What is community? How do you present yourself to your community? What do you offer and what do you expect in return? As humans, one of our superpowers is the ability to create connections and communication – building communities.
One definition of community is “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of common goals.” Your group, your circle, your band, your people who you resonate with. In the past our communities were comprised of whoever we lived by. The common circumstances of place and time were what banded us together, but in this day and age we get to choose our communities to a larger degree than ever before. This, sometimes worrying, amount of choices allow us to take our communities for granted. We could so easily find a new one that we may be half hearted in our attempts to build up and sustain the communities we are in. We may hesitate to invest because we are wondering if we have chosen the right group. Perhaps we simply are unsure of how to support our communities.
Our family has been thinking and talking about community recently. Building and encouraging community is something that we are all constantly practicing, and it has been nice to talk about what each of us see and do, and to learn from one another. We are trying to bring intention into our community building.
We thought that sharing some of what we have noticed with the Homeschooler Post community might be of interest and use, and might help continue the constant process of building the communities we all want to live in. We look forward to ongoing feedback and thoughts on this subject from this new community!
Building and engaging with a community is a very important aspect of homeschooling. Once established, our community can offer friendship, different perspectives, support, and much more. But how can we go about encouraging a community to form? How can we help to nurture it? And what actions might undermine our attempts?
One action that we can all take to foster that fellowship is to engage. When members of a community actively look for opportunities for connections and ways to support each other, rather than passively hoping and waiting for these opportunities to arise, they lift the whole group beyond idol acquaintance and help to move it toward a network of friends who support each other. This can be hard and takes practice. We may need to remind ourselves often to look for ways that we can help those in our community. This means not simply asking how they are and expecting the standard responses that we all tend to give, but instead for each of us to delve a bit deeper and ask ourselves, is there something I can do? Can I offer to watch someone’s kids while they go to a meeting (or get a shower alone)? Can I bring food over when someone is sick? These gestures are not empty, and can be really meaningful even when they are declined. It also helps to reassure others that if they find themselves in a tough spot, there are people around who care and who they can go to ask for help.
Think for a moment and make a mental list of how many people in your community you feel genuinely comfortable going to and asking for help. Be realistic in who you would ask, and who you are really confident would step up. How many people are on that list? What can we do to make each of our lists longer? One step may be to make sure that our own names appear on the list of the other members of our communities.
Another quality that fosters community and that stems from actively looking for ways to help is be reliable. If one of us offers to help, and that offer is accepted, make sure we are dependable and will actually do the thing we offered or that was requested. In a busy life, look for ways to say “yes”.
These are the two main strongholds of community that we have come up with time and again in discussions. Engage your friends in community to create fellowship. Know what they are doing in their lives and when they are struggling, check in, offer help, host play dates or share ideas. Be reliable, be the shoulder that is there to cry on, be the person who showed up with coffee on a rough morning, be present in your community with your time, your energy, your heart. Engage and be reliable.
-Grace and Aaron Haiman are The Homeschooler Post's newest team of writers. Aaron brings his perspective to homeschooling as a life long unschooler. Together the Haiman Family is continuing their journey while homeschooling their daughter.