361 | Building Mom Community (Jessica Smartt)
Join Jessica Smartt for a conversation about building your community as a mom!
Jessica is a wife, homeschool mom of three, author, and blogger. She lives in sunny North Carolina on a big family farm with chickens, goats, cousins, and lots of mud.
Memory-Making Mom by Jessica Smartt
Let Them Be Little by Jessica Smartt
Homeschool Bootcamp with Jessica Smartt
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Jessica Smartt Hey, everybody. Welcome to The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Jessica Smartt and I'm one of the many hosts here on the podcast. I'm also the author of Memory Making Mom and Let Them Be Kids, and the creator and founder of Homeschool Bootcamp. Each week we bring an encouraging conversation from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home. While the title is Homeschool Solutions, of course, we don't pretend to have the answer to every question. It's our hope that this podcast will point you to Jesus Christ, that you'll seek His counsel as you train your kids in the way they should go.
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Jessica Smartt Hi, everybody. This is Jessica Smartt. I'm so glad to be with you guys today. I hope that you're doing well in your neck of the woods. As I'm recording this, we are in January and heading into what can tend to be a little bit of a lonely season. So today I'm talking about building mom community. I'm just going to throw a lot of ideas out there for you and see what sticks. So, in the meantime, be sure to hop over and check out my Instagram. I'm @Jessica.Smartt over there. And if you haven't picked up a copy of Let Them Be Kids, that is great for the spring. That's a great read to just think about launching into the spring and summer. Let Them Be Kids is found on Amazon as well as my first book, Memory Making Mom. And one of the things to tell you about is my Homeschool Bootcamp. If you're looking for a reboot, I talk through curriculum, discipline, schedule, troubleshooting, all sorts of things. So Homeschool Bootcamp is my take-at-your-own-pace video course. I'm very proud of it, and I'll link in the show notes if you want to check that out. So in the meantime, let's just jump into our subject, we're talking about mom community, and that is something that-- I have now been a mom for fourteen years and in the very beginning years, that was really difficult for me. And I think also some of these things I'm going to be talking about are about how to find a community for you and your husband, you know, couples. That can be an even more difficult challenge because not only do you have to vibe with the mom, and like the mom, and of course the mom like you. (I've definitely had some situations where I was sure someone's going to be my future best friend and they weren't really feeling that as well.) But also, the husbands have to get along. So that can be tricky too. And I have some ideas for that. And we really-- It's been a pretty recent thing that we feel just a lot of depth in our friendships and community. And so I think that does naturally tend to come with age. But, you know, it can be just a challenging ride. A lot of us had really good community, Christian community in college, and then maybe worked outside of the home and had great Christian community, or just community, you know, with our coworkers or whatever. I taught at a Christian school and so I had, kind of like, a built-in friendship there with a lot of people. And then you're-- If you end up staying at home with your kids, there can kind of be just like a lonely season of trying to-- You know, we know that it's not all about us, but I do think that finding great community can sustain you in the homeschooling work that we're doing. And you know, it is awesome to have both. I would say it's awesome to have other homeschooling moms and families to walk alongside, that you can relate to and chat with, but I also think it's really awesome just to have friends, period. They may not relate to your homeschooling journey, but they love you and they love Jesus and it's a fun activity to go hang out with them, because you need friends that are just lifegiving to you.
Jessica Smartt So without any further ado, let's jump in with some of my ideas. And like I said, these range from how to build community with actual homeschool mom, to your husband finding like couple friends basically, or just community period. So the first thing I wanted to suggest, that I know a lot of people have really loved, is Bible Study Fellowship. And we have a twist on that in our area. But similar ideas. It's a international organization with Bible studies, and it's all walks of life, all kinds of women, and it meets in person. But what's cool is that in our community they do offer a homeschool day, so your kids are kind of studying alongside you. It's Bible-based. So it's, you know, one whole day would be Bible. But I have some homeschool friends--and also just friends friends--that that has just been so integral in their life, of not only, you know, teaching them scripture, but also giving them some community...Christian community. So Bible Study Fellowship is my first idea. You should also look and see if there's a Wild and Free group--Wild and Free homeschool community group. This is not something that I have-- I looked into it. I never really have joined one. But again, I have a lot of friends that have loved that. So you just go to their website and type your area and then you can definitely start one too. And my understanding is there's not a ton of requirements, but they just do outdoor gatherings in community. So Wild and Free group. And then, I definitely would be remiss if I didn't suggest, you know, starting with your church and what is in place there. And then (and this is a theme here for today), if they don't have one at your church, you can be the one to consider starting one. That is allowed. And any kind of a person can do that. And in the very beginning I started a lot of things, and some of them flopped, and some of them I still hang out regularly with the moms (in a different form). But you just have to be not afraid to be the one to start it. But anyway, church Bible studies and all of that, that's really great. And then obviously, you can definitely go to a church study or event that's not your church, and just asking around in your community. You know, I know at different points that's been really helpful to people that I know. And then if you're younger, obviously Mothers of Preschoolers, the MOPs program is great, too. I mean, not if you're younger, if you have kids that are younger. Likely you'd be younger, but not necessarily.
