Making Our Own Community - One Day at a Time

Summary:  As a homeschooling twice exceptional family, we wanted to make sure that our daughter developed friendships and community.  This is how we went about trying to create community for her and for us, too.  Using community groups and following our daughter's interests were key.

We began homeschooling when our daughter was ready for kindergarten but was too young to go.  It worked out well academically for our 2e daughter.  But being that she was an only and also gifted my husband and I were concerned about her finding friendships and community.

Over the years we  encouraged her to try some extra curricular community activities.  

We picked out activities that she might be interested in, and looked for intellectual peers, too.  This helped my intense, bright, and very active little one to build social skills, and gradually to make friends.

In our area, the homeschool groups were inconsistent, so we looked more for community groups. We did a few preschool groups when she was young, from the parks department.  Our little one was shy around her peers, but loved the routine of going to class and participating there.

When she was 5, we found a music class that turned a good fit for her, for two reasons.  It was small and it involved a lot of movement activities, too.  Music class was our daughter's first community group experience and she loved going there.  

She was a shy child and mostly enjoyed the kids just by being together, doing the activities.  It was as a great place for her to check out the other kids and just be a part of the group.  And since it involved movement activities, my active kid felt at home.  

So we continued offering her different community groups.  She wanted ballet, so we tried that, then a dance class or two, just for her to be around other kids, and see how they interacted in the groups. She learned a lot by being out with her peers and joining in the activities.  

Then for my kiddo who was always doing handstands off the couch, we tried a gymnastics class.  This turned out to be a Godsend for her.  

First, it was a wonderful physical release, and really helped with any anxiety that she felt during the day.

Gymnastics was a real hit, as my daughter was very active, a bit like ADHD, and the tumbling, etc was a wonderful way for her to release her energy. 

But it was much more than that. It turned out that doing physical activities became a way that she could relate to other kids, and it didn't then matter to her whether they were on the same intellectual level or not.  

Tumbling and doing gymnastics moves was her way of playing with others.  

Being together in the class was something that she looked forward to each week.  And she was developing her social skills there, just by being in class, and figuring out how to interact with the other kids there.  

Then friendships started to develop.  The fact that they were not at her intellectual level really didn't bother her.  She tended to make friends, with those kids who were at her emotional level, more than her intellectual level. 

One of her friends was two years younger, but they were fast friends.  She wanted to do some things outside of class with this friend, too, and she became her first best friend.

Intellectually, she was way ahead of them, but since they were busy doing the physical activities together, it really wasn't a major issue. 

She got a lot of intellectual stimulation from her homeschool work, talking to us about topics that she was interested in, and by making friends with other adults, too, at church, etc. This helped to meet her needs that her age peers could not meet.

She did other extracurriculars, too, and enjoyed them, but it wasn't until middle school that we felt that she and we had a sense of community.  We did our best to try to build our own, until then, but it was hard.  

Then in middle school, she got a chance to volunteer as a teacher's assistant at a magnet school, where they invited homeschooled kids to join them once a week, for parent led electives.  She had been going there, once a week, and I got to know some of the other parents there.

She became known at the school as the science TA, and having that role really helped her to connect with her peers.  I arranged for her to stay for recess also. 

This worked out well, as she gravitated to other physically active kids, and they would play on the playground equipment and make up games together.  Gradually she made more friends there.  Her confidence grew, and then, so did her social skills.  And she felt a part of this community.

Then, once the high school years rolled around, she was ready to engage in more peer activities, and that is when we found out about Youth and Government.  

It is offered in 34 states and is sponsored by the YMCA.  We found this wonderful program in 9th grade, where the teens learn about state government and enact the roles of state legislators, gathering once a year, at a state wide Youth Mock Legislature.  

This program attracted smart and motivated teens, so her intellectually needs were well met there.  And her social needs, too. 

After her positive experiences as a science TA in middle school, she was ready, and made lots of friends and grew to even develop leadership skills.  

And the community that we became a part of...was priceless.   It helped her to expand her social abilities, friendships, and it became a vital community for her.

So for us, through using community groups and activities, our daughter was able to kind of craft her own community, through the years.

My daughter is now studying in college, and has started a dance/hip hop group there on campus. 

 Not that there are not still social issues that pop up, or frustrations with a friendship or two...

But she is a happy college student now for the most part, with lots of friends on campus.

It all started with her first community activity, a small music class, as a shy little one, who liked to just observe what the other kids were doing, until it was time to run, skip, and hop to the music.

What do you have to say about finding or not finding community and friendships? I love reading your comments.

I was recently asked to write for the top special education site on this topic.  I invite you to click 8 Tips for Homeschooling a Twice Exceptional Student for more ideas and encouragement.

Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,


Betsy is retired O.T, homeschool blogger, and most importantly is mom to her 2e college grad, whom she homeschooled through high school.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early yearshigh schoolcollege and 2e 

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