Natalie Bullock

Hello all,

I need some advice, and I feel like this needs to be the group of people I

We are still fairly new in our unschooling journey, but I feel like we are
more confidently on our way now that we've withdrawn from the public charter
to which we belonged, and I have a trust in the process that wasn't there
previously. Certainly, there is a sense of peace and assurance about it
that makes it feel right.

Anyway, we live in a small town with a reasonably-sized homeschooling
population, and we belong to our small homeschooling co-op which loosely
consists of about 50 families, though there is a much, much smaller core
with which we've been a part of for about 3.5 years. Until about a year
ago, things were going very well, and I thought that it was about as
wonderful as it gets. Within the group was one family with three children
whose ages were similar to my own three, and for a while, they were best
friends - the oldests, the middles, and the littles, we called them. A
little over a year ago, the oldest two boys had a falling out. Of sorts.
Both were in gymnastics (lowest level of competition - Level 4) and the
other boy shot ahead in ability in one of the events, and seemed to show a
fair bit of impatience and dismay that the other boys in his level (there
were only four boys - small town = small gym), including with his own
brother, who was also in that same group. With my son (who just turned 12),
who had previously been his best friend, he got physical a few times -
pushing him off the mushroom, and otherwise would "growl" or huff under his
breath when especially my son would try. From that boy's point of view, his
mom said that her son was getting frustrated with my son because he was
goofing off and acting silly, which was absolutely true at least some of the
time. Things fell apart completely during one of the season's competitions
(about a year ago) when, during a warm-up, my son wasn't paying close
attention and was walking on his hands, and as he came down, his foot hit
the other boy's chin. I won't defend my son's carelessness - he'd been
reminded more than once to pay attention to that sort of thing - but the
other boy shoved and then punched my son in the stomach. The coach saw this
and did nothing except to reprimand my son for not paying close enough
attention. He deserved the reprimand, but I still believe that the other
boy was not justified in his response, and eventually, I pulled all three of
my children from that gym. My son said later that the same thing had
happened in reverse at their home gym during normal practices - the other
boy had kicked him 2-3 times by accident, and my son would say, "Hey dude,
watch where you're going" or something like that, but he did not ever hit

Our playgroup has consisted of about 10 families total, although some are
less consistent than others. The oldest group of kids are aged (almost 12)
to 13, and my son and the other boy are a part of that group. Of course,
these kids are entering the age of hormonal changes and sort of becoming
more aware of their interests and such, so I don't expect the cohesiveness
that used to be there, to remain unchanged. I'd hoped, however, that they
would retain a basic level of friendship and respect for each other along
the way.

Yesterday, one of the moms in this group asked me if my son had found a new
set of friends...and I'm not sure how to take that. I've asked for some
clarification, and maybe it was an innocent remark, but for some reason, it
has made me very sad today.

Most of the playgroup days happen at the other boy's home, and sometimes it
seems like my son isn't really included in the larger group of kids his
age. Other times, that doesn't seem to be the case at all. I will say that
my son has mentioned that the other kids want to do more talking, and he
still wants to be outside running around. Maybe this means he's a little
more immature than some of the other kids, and maybe it (also?) means he
just needs to be more active/physical and craves more outdoor time. It's
probably a combination of the two.

Here's the real problem for me right now: the mom of this other boy used to
be what I'd call my best friend. Things have changed significantly, not
only because of this but because of some other things, such as disparaging
comments she'd make about girls in general or my girls in particular. They
are a family of yellers, and my older two children have commented that the
mom and the dad in that family both get mad a lot - I know this is true,
too, from things I've witnessed and things I've been told by the mom. The
mom has made comments that her oldest son has been having some anger issues
- I think she described him as being either anxious or angry. I think the
mom is actively working on this for her whole family - finding ways to help
each of them deal with big and little stresses and frustrations, which I
think really became important to her as she's witnessed her son's anger rise
so quickly to the surface. If it matters, this is the family who first
really introduced me to the notion of unschooling - I'd heard of it before,
but this was the first time I "saw" it. :)

Although my son is no longer "best friends" (or even good friends) with the
other boy, my two girls are still very, very close with the two younger sons
in that family. For the fourth or fifith time in the last 6 weeks, I've
received a request for just my girls to come over to play. My son no longer
has a "best friend" or even any real "close" friends, and although he
understands that his sisters deserve their own friendships, it hurts me to
know that these invitations specifically exclude him and that that knowledge
hurts his feelings. He doesn't want to be included in these invites (he'd
still be willing to "play" with the other boy, but I suppose it's a one-way
street), but they do underscore the situation - that he's NOT getting any
invites. Moreover, he doesn't seem to want to participate in situations
where he might meet other kids, so we're in a bit of a rut. He misses
having a close friend, and as a fellow introvert - and as someone who misses
the friendship I used to have with the mom mentioned above - I understand
and grieve with him.

I don't want my girls or the other two little boys in all of this to suffer
because of what's happened with the big boys or the moms, but I'm having a
hard time accepting these requests. I've loved this mom and her boys, but I
don't see things changing. I bear no enmity toward this mom (or her son),
but in my heart, I know that for my own comfort level, I need to maintain a
greater (emotional) distance between *us* than what we once had. I don't
mind the children playing, but I do mind watching my son bear the burden of
a lost friendship while his sisters go off and play in a home where he's not
really welcome.

To my knowledge, there are no other playgroups for homeschooled kids his age
(most seem to return to public school around middle school age). I'm at a
loss as to how to handle this and would welcome the advice of those who
might look at this from perspectives I've not considered.

Thank you in advance,

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


Hi Natalie,

I've been thinking over your situation this morning. I am really feeling for your your son. What isn't sitting right for me is that, in this case, I think that the relationships in your own family should trump outside friendships. From how you are describing this former friend of yours and her older son, I personally wouldn't want to waste my life and time knowing them.

To be fair for your daughters and son, I would begin to move forward. Make the other family less appealing by meeting new people. Look for unschoolers. Look for people who don't approach homeschool clubs and activities in such a schoolish fashion. Let go of thinking about age groups. Just set it up so that the kids can form relationships. Think outside the homeschooling box.

I live in a small town too.... I know that homeschool groups can be stifling. I saw this happening and made my own group. As it turned out, there were others out there just like us. We dropped the group mentality and are now just a bunch of friends. The kids are all different ages, cultures and beliefs and don't seem to divide up according to anything except personal interests.

I hope this helps.


--- In [email protected], Natalie Bullock <nasb2pyrs@...> wrote:
> Hello all,
> I need some advice, and I feel like this needs to be the group of people I
> ask.