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Question: I feel that homeschooling is socially isolating for me. We live in a very small town, I know 2 other homeschooling families who are not Catholic, we have 6 other children at our church who are older than my three boys, none of whom homeschool. I am from New Zealand and my husband is from Vermont so neither of us has family nearby. People here are not very supportive of homeschooling so I try to avoid those who make me defend my decision to homeschool. Long, cold winters and homeschooling mean that we stay home A LOT. I don't think it is good for my mental health or for my oldest son who at 5 1/2 is very much like me in temperament. It was easier when the kids were littler because they had more friends available but now their friends are all in school and preschool and their mothers work and are not as available. Also people say "Oh, I didn't want to call you because you are homeschooling and it might interrupt your school work". My husband works long hours, so some days I don't get any adult interaction at all. It is hard for me to find the money to hire a babysitter on a regular basis and harder to find someone I would trust to leave my kids with, so that I can have a break during the week. The more time I have like this the more I tend to ruminate on my own "problems" I desire to continue homeschooling, I was wondering how other people have faced this kind of personal challenge.
Answer:

Dear Parent,

Moving from New Zealand is quite a change in climate and the availability of family time. A situation such as this must be quite difficult. 

I hope that you are able to take advantage of the summer vacations and spend time outside with your three boys. Getting out when the sun is out, or at least whenever weather permits, will lift your mood. I don't know your exact situation, but when my children were the age of your boys, I and sometimes my husband would sit on the curb or in the driveway to watch the children play in the evenings. The street would soon be full of all ages, and other parents would come out to talk. This was a time that I always looked forward to because we could not afford childcare and because I enjoyed getting out of the house even if only out to the street. Sometimes, we would go to a park or to a restaurant's indoor playground and purchase small drinks so our children could get out. I do not know if this would be possible for you. You indicate that people have explained that they don't call you so as not to bother you. If people would like to call you, let them know when you are available or call them. 

You also mention that your children's friends are now in school and preschool and their mothers work. Perhaps you could plan and propose some weekend or evening get-togethers that would be convenient for everyone and trade childcare at the same time. Another possibility is to have a daily quiet time when the children are either down for a nap or play quietly on their own for about half an hour. If they are not used to this, you will have to be patient and allow time for it to become a habit. This short break will give you time to make a phone call or chat online with family and friends. My husband also worked long hours (50 to 80 hours a week), and he enjoyed getting a phone call during lunch nearly everyday so we could update each other. 

I also understand when you say that people are not supportive of home schooling. That does make you want to avoid them, but in a small town, avoiding people can be difficult and doesn't always work because you do keep encountering each other. I know it may sound impossible, but you don't have to defend your decision. I work with people in public and private schools who think home schooling is utterly ridiculous, so I don't defend it. I either listen to them until they get tired of talking, or I change the subject by asking them about something that is important to them, such as their job or children. In this way, I keep the necessary social connection open so that we can continue to work together. Small towns can feel isolating. It takes time to get to know people, and not everyone is welcoming to newcomers who have perhaps "only" lived there for the past ten years or so. Becoming used to living where you are will take time and patience.

As a final suggestion, I would recommend reading some of Fulton J. Sheen's short books. They are profound, uplifting, and yet easy to read and full of solutions. His Guide to Contentment can be found online at CatholicCulture.org.

Peace be with you,

Sandra Garant

   
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