S9 E6 | Homeschool Friendships: Cultivating and Nurturing Life-Giving Friends (Jeannie Fulbright & Shiela Catanzarite)

S9 E6 | Homeschool Friendships: Cultivating and Nurturing Life-Giving Friends (Jeannie Fulbright & Shiela Catanzarite)

Show Notes:

Homeschooling can feel lonely at times. We are made for relationships, and supportive friendships for you and your children are vital to keep you strong and encouraged on the homeschool path. But not any friend will do. We must be intentional about finding life-giving, likeminded friends for ourselves and also for our children. Where do we find these treasured friends? Jeannie and Shiela share their experiences and insights on finding and choosing the right kinds of friendships. They discuss the benefits of wise friends and the harmfulness of foolish ones. You’ll learn why quality friends matter and things to consider when looking for and nurturing these vital relationships that will add encouragement and fun to your journey. Don’t homeschool without them!

About Jeannie

Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.

About Shiela

Shiela Catanzarite is an author, speaker, editor, and communication coach. She's a 20-year Charlotte Mason veteran homeschooler and has worked as Jeannie Fulbright’s editor and designer for 20 years helping develop Jeannie’s award-winning Apologia science curriculum and most recently her Charlotte Mason products published through Jeannie Fulbright Press. Shiela is the author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry and is finishing up her second book in the series Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture, to be released spring 2024.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary, Shiela has been teaching language arts in some capacity for 40+ years. Her passion remains helping students understand the elements of language and how to use these elements artfully to communicate effectively. Shiela is currently a language communication coach, working one-on-one with students who have language learning and communication challenges. She also writes curriculum for her private middle and high school English language communication classes that focus on writing and speaking.

Both of Shiela's and her husband Bruce’s daughters attended private universities on scholarship and went on to pursue graduate studies in medicine and global business. She attributes their love for learning and academic achievement to homeschooling with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methodology.


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Show Transcript:

Shiela Catanzarite Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show, a show that discusses Charlotte Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. I'm your host, Shiela Catanzarite, author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry, and soon to be published, Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture. I'm so thankful you joined me today, and I pray this episode deeply encourages you as you learn more of Charlotte Mason's life-giving methodologies and how to implement them to bring greater freedom, confidence, and joy to your homeschool days.

Shiela Catanzarite Here's a riddle for you parents: Homeschoolers love them. Enemies of freedom hate them. What are they? It's the Tuttle Twins books. With millions of copies sold, the Tuttle Twins help you teach your kids about entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, the Golden Rule, and more. Get a discounted set of books with free workbooks today at TuttleTwins.com/Homeschool.

Jeannie Fullbirght Welcome back to The Charlotte Mason Show. Today you have me and Shiela, and we are going to be sharing with you our thoughts and our experiences and just some encouragement about friendships. Friendships as a homeschooler, your children's friendships with others, just things to consider, ways to encourage them, find them, and what to really be careful about as well as friendships for you as a homeschool mom because you need friendships too. So, Shiela, welcome back to the show.

Shiela Catanzarite Hi, Jeannie. How's it going?

Jeannie FullbirghtIt's great. I will just start by saying we don't have this super organized, but we've talked to each other a bunch about this. Shiela and I, as most of you know, have been friends—we were in the same homeschool group, and our children weren't the same—well, weren't really the same age, but we found each other, Shiela and I did, because we were like-minded.

Shiela Catanzarite Yes.