Jessica Smartt So then thinking to less structured ideas, or officially structured ideas: If you have a friend in your area that it's just difficult to get together with but you really love. I love the idea of starting a tradition where you get together regularly during the year, and you kind of can set a rhythm or schedule even if it is only a few times a year. It still counts and it's still really a gift. I have-- My best friend from high school lives in our area and we both have a lot going on, but we kind of have a rhythm of, she has a birthday in May and I have a birthday in October, and we take each other out to lunch or dinner in those months. And so, you know, it doesn't seem like a lot, but at the same time, it always feels like one or the other is creeping up on us. So there's a little tradition. The thing that I think has been most meaningful to me in terms of friendships in my adult life is my prayer triad. And I have cycled through a couple different ladies, although one friend has been a constant since I started it probably seven years ago. And I started with women at my church. This was an idea that I started up. There wasn't like a program. But I had heard someone talk about it. Actually, someone challenged me that that would be something that would be really helpful as I was walking through a lot of anxiety. And so I just reached out to two girls at church that I knew pretty well, although not, you know, terribly, terribly close, and just asked them if they would consider being in a prayer triad with me. And we met together every other week for years and years. It's gotten more difficult to do every other week, but we still have it and communicate over Voxer or other social media apps during the week when we don't meet in person. But so it's just a place to share prayer requests. But that structure, and just the regular-ness of it, has done so much for, not only my walk with the Lord, but just to have friends that it is a safe place to go to and you know that they're going to be there. So starting a prayer triad. And yeah, you're the one that just kind of reaches out and says, "Hey, would anyone be interested in doing this?" And if someone says, "No"-- We actually did ask someone and they said "No", and we just found someone else. So that's a really fun idea.
Jessica Smartt Then the next thing we've done, we did several of these for a couple of years in a row--we haven't done one recently--is a clothing swap. But it was awesome. We held it in someone's home. We had a lot of food. They had to give us their clothes in advance and then we kind of set them up throughout the room. You got a certain number of tickets. I think everybody brought five things and got five tickets, and then you went home with different items. So it was a really fun night and also practically helpful. A mother daughter tea. I've always loved that idea. And now that my daughter's getting a little bit older, I'm definitely going to do that. You can do that around Valentine's Day, around Mother's Day, around Christmas, or just for no reason at all--just a spring tea and luncheon. And, you know, it doesn't need to be like this huge thing. You can literally make cups of tea, buy Trader Joe's muffins, put out a couple cheese sticks and some wild strawberries, and then boom. Maybe a little craft for the kids I would probably add if they were younger? You could give a little devotion if you wanted, but that would just be kind of like a fun tradition that you could even start, or just every once in a while. And, I'm going to get into this a little bit later, but I just always-- You have to get over not being afraid to ask and not being afraid if someone says "No", because they probably will, and not trying to read into it and take it personally. So casting a wide net and asking a lot of people is a great way to just kind of see who else is looking for what you're looking for.
Jessica Smartt So Supper Club is something that my husband and I started when we kind of wanted a deeper couple friends. And again, we asked a couple of people that it didn't work out with. But what's funny is one of the people that we asked was just really busy at the time and they're now one of our very best friends. So it just goes to remind you that, you know, sometimes seasons change and don't get your feelings hurt if someone says "No". But we started out with, I think, there was eight total of us and we would rotate houses once a month. You made dinner for everybody. And that was really fun! We don't keep in touch with those particular people, you know, terribly often. But at the time it was such a gift to us. We felt like, "Oh, this was a really exciting night." I had really young-ish kind of kids, and just to have something on the calendar to look forward to, to go out. And again, we just literally sent an email. Like we just brainstormed together, "Which are some fun couples that we would like to get to know better?" And then sent an email to them and just said, "Who is interested?" And some were. So that was really, really fun.
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Jessica Smartt Another idea, obviously for-- This is probably more for women, is to do a book club. I've done a number of these over the years with moms. We've studied Cindy Rollins's Morning Time. We've done Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic. We did a Sally Clarkson. I can't remember which one it was. I think it was maybe Mission of Motherhood. Or obviously you could just do some sort of a Bible study or a fiction book. You know, rotate houses, serve a dessert. Again, you just literally send an email. And I can't say enough, the people don't need to know each other and you never know who's going to click. So you don't have to stress over like, "Will this person get along with this person?" Whatever. I literally sent an email to every mom that I could think of when I hosted these. And some people, I was really surprised that they came--even if they kind of like lived far away or I hadn't seen them in a while.
