Homeschoolers Embracing the World’s Ideas About Friends

Scan 18I’ve been noticing that there are many Christian homeschooling parents who think their children have a need that only outside-the-family friends can meet. Do you think that? Why do you think that?

It’s a very common thought. The world certainly believes children have a need that only friends can fill. Isn’t that the most common concern people bring when they hear you’re going to homeschool? What about peer socialization?

I’ve read so many blogs, discussions and threads where homeschooling parents are trying to answer that concern as they defend homeschooling. Instead of realizing that the question itself is based in a wrong idea, they try to give evidence that their children have lots of friends and do plenty of socializing with peers.

However, the question is based on the assumption that children have a need that only socialization with their peers can meet. It’s based in the belief that if children do not have outside-the-family friends, they will be deficient in some manner. They will be lacking or undeveloped in some way. They will be missing out on some part of life that is essential.

But is this an idea that comes from the Lord and His ways? Or is it an idea that comes from our own upbringing and generations of being schooled outside the home and outside the family? Does this idea come because parents are searching for their own needs to be met in their own peers?

When we as parents either allow or encourage our children toward building close relationships with outside-the-family peers, we are unknowingly sowing seeds toward unpleasant and perhaps devastating consequences that are so common we’ve come to think of them as normal. However, they are far from what God has intended for families and for His people.

Making Connections

Healthcare scientists have long ago discovered a cause-and-effect connection between eating lots of starch and sugar and heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. They’ve determined that you can reduce the risk, or even eliminate these conditions by choosing to eat different things. There is abundant education and discussions about how these two things are connected. The one causes the other. If you sow the activity of eating lots of sugar and starch, you will reap the trouble, pain, and distress of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Hardly anyone is talking about the same sort of cause-and-effect connection between strong outside-the-family peer relationships, and the resulting harmful family conditions. The homeschooling community has embraced the world’s harmful values of sowing toward their children’s peer relationships and they are reaping the cause-and-effect consequences along with the world as well.

Christian homeschooling parents care deeply about their children and their education, so it isn’t that they don’t care. It’s that they don’t realize the connection between sending their children to get their needs met through their outside-the-family peer relationships, and the consequences that follow.

Since they don’t know about the cause and effect connection, the results seem to many to be mysterious. So many Christian homeschooling parents are somewhat confused or dismayed when they see these things happening in their children’s lives, while some believe along with the world that these unChristlike relational habits are normal.

• Disdain for siblings

• Emotional distance from siblings

• Resistance to the parents values and what parents think of as important

• Loss of interest, complaining, or irritation and anger with any event or outing that doesn’t involve outside-the-family friends

• Complaints of boredom when they can’t be with their friends

• Lack of knowing what to do with their lives or what they’re interested in as adulthood approaches

• Increased selfishness and demands relating to peer contact, peer gatherings or peer events leading to temper explosions or aggressive pouting behaviors

Later In life

• Resistance to parents’ ability to share wisdom about how life works

• Distant family relationships, especially between grown siblings and their siblings’ spouses

• Empty or superficial feeling family gatherings

• Independence and emotional distance in marriage and family life

If You Knew

If you knew about the cause-and-effect connection between outside-the-family friend relationships and how they produce these unpleasant conditions, would you begin to look at your children’s connection with their peers differently? If you knew that allowing or encouraging your children to get or make friends outside the family was sowing toward these conditions, would you consider sowing differently?

Have you seen some of these conditions at work in your children? Have you seen some of these conditions at work in your own adult family and with your own siblings?

The Needs of Children

Children need to be approved of and affirmed, go through life with a sense of belonging, grow into their God-designed purpose and to be taught how to love others. God has designed the family for meeting these needs in children’s lives. In my next blog post, I’ll be exposing what happens when families are trying to have these needs met by their outside-the-family friends.

EmpowerTransfer-smallLifestyle of Learning™ principles can help you turn these conditions around and show you how to develop your family relationships, so that your children can have their needs met in a God-designed way leading to a much deeper sense of approval and belonging, strong understanding for their unique God-given purpose, and the formation of Christlike loving character.

Lifestyle of Learning™ does not promote isolation from peers, but provides specifics on how to intentionally build strong healthy family relationships, open hearts, and precious Christlike loving character in you and your children.

