One of the first things people ask me when they find out that I’m unschooled is “how do you make friends?” While this question is most frequently asked by evidently well-meaning adults the truth is that I’ve found it to be one of the most frustrating questions I’ve ever had to answer.
When I was younger I wasn’t able to articulate why this question bothered me so much, and because of that I would always respond in ways that didn’t feel quite satisfactory to me. After all, I didn’t want to hurt the person’s feelings…but it seemed like such a silly question because I had lots of friends. Although I get asked this less frequently now that I’m older and almost out of “high school,” I still find it incredibly annoying. The reason this question frustrates me so much is because whoever asks it–whether they realize or not–is assuming that the only way children can make friends is in a pre-assigned group of children their own age.
I think there are a million and one ways to make friends, and no one should be limited to only making friends in a classroom. That’s one way to do it, but not the only way, and probably not even the best way. I think the best and easiest way to make friends is do what you’re interested in and find other people who share those interests.
I have made friends by volunteering, going to camp, acting, taking classes, working, going to homeschool groups, traveling, and just interacting with people in my day to day life. Everywhere I go I meet new people, and I think there’s always a potential for friendship. Because I have never been limited to interacting with the same people every day I find it fairly easy to connect with a variety of people, of all sorts of ages and backgrounds. My friends’ ages range from toddler to adult and everywhere in between. I have friends across this country, and in other countries as well.
Because I’m not in school I’m able to devote my time and energy to things I love, as well as travel and work during the week. My free time isn’t taken up by homework, and I’m not exhausted from spending seven hours five days a week indoors learning things that don’t interest me.
I’m not trying to say that there aren’t disadvantages of the social life of an unschooler. For instance, many of my friends live an hour or more away (although part of this is due to living in the middle of nowhere) so I don’t get to see them as often as I’d necessarily like to. But I personally find it more gratifying to have friends from all over whom I don’t get to see as often, versus friends from the same group of people I’ve been with my whole life.
I don’t feel deprived of a social life because I am not in school. Instead I feel lucky that I can have so many wonderful friends from so many different places.