Jessica Smartt So another idea is to try to foster community in your neighborhood. I'm sure that, you know, a lot of you have done this. But there was a spiel where we did this and did craft nights. Sometimes we would go out to one of those like places where you make a sign or something like that. Or if you have a friend who's crafty, they could do, you know, bottles and brushes or something like that. We've done this with our homeschool co-op too. But it's just kind of a fun twist. And then we do around Christmas-- Well, we did. I don't live in that neighborhood anymore-- But we did the Favorite Things party, where everyone brings three wrapped favorite things for $5. That's always fun too. But anything within neighborhood, I think that's, you know, a great start--the craft night, or a book club, or we even did supper club too, with the ladies. And I can't remember if we did it monthly. I think we did for a while, but just taking turns. And it was just so nice to get out of your house. Even if they're people that, you know, maybe you wouldn't necessarily-- They're not going to be your best friends. But it was just like a nice...really nice outing and so wonderful to get to know them, you know, if they're in your neighborhood.
Jessica Smartt So last few ideas: Definitely, if you have a homeschool community, or even people-- Actually! You don't need to have a homeschool community. You could email anyone that you know in the country who homeschools because my next suggestion was to go to a homeschool convention. Obviously, shout out to the Great Homeschool Convention, which hosts this podcast. There's several coming up throughout the spring, and I have done the Greenville, South Carolina one. It was awesome. We went with about maybe eight girls. Most of them went to our co-op. But some people, you know, just we brought friends. And I love those kind of events because I'm a nerd and like going to conferences. But obviously, in the evening we just had dinner and hung out and that was really fun. But again, you know, if you have a friend in Atlanta and you're in Alabama, you could always say, "Hey, do you want to join up and go to the Texas Great Homeschooling Convention for a little outing?" Or Wild and Free, or whatever. So the next one is a Galentine's Day party. Head nod to The Office. Valentine's Day is coming up as I am recording this, and so a girls event, that's a great time. You know it's just probably a couple of days before Valentine's Day or maybe even the week before. We're actually having one via our church women's ministry and I'm excited about that for this year. And then lastly, game night. I have done a few of those with girls. We made literally frozen pizza and played card games and it was so, so fun.
Jessica Smartt So again, just to wrap up with some closing, like across the board-- A lot of people feel the way I felt and, you know, that some of you may be feeling. You feel like you're alone. You feel like you don't have the kind of community that you're longing for. So many people are looking for that. So don't be afraid and just throw it out there, and not try to take it personally if people can't come (which is really hard because I do that). Or-- And just, here's this other alert is: Always-- This never fails, but I think it's about 10% of the people who say they're coming don't come the day that you're hosting it. And you always just have to prepare yourself for like there's going to be a text and someone's not going to come, or maybe two or three. But anyway. So also, even if it's a small group, that can be really fun and rewarding. So yeah, like I said about casting a wide net, not worrying if the people know each other or not. And then, people really like to help, so delegate. I think that finding, especially if it's a larger event, to have a co-host is awesome. When we did the clothing swaps that I mentioned, I had a girl that, again, we did it for like five years together and it was really fun for us because it was more of like a project that we could work together on. So that was fun. It also ensures that at least one person will come. And then they know other people that you don't know. So that's just a fun way to get some buy in, is bring on one or two other people. And people love helping out and bringing things. Don't be afraid to, you know, delegate a meal if you don't want to make the whole thing. Have some people bring the bread, the salad, the sides and you just make the pan of enchiladas or whatever. I do believe, though, that it is very important to always serve food. That's kind of like a, you know-- I don't know. It's like a law of entertaining. You really should always have food when you're entertaining. But Trader Joe's is my secret. They have a lot of really easy, pre-made things that you can just throw some fresh ingredients add to it, and it feels really yummy and exciting. So there are my best tips for mom's nights. I would love to know if you have any more. You can send me a message on Instagram. And just, yeah, like I said, don't be afraid to be creative. And I would love to hear if you try one of these, so reach out again. It's been a blessing to be with you ladies today. If you haven't picked up Memory Making Mom or Let Them Be Kids, definitely, this is a great time year to do that. And be sure to check out my Homeschool Bootcamp, and pass along to anybody who's considering homeschooling. All right, ladies, it's been nice being with you today. Blessings on you.
Jessica Smartt Guys, thanks so much for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve healthcare you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. That's GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast and leave us a review. And that'll help other homeschooling parents find our community. And finally, don't forget to tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom. That's @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode.
Jessica Smartt Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year, offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the U.S. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. Hopefully I will see you there. And don't forget to check out my books Memory Making Mom and Let Them Be Kids, and my Homeschool Bootcamp course. You can rock homeschooling and I can help. Check the show notes for all of those resources.