pretty wide to get one scheduled, and then half the time, they fall through, because something comes up or someone gets sick or whatever the reason is. We are guilty of doing this to others, too. It’s just life.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this post, other than it’s just my thoughts on what’s happening and how the kids are doing socially. They love their game-day buddies and I would love for them to have more opportunities to spend time with them, but we’re in such a busy season of life, as are our friends. There just isn’t a whole lot of downtime to allow for spontaneous get-togethers. Summers are a little easier, but even then, we’re all running around doing our own things a lot.