When you're the weird homeschool mom within the group of homeschool moms
I remember it well. When my now 10 year old son was 3, we had just moved from Ohio back to Wisconsin to be closer to my husband's family. We were in a city and I signed him up for some community classes. He loved nature so I remember signing him up for one about frogs! He would learn, plus get a chance to meet up with other kids around his age and possibly make some friends too. We had a large social circle in Ohio and I didn't want him to miss out on the adventures of life from a move.
When we got there it was just amazing, there were conversations that would rise and fall amongst moms (no dads in this class) as we noticed our kids singing along to the fingerplays or jumping around with the teacher pretending to be frogs. I noticed that a lot of the moms in this class had already known each other-and likely knew each other for some time. As I watched them I was struck by something big. I wanted to make friends just as badly as I wanted my son to make friends. I didn't need a bestie, no, just another mom who I could level with and assure me I was still being a great mom even though my son may have taken the frog joke too far and was contemplating eating the dead fly found on the floor. I got to him but still, I felt terrible!
Yet- none of the moms really seemed all that interested in making new friends. I finished out the community classes I had signed up for with much the same theme and decided to take a break from it all. I didn't know how to handle being so present with my son but so invisible from all of the adults at the event. I would try to say, 'your little one is so cute!' to the other moms and would get a smile and a walk away. It was hard to bear considering when I moved to Wisconsin, I knew no one.
Flash forward to 2 years later, I was considering homeschooling my then 5-year-old. I went to homeschoolers meet up and again did not have much luck. However, I was expecting it. I rationalized it to myself telling myself that these relationships are tighter knit, and I just need to keep it together for both myself and my son. Yet I had changed the environment, I had changed the activity, I had changed who we were meeting and all the time I was receiving what seemed like a community wide cold shoulder from two different communities. What gives?
I would bring up scenarios from years ago in my head trying to dissect them and figure out how it was me, all me, in these situations. I would ask myself what I can do differently, what I could be, where I could change. All of that led to incredible insights but none so much as embracing who I am. I'm the weird art teaching co-op class hosting mom. Most times my classes go well and everyone brings home completed art, sometimes my classes do not go so well and everyone needs to complete their art at home. That's the nature of trying new things though- learning and especially growing from mistakes makes it all a frustrating and daunting process riddled with self-doubt.
Being a homeschooling mother can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it can also be challenging, especially if you feel like or are the odd one out. Being a homeschooler comes with its own flavor of bittersweet. It's easy to feel isolated and alone when you don't fit in with the mainstream parenting culture in general. But being different isn't a weakness; it's a superpower. Here are some ways I learned to embrace my differences instead of assuring others I was weird by finding a cozy corner to observe the room in.
First, recognize that being different is a strength. The world needs diversity, and your unique perspective and experiences can be an asset. Embrace your quirks, passions, and interests. They make you who you are and can inspire others. When I didn't have an art class finished and many kids had to take their works home to complete, I inspired many mothers to participate with their children in their art processes and projects. To a point where other mothers were telling me they feel more comfortable taking art into their own hands with their children! It made me feel like there was a reason why that class worked out the way it did - because all of our differences are worth recognizing and appreciating!
Second, don't compare yourself to others. Social media can make us feel like everyone else is living the perfect life, but the truth is that everyone has struggles and imperfections. Everyone has things about themselves both physically and emotionally they would rather be different. You don't have to fit into someone else's mold to be happy and successful. This is ESPECIALLY true in many realms of education including homeschooling. Instead, focus on your own goals and values.
Third, seek out like-minded individuals. Whether it's online or in person, there are communities of homeschooling mothers who share your values and interests. Look for groups that align with your parenting style, pedagogy, hobbies, or religious beliefs. Attend local homeschooling events, join online forums or groups, or start your own group.
Fourth, and this is key, practice self-compassion. It's okay to feel lonely or left out sometimes, but don't beat yourself up about it. I used to spend hours analyzing my own behavior and how I KNOW I was the one who was weird, awkward, stupid, etc in that situation. It did not matter what the situation was. That is not real self-reflection that is actually self-defeat and picking things apart. Instead, be kind to yourself and acknowledge your feelings rather than deny them. Remember that you are doing your best and that your worth is not defined by others' opinions.
Finally, embrace your inner child. Remember what it was like to be a carefree kid who didn't worry about what others thought. You don't have to conform to adult expectations all the time. Have fun, be silly, and enjoy the little things in life.
In conclusion, being a homeschooling mother can be challenging, but it's important to remember that being different is a superpower. Embrace your weirdness, seek out like-minded individuals, practice self-compassion, and have fun. Don't worry about what others think of you; worrying about that is childish. Remember, you are doing your best, and that is enough.