For more input on this topic I highly recommend to you Marilyn Howshall’s books Develop Vision for Your FamilyCome Home from Homeschool, and Empowering the Transfer of Moral Values and Faith. For more reading and examples of these ideas see a blog post series that begins here.

See part 2 here.


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  1. Mari
    Posted August 9, 2013 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    I loved this. A couple years back, we let our-then-turning 8 daughter have a friend sleep over as her birthday gift. We were excited, as this was her first…and of many throughout her life. By the end of the time we learned her dad had been in jail, she was constantly whispering to our 8 yr old daughter and keeping themselves away from our other daughters. We didn’t operate in ways to exclude family members from play times. It was a long night and not a bit what we expected. Additionally, it uncovered many issues and hang ups concerning a sleepover and “friend” we hadn’t thought about. I think we’ve decided we will not do sleepovers with peers. We will not, however, be against the idea of a huge sleepover of 5 sisters!

    • BarbiePoling
      Posted August 9, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      I love the sibling sleep overs that happen at my house most nights! My kiddos just don’t want to stop talking with each other, and so they stay up late at night because they don’t want to go to sleep.
      I’m with you Mari, I had decided because of my own experience as a child with sleep overs that my kids were never going to have them or attend them. I’ve never regretted that decision!!
      ~ Barbie

  2. Michelle
    Posted August 9, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    We’ve been so blessed to embrace this counter-cultural idea about peer influence and have been working to build our family identity and make our family relationships the deepest and most loving of any relationships for our kids. I’ve never thought of it as a cause and effect, but I can see that it is true and my experience validates it. Thank you for this post, Barbie!

    • BarbiePoling
      Posted August 9, 2013 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      I love seeing your family grow in love for each other Michelle!

  3. Carolyn
    Posted August 9, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I agree with the list of evils that too much focus on outside the family relationships can bring- many of them are the same that schooled children experience and part of why I chose to homeschool. I do however, take issue with one aspect of this. Can we discuss- are children supposed to have relationships with other children? Is this NOT a developmental need? When you grow up you leave home and most of your relationships may be with people not in your family. How do kids learn to form healthy relationships with peers if they are not allowed to have friends outside the house? Now if you are all going to tell me that they learn this from their siblings then I think we have a problem. If this philosophy is dependent on the homeschooling cultures tradition of having at least 3 children then it is just that- dependent and not some independent truth. I don’t think there is anything in the bible that tells us that our children should not have friends. At 12 years old Jesus went to the temple and started already his relationships with others outside the family- without permission I might add. Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly agree that there is too much focus on activities and learning and relationships outside the family which is why families are so broken down in our society. But what if you only have one child? Should I be her whole world? I think the question of whether children actually need socialization at all needs to be answered before everyone jumps on the bandwagon. What we are trying to avoid is socialization that we deem negetive or having negetive effects. We want to have more control and supervision on the kind of socialization our kids get ie socializing with their sibling. But, if your kids doesn’t have any siblings and socialization IS a developmental need you have to find ways to mitigate the risks of friendships with “outsiders”, supervise the relationships they have and address the negetives making sure the child gets lots of family time as well.

    • BarbiePoling
      Posted August 9, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      Dear Carolyn,

      Thank you for your comments. In answer to your questions, please let me distinguish the difference between socialization and right relating. When I think of socialization, I think of the ability to be sociable – to have manners and know how to carry on a superficial conversation, and to know things like personal space and appropriate public conduct. Right relating, however is about learning how to love much and love well. Love is about serving and giving, and blessing and encouraging, honoring and treasuring, being full of compassion, and many more things such as kindness, patience, expecting nothing in return, etc… I think that children most definitely do need to learn how to socialize, AND how to relate rightly in love. However, and I think it sounds like you would agree with me, the ones responsible to teach our children how to do both of these things are the parents – not other children.

      As I said in the post, Lifestyle of Learning™ is not about isolating our children from other children, but strengthening the family to be able to teach our children how to love. It’s easy to teach children how to be sociable. If parents are paying attention, they can lead their children in appropriate social behavior by the time they are 4-5 years old. On the contrary, learning how to love and give out of a selfless heart, with no personal self-focused agenda is a very different matter that takes years of heart-level training, addressing the attitudes, intentions, and motivations of their hearts in all sorts of relational interchanges, bringing them to selflessness and loving behavior within the home. Of course, parents who have not yet learned how to love as Christ selflessly loves will not be able to lead and draw their children to do the same. Lifestyle of Learning™ materials start there, helping parents to see their own need to learn how to selflessly love and showing them how this process works in cooperation with the Lord, so that they can in turn teach their children how to love.

      Direct parental supervision and intervention when children are with their peers is most necessary, as you say, however, most of the time when families are together, the parents are socializing with each other, and the children are doing what they do. Their immature selfishness is in charge of leading them to develop the way they will relate with their peers for their own gain and approval, using their peers instead of selflessly loving them. At peer or multi-family gatherings that are common among homeschoolers children can often be seen, but they are not generally receiving the sort of parental oversight and instruction they need in those interactions to learn how to selflessly love much and love well.

      You are correct, those with only one child have a challenge others do not. But the challenge isn’t in meeting the child’s need to be loved and known, find their sense of belonging, and find their God-given purpose. The challenge is in finding opportunities for the only child to selflessly serve. Larger families have a built in body of people for the child to learn to selflessly give and serve.

      I think you would enjoy the blog posts I mentioned in my post where I give thorough examples from my own family about what Lifestyle of Learning™ advocates. It’s a series of posts starting here:

      Isolating children from their peers while neglecting to train their hearts in how to love results in very bad and strange relating practices! Lifestyle of Learning™ materials will show parents what they need to be doing at home with their children, so that it’s not about keeping them away from their peers, but drawing them to the family, the God-designed source for meeting their needs, so that when they are trained and grown, they can go out in strength of character and love and serve others instead of use them and entertain themselves with them.

      ~ Barbie

  4. Jeannie
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    A friend recently referred me to your article and my husband and I have been awakened by it. Some of the things we’ve thought about peer relationships – but weren’t sure why – were confirmed here. Thank you. We also see how these exact issues have completely played out in the life of our 19 year old daughter (my step daughter). She was 4 when my husband and I were married. She moved in with us when she was 12. In 10th and 11th grade, we finally took her out to homeschool. Before that she had seemed to be a sociable, agreeable type of kid to everyone else, although we were seeing glimpses of defiance, worldliness, seeking to please others, laziness, lack of direction, being more interested in friends than family… everything you listed.The depth of the truth about what was going on in her heart was really revealed when we started homeschooling. She could no longer hide. When we brought her home, it slapped us in the face. She was so turned away from us and toward peers. She moved out at the beginning of her grade 12 year. She has almost completely severed relationship with us and her three young siblings here.

    Although things are different for our three young ones than they were for her, we parent with fear and trembling. We appreciate what you are doing with Lifestyle of Learning for our little ones, whom we are homeschooling from the start… can you offer any sage wisdom for our prodigal? It is heartbreaking to watch her go down this road.

    • BarbiePoling
      Posted February 11, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      Dear Jeannie,

      If you are able to see your estranged daughter at times, it is never too late to love on her. I strongly recommend “Empowering the Transfer of Moral Values and Faith”, so that you can gain more understanding for how things could have been different in order to approach her with any needed repentance and love.

      ~ Barbie Poling

  5. sharon
    Posted September 5, 2016 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    I would like your imput on families that have difficulty being kind to each other and do not socalize so much. When we go places I am emarased at times at the lack of interest in other childen there ages and have incoraged being kind and cordaial yet with little response. I have one boy that just will hardly speak to people and is distant from others his age even when he is reach out to.
    what is going on. They seem so unhappy.
    for your thoughts

    • BarbiePoling
      Posted September 6, 2016 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      I pray that you will be able to hear the Lord’s instruction to you for how to help your children overcome!

      I would really encourage you to read Marilyn Howshall’s ebook “Empowered—Healing the Heartbeat of Your Family“. In this ebook, you will learn what is keeping you from being able to influence your children in the way you see they need to go, and help you understand what is your part in meeting their needs and leading them to love each other.

      Barbie Poling

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