Tuesday, October 20, 2009


A few weeks ago, a friend commented on her daughter's behavior after an afternoon at a homeschool co-op with all the other kids. I told her how our kids had had the ugly habit of misbehaving after time with friends. So often they would elbow each other in the car on the way home from play-days. Or they would tattle and whine. The day after an all-day homeschool event was torturous for the mom as the kids were impossibly cranky and impatient with each other. So many times I said, "You know what you're teaching me, don't you? 'If you take us to see our friends, we will be nasty at home afterwards.' So obviously the lesson I will learn is not to take my children to see their friends." In time, they learned to bite their tongues and keep their elbows to themselves after a day with friends. In time, they learned that they'd better feign niceness-to-siblings if they ever wanted to see anybody outside the family.

It is well known among homeschoolers that there is a "re-entry time" for the family after some or all of the family members have been away. People who send their kids to school and say, "I could never homeschool," often feel that way because they go through the re-entry time nearly every day. That re-entry time is nasty, whether it happens a couple of times a year or every day. It takes real work for kids to stifle the impulses to snap at siblings after they've been with their buddies. A sustained period of time away from buddies usually makes for a more pleasant home life.

Different subject:
Pastor talks about how we are made in the image of the God who loved sacrificially and gave of Himself. He talks about how we chase after happiness and satisfaction, never to find fulfillment in what we thought we wanted. He talks about how joy and peace and fulfillment actually can come only as we pour out ourselves for the neighbor. Even though it hurts us to sacrifice ourselves for another, it is paradoxically the only place happiness and satisfaction can be found.

Different subject:
I remember Barbara writing a blogpost quite a while ago about how she spent so much time with her children and found a great deal of pleasure in their company. She wrote about the moms who are not with their children so much, or who see homeschooling as a duty to be endured, and who then do not enjoy their children. I wish I could find that article; she said it so much better than my poor summary here.

Putting all three of those together:
I sense that there is less delight for homeschooling mommies than there was a decade or more ago. Because there are more homeschoolers than 15-20 years ago, it's easier to find like-minded homeschoolers. Because homeschooling is more mainstream, it's easier to find others who share our lifestyle and interests. It is therefore easier for moms to find support groups, attend co-ops, and spend time online with other moms. I'm wondering if mommies develop the same kind of peer dependency that kids sometimes do. If we mommies are with our friends more, does that make us cranky when we go back to spending time with our families?

I'm not saying that moms shouldn't associate with other moms online, at retreats, for play-days, and at other times. But I find, for myself, that I'm more cheerful and content working with the kids when I reduce the time spent with my peers.


  1. I don't have a comparison from homeschooling before online vs. now, but I have NO idea what you are talking about here. There are a few homeschoolers in our area that aren't Loopers, but they are not active and none of them have young children like I do. There isn't a homeschool co-op. There are 3 Loopers each 2 hours away in different directions that we try to get together once a year with. Then we go to events like CCA and see other Loopers once or twice a year. So we end up seeing Loopers 5 or 6 times a year. It is refreshing for me and for my boys and often my husband goes along and it is refreshing for him too. Our boys look forward to this time and they don't misbehave afterwards unless they are tired from a day away (and these days are very long days away by the time we drive there and home again!) Online time with Loopers is good, but not the same as getting together with them. I know the grass is always greener...but I would take grumpy kids more often over lack of socialization time with peers for both my children and for me. Those of you with Loopers a close distance away are blessed and I don't think you realize how blessed you are.

  2. I wasn't talking particularly about Loopers. It happened with getting together with other pastors' kids at circuit gatherings. It happened with our local homeschool group. I still see signs of its happening with my youngest after an overnight with a friend, or after a long day with youth group.

    Yes, the socialization time for both mom and kids is important. But it's also important for me not to take too much time for friendships to the detriment of family. I guess making note of that might sound luxurious to people who are more isolated, sort of like it sounds to me when people talk about having money to indulge their children's wishes but having to take care not to do so in order that their children might grow up with a healthy understanding of possessions.

    Like I said, I am NOT saying that it's bad for mommies to be with friends! Not at all! But there IS a contentment to be found in the home that can be undermined when there is too much socializing going on. Hmmm, as I'm typing here, it crosses my mind that it's almost like liquor. A good balance is best, but better to have not enough than to have too much.

  3. When at seminary, my Pastoral Counseling instructor had an analogy, which is really quite crude, but still perhaps helpful... It dealt specifically with married couples, but I can see it being the case with interactions between family and friends, too.

    He asked us to imagine two bank accounts: our spouse is one account, a female friend is another. With our wife, we have "deposits" (spending time with each other, compliments, good talks, etc.) and "withdrawals" (arguments, fights, bad days, etc.). But with the friend, we only have deposits - we're not around them often enough to have the fights and arguments and see the little things that will bother us.

    You don't ever want your "balance" with the friend to exceed (or really even come close to) your "balance" with your family. That's why he suggested that people really should not have friends, per se, of the opposite sex. Because over time, that friendship could become preferable to the family, and that's sometimes people who would never have thought of betraying a loved one can fall prey to "uneven balances" (if you will).

    Taking that analogy in a more benign way over to the family in general, if you have "deposits and withdrawals" between siblings and between mom and the kids, then spending time with friends will seem preferable - your "deposits" build up with your friends until they overshadow the "deposits" from your family, because you also have "withdrawals" taking place in the family. Siblings will play together (deposits) but they'll also fight (withdrawals); friends generally tend to play and get along (deposits) much more than fight, if they ever fight. Same with mom and the kids.

    That, of course, doesn't mean that one ought never see friends - far from it. We'd all go crazy if that happened, I think. But it does mean that we have to be careful to keep the "balance" with our family higher than the "balance" with our friends. Otherwise, we'll start begrudging the time spent with family versus friends.

    Again, I know it's a crude analogy. But if I understand what you're saying, I think it applies.

  4. Glad you liked that post of mine, Susan....I looked, but I couldn't find it either!

    I completely agree with your theory. We could always see the difference when our kids had had too much friend time.

    Interestingly, the same thing applied to me when I was a young mom, when my older kids were little and I was tired and stressed out. My wonderful husband would give me a Saturday out on my own, and I'd do something I enjoyed. But instead of coming home refreshed, I was surprised to find I felt resentful and wanted much more time by myself for days afterwards. Not a good thing.

    Once I stopped taking the attitude of "I need to get out of the house more!" it seemed I could enjoy my time out without coming home cranky because I wanted more. I do think moms need to take time to do things for themselves, but the attitude we take seems to make all the difference.

    I am very seldom alone anymore. My husband is unemployed, and my son cannot be left alone. We're together all the time. But after those increasingly rare occasions when I go out with friends, I'm always glad to get home to my family.

    Thought-provoking post!

  5. Thank you for commenting, Barbara. You summarized briefly but cleary & eloquently what I remember from that post that impressed me so much.

    Nathan, I follow what you're saying, and I think it's applicable. I think your words also speak to "Ewe's" concern that we want to be sure to appreciate the blessing we find in friendships. We sinners are capable of being tempted to sin even by these wonderful blessings that are our friends. But that doesn't detract from the truth that friendship is a treasure.

  6. I think Nathan is on to something. Popping on and off the computer to "visit" with homeschooling friends while I pick away at home-related tasks is great.

    But boy, do I pay for it if I get "lost" in the computer.

    As someone who has no local homeschooling friends, I can sure relate to what Ewe is saying, too. But I don't think, Susan, you're really thinking of those of us who have nobody close. I think you're thinking of those who have the ability to "overdose". When you're all alone in a community, it's pretty hard to overdose!

    Very interesting observation that conventionally-schooled kids go thru "re-entry" every day. Hadn't thought about that before, but it makes sense.

  7. Good post Susan. I've been thinking a lot about this lately too. I neer had in my life "real-life" friends who have similar interests, my "on-line" friends served that purpose for me for sooo long. But now, God has placed in my life "real-life" friends whom I can see pretty regularly as can my kids. Those "on-line" friends are still there, but all of these friends sure are taking away time from family (and school, and chores, and....). I'm really doing some serious evaluation about where I need to cut back in order to have that happy home once more.

    I once was in Ewe's position, with younger kids and no one really around (even though I didn't live in as isolated as a place). But life changes and now I'm facing a different situation and I can't expect it to be like it was. Your post gives me more to chew on while I figure out what is going to be best for our family as we figure out how to deal with all of this.

  8. EC & Ewe -- yes, what I'm talking about is overdosing. Back when we started homeschooling, there were only three homeschooling families in the whole county. At church, we only hung out with one family, the senior pastor's family. So we were pretty isolated. I don't remember having a problem with the kids (or me) being cranky after time with friends, except when (as Ewe mentioned) the ill mood was due to being overtired and overstimulated.

    After we moved to a place where we had friends, we still didn't see people too often because most of those friends were an hour away. When we gathered with the homeschool group for an hour a week, there weren't repercussions in the family. It was a limited time. OR, when we took the occasional trip to spend a large amount of time with some friends, it was rare enough that the kids didn't act up. When we started facing those problems was when we began to feel entitled to friend-time, and thus felt cheated when we didn't get it. That was when we would see friends weekly or even more often, and frequently it would be for a half day or a whole day at a time. For us, that's when we moved into attitude problems.

    It's harder for me to control the overdosing on the computer because, as EC said, sometimes it's little snatches of time here and there, but sometimes I get lost in it. The kids are even more prone to that: "Mom, I've only been on the computer 5 or 10 minutes" when I know it's been nearly 2 hours.

  9. Glenda, I'm right there with you. I'm not keen on letting go of online friends. But there are real-life people here with whom I spend time. I'm trying to be self-controlled with regard to the computer, but I wonder sometimes if I should re-evaluate further. I'm also trying to figure out how to balance at-home time with friend-time when there are so many opportunities for friendship that I never had before.

    It reminds me of our fieldtrips when we lived in central Wisconsin versus when we moved to southern Wisconsin. If there was anything going on in the county when we lived up north, we went. We attended anything remotely educational, every open house at a hospital or fire station or grocery store. If there was something on the Community Calendar, we were there. Then we moved, and there was too much to attend. I was overwhelmed with all the opportunities, and it took quite a while to figure out how to choose activities and how to balance the calendar between home-time and away-time. I think that's what we're facing now, just in a different arena.

  10. I didn't get back to commenting on this all day, so this comment doesn't really apply to the conversation any more, but I want to clarify just how isolated we are. There is no local homeschool group. None of the circuit pastors have children younger than high school age. There is ONE family in our tri-parish with children our age. Elephant's Child summarized it well that it's impossible for me to "overdose". Nathan had a good analogy too.

  11. Susan Holowach10/29/2009 8:47 AM

    Susan, I just saw your post via Jane's blog. What you say makes so much sense. I homeschooled only two years -- not consecutively. The first year was great. The next time wasn't so great. That was Jim's last year at seminary and we were all anxious and excited about where we would be going. We never got our "groove" on that year!

    After reading your remarks, I re all that we also did a LOT of things with other homeschoolers that second year. It certainly was better the first year when the girls and I were together most of the time.

    Both girls finished their schooling in a public school setting. We are fortunate that this school is great -- has awesome academic opportunities. But I can look back and apply your comments even to these past years. When they hang out more with their friends, there is more tension at home. Some weekends Michelle will tell her friends "no" because she wants to spend time at home. Those are great times! HEr friends don't understand this... they also don't have good relationships with their parents.

    We are hosting an exchange student from Finland this year. I believe our relationship with her falls into this same scenerio. Once in a while we are all home at the same time and have a great time playing board games. I'll try to make that happen more often!

    Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts posted here!

  12. Hi, Susan. I didn't know you had homeschooled. How 'bout that!

    We haven't gotten to the point that our kids say no to friends so that they can stay home. But maybe it's because they still have so much home-time, and have to wait until non-school hours to be with their friends.