For the past 5 years, we have participated in a home school co-op. A friend of mine invited me to join this group of ladies and their children, when she knew I was in search of something like it for my (at the time) 3 year old daughter. It was a blessing in our lives....the friendships, the social time and the educational opportunities this group provided us were really what we needed at the time. There was an age group for each of my children. The ladies of the group were welcoming, supportive and organized. I felt at home there right away. My children looked forward to the meetings, as did I.
As the years went by, things changed. Some people would leave the group, new members would join. Every summer we would have a meeting to reassess the group. Who would teach what age group? Where would the meetings be held? What would be taught each year? I looked forward to those meetings. Not only was that a social outing for me, but looking at all the fresh ideas for the new year was exciting.
This past school year was difficult within this group. My closest friend (the one who invited me to join) dropped out the year prior. And the group became centered around another town where a lot of the moms had moved to, and some new ladies from that area joined. It became so that I was one of only two from the original area this group began. Instead of this co-op having a lot of women from a variety of local churches, they all (except one) belonged to the same church, participated in the same clubs (mostly through their church) and, since they were neighbors, got together socially quite often. It got so that when we got together for co-op, I was clueless in all the conversations about the many things they talked about.
Most of the ladies were still very kind to me and my children, but the sense of not belonging was becoming too much to bear. My oldest absolutely dreaded going there. She felt she was getting "judged" at every turn. She was there as a favor to me. She was at a house, basically just so my (then) 3 year old would stay with his group, since I had to be at a different house with my other children. It was so awkward for her, sitting there, practically being ignored and having to listen to all the ladies talk about their children's diets, church activities, great shopping deals, etc. I really felt bad for her, but didn't want to pull out mid year. And my 8 year old started to feel unwelcome, even among her peers. Most of them were friendly enough, but when there are a lot of "inside" jokes and talks of playdates you weren't invited to, it makes you feel like an outsider. Which is really what we had become.
It was tough enough being so "out of the loop". But then on top of that, we felt judged. I felt like we were looked down upon due to some differences we have. One of these differences deals with clothing. I don't like skirts and dresses and never have. I dress up for Mass and other occasions, but I'm almost always in pants. And on a daily basis, I wear jeans and and I let my girls wear jeans too. I let my teen express herself in her clothing. She went through a phase of wearing tons of black (those black pants with all the zippers :P ), wild colorful socks and funky shoes. But she was always dressed modestly. She would go to co-op dressed like this and then told me that though she felt uncomfortable around the co-op ladies dressed like this, she wasn't going to change to fit how they thought she should be. Attending co-op was making her feel bad about herself, just because of her choice in clothing. And I would put pressure on her, all my kids in fact, to "tone it down" for co-op. I was afraid of what the women would think. And it was hurting my relationship with my children, especially my teen. I was letting it!
I had to let it go. Break away. So at the end of last school year, we did. We quit the co-op and became more involved in my own church's home school group. It is so freeing! I really felt God pulling me away from that group. God knows me. He knows my children. He knows our hearts. He knows where I am weak and where I am strong. He is the only one who has the right to judge me or my children. I am doing my best for Him. God sees my efforts, and forgives my failures.
This also makes me careful to watch that I don't look at others and judge. It seems sometimes we do it so instantly, in our minds, though we don't usually say it out loud. We need to guard ourselves against that type of thinking and always be aware of it.
We are really enjoying the groups we are involved in now. We attend a weekly pre K group for Evan, a girls' club for my girls, Alexa has a weekly PE class, we go on field trips and now a nature club is starting up. It's going to meet on Mondays, which fits perfectly into our schedule. Sky still has her karate. My oldest attends public school and really enjoys it. She even got a part in a play! I'm so proud of her. She stood her ground under the harsh eyes of others judging her. She stayed true to herself and to God. These skills are the kinds of things that will help her during her high school years and beyond. I guess we can all learn lessons from our children.
These are my personal experiences, God (and my daughters) teaching me about what is most important. But Kate at Momopoly says it much better than I do. Have a wonderful day, everyone!