Building Community: The Start of Something

Building community is hard. It has been especially hard for us since we moved out to the PNW from the Midwest four years ago (something I’ve lamented in each iteration of bcbk, I’m sure). There is an entire country between us and the world we grew up in – a world populated with our parents, siblings, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces, nephews, social norms, familiar hangouts, comfort foods, and side streets we know by heart. We knew, as much as we could, what we were leaving behind. We assumed we’d be rebuilding our own brave new world out here.

Within a few months of our move, everyone we knew in Seattle (including my husbands Best Man and our son’s Godparents) had left for Someplace Else. In a city notoriously cold to outsiders, we needed to start again. And so we did. We connected with some absolutely wonderful fellow non-natives (Australia! Canada! Boston! DC!) and for awhile, we thought we had found our place. There were brunches and playdates and baby showers. A pub trivia team. We co-hosted our kids birthday party. And I really think it was a beautiful season of our life. And then life tugged at us in different ways. One family moved to Europe. Another longed to throw themselves into their careers. Others expanded their families. We couldn’t afford to buy a house in the city, so we moved to the suburbs, which felt like moving across the country all over again.

And so it goes.

On top of the house-hopping and Seattle Freeze, we’re introverts who prefer cozy coffee dates to nights out, and hiking to bars. We’re vegetarians who lean vegan. And we’re homeschooling. So. Yeah. A rare species.

We’ve done the co-worker family get-togethers, the mom clubs, the volunteer work. And while we’ve certainly connected with a handful of people we adore, we don’t get to see them nearly as often as we’d like – either because they live on an island (literally), or because they’re single parents juggling multiple kids and commitments. And so people would tell us, “Wait until E starts school. You’ll meet so many people that way.” And my heart would sink.

The biggest concern Husband and I had moving forward with homeschooling was the potential for isolation. We were already having a hard time building a community, certainly homeschooling would only make it harder. And then, a miracle!

There is a brand new program in our local school district – a Parent Partnership. The district partners with homeschooling families to provide educational opportunities for the kids. Specifically, the district provides a handful of classrooms and teachers, dedicated to teaching homeschool kids, from kindergarten through sixth-grade. Classes include the arts, STEM subjects, outdoor education, etc. The parent remains the primary educator, and is responsible for meeting certain standards if they want to participate in the program, but their kids can take up to so many hours of free classes with these dedicated teachers.

Course selection is a lot like college course selection: you get a list of class dates and times, as well as descriptions, and you sign your kid up for whichever classes interest him (or whichever subjects you feel you need a bit of help in teaching). How amazing!

Each parent in the program is also assigned an adviser: a teacher to support and help guide you through your own teaching at home. You meet with your adviser to report on your kid’s progress, to ask suggestions for curriculum or other teaching resources, to confide in when you’ve hit a wall and need help, etc.

Also, there’s no homework and Fridays are for field trips. I mean.

And so we’ve found a community of like-minded families, in the most unexpected of places. In the weeks leading up to the first day, the school hosted orientations and park days. School pictures for the yearbook! E has already made a friend, and I’ve made a few myself. Is anything as exciting as the start of something big and new?