Jeannie Fullbirght And so I've been really blessed with Shiela's friendship for many, many years. And I hope that all of you out there can find just even a handful of good friends like I have. And, I mean, we were exposed to hundreds, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of homeschoolers where Shiela and I live. It's a huge, huge homes— Even 20 years ago, it was a huge homeschool Mecca. And there were hundreds in our homeschool group, and I was in more than one homeschool group so there was even more, you know, 50 here and 100 here and then the several hundred in our main homeschool group. And so but I was exposed to a lot and lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of moms who I loved and I thought they were wonderful, but there were only really a handful that had, just that you knew that God brought those people into your lives because they're part of your life. And we'll talk more about that when we get to the moms. I think we should talk— I think we should begin by talking about our children's friendships. And I actually asked Shiela if she would want to do this with me because somebody emailed me or maybe messaged me on Instagram or something and asked me to do this podcast because her daughter was really struggling with friendships. She didn't feel like she had any friendships, and she was just in a really hard place with her daughter at this point. I think they were a pretty new homeschool family, so it's kind of— When you pull out of the school system, when you're there, you're exposed— Your children are around tons and tons and tons of kids all day long. Same age peers all day long for hours and hours and hours. And, you know, it's easier to make friends in those environments, but the problem is a lot of times those friends are not necessarily people you want your children to be friends with, especially as they get into the middle school and high school years. I mean, sometimes you can overlook some character issues in little kids, but they become pretty extreme if there are some character flaws that carry on into middle school and high school, because that's when they can really begin expressing themselves in rebellion. But what I loved about homeschooling, one of the things that I was really excited about was the fact that my children were never going to have to sit in a classroom day after day with people who were rude to them, that didn't like them, that treated them poorly, or that were friends that I wouldn't want them to have or I that I— I just remember being constantly, you have to be around people all the time that really if you had a choice, you wouldn't want to be around those people. But the wonderful thing about helping your children find friends that are high quality friends is that those friends truly will be friends for a lifetime. And I would say that one of my sons still has, he still talks every day with one of his homeschool friends from childhood, and then my oldest daughter still talks every day or just really, really close to one of her homeschool friends from childhood. In fact, she was her maid of honor in her wedding. And they are just, I mean, their husbands are friends. They're just friends for a lifetime. And I know, Shiela, your children are still friends and are blessed by the relationships that they developed when they were younger as well.

Shiela Catanzarite Yes, definitely. And you want to be intentional about helping them and guiding them to the type of friends who will be there, who are loyal, who are the influences that you want them to have, who there's a mutual desire to be in a friendship together. I think that's both people mutually really desire to keep the friendship going.

Jeannie Fullbirght And I think friendships are important because there are times when as your children get older, especially, that they're not going to be able to share everything with you when they're struggling, but their friends are people, if they're the right friends, if you have cultivated the right friendships and helped them and prayed over them and really seen those really strong friendships develop, you will notice that your children find a lot of comfort in those friends. Those friends help them when they're confused or struggling or lonely or someone has hurt them. There's a lot of times when my son might have been hurt by something some other guy did, but he didn't want to tell me because men don't like to—boys don't like to show weakness, but they can kinda a little bit share that stuff with their friends who were there, or know the person or experienced that themselves. I just, I feel like my children have been able to be more vulnerable with their friends than they are with their family. With our family, we have so much fun together. It is laughter, it is joy. Everybody gets along and we're just everybody's got their own inside jokes and it's so much fun, but I would say we're not as vulnerable with our family as we can be with those intimate friends that if we—if we're making sure our children and guiding them and leading them on the right kinds of friendships, then those friends can be friends for a lifetime. They can really be there for your child when they're struggling because everybody struggles and your children are going to struggle. And my youngest daughter has some friends from high school, but most of her friends that she still maintains today are the ones that she met in college. So sometimes it's going to be—like, my daughter really had a hard time—my youngest daughter had a hard time finding girls that were like-minded until she got to college, and so she struggled with friendships. She was friends with Shiela's daughter, they were really close friends, they did a lot of fun stuff together, but they were a few years apart. So it just, you know, as your daughter got into high school, my daughter was still in, you know, young middle school. So it was just there was a little bit of a disparity there, but she did struggle throughout all of her years finding close friendships. She didn't have any girlfriends for many, many years. She was a little bit of a tomboy, and she liked to run around, she liked to fight with sticks, she liked boy stuff. And she had a really hard time finding homeschool girls that were like her. So it was a bit of a struggle. You remember her right? I remember her well.

Shiela Catanzarite And you know, