Tuesday, June 17, 2014

You say you want community?

We're all talking about community. How do you find it? How do you get more of it?

But what is community anyway? Is it companionship? Lots of friendships? Is it people who think the way you do? Support? All of these? Does it have to be face to face consistency in order to qualify? Or will online sharing of resources suffice? Getting a clear sense of what one means by 'community' is a first step to getting what you want from it. 'Community' can simply mean the physical presence of people you like being around.

Some people are willing to go to great distances to find  their community. For example, very dear people I know are heading out west to an eco-village so that they can find like-minded people and live and out their beliefs.  For me--currently, I should add, because things do change--I need less community than others. I struggle with being too busy and I am lucky to already have a built in community: family. Not only my offspring and partner, but also my sisters, their families, my mother. This is already quite a lot to manage--if you want to spend time with them all it takes a bit of planning and I already feel guilty that I need to do more with them!

Creating Community
My first thought is to look at what you can offer: What do YOU have to give towards building community? I've seen many people grow a community around what they can contribute personally, as opposed to hoping for it to happen. Here is a great idea for building community around the love of books:http://www.brainbuildersinc.com/blog/how-to-grow-a-community-of-readers
Community is reciprocal after all and everybody has something they are good at and can share.

The second thing to do is to broaden your definition of community. I think it can be really helpful to stop looking for people who fit what is sometimes our narrow definition of community. You're bound to be surprised.
You are looking for a mother with children exactly your age? You will find that you like the mother but your kids don't get along. Or you don't approve of the mother but you like the kids. With unschooling, there is no need to caught up looking for other unschoolers to hang out with. You might find allies in the most unexpected of places. My kids best friends while unschooling were all school kids.

Communities of Common Interest
We can make community happen when we pursue our interests. Unschoolers know that you can make friends how share your interest but are not the same age as you are..and that's okay! Your kid can hang out with the local astronomers crowd even if she is 1/5th their age.
Volunteering is a key way to connect with others and nurture bonds and relationships so get your kids out there, helping out.

Teens
Parents can still help their kids find community even when they are teens. In fact, it is often at this age when they need the most help connecting with others.
Once the kids start getting older, the peer group takes on more meaning and importance to this age group. Art, theatre, music all create community for youth and there are many opportunities to get involved even if your teen doesn't like the limelight!


Unschooled teen will have had time to develop skills that are teachable to younger kids--skills like swimming, music etc and I find that here's where these kids can connect with kids doing similar things and forge new friendships. Online community becomes super important, where they seek connection for social reasons but also to explored common interests together.

A word on solitude:
Of course, sooner or later, everyone has to learn that solitude is okay; being alone can be a good thing. Unschoolers have that advantage because they will have spent hours of their day to day alone anyway.

Travel 
Many kids who don't go to school have the opportunity to work and safe money for travel.
There are more an more opportunities for youth to meet other youth doing the same thing and here is a link that is specific to youth travel:
http://www.wanderingeducators.com/wandering-educators-youth-travel-blogging-mentorship-program.html

I hope this helps some of you and I'd love to hear from others about what they are doing to nurturing community for themselves!


“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody," says Jane Jacobs.
I find that when you replace the word 'cities' with 'communities,' you get the same message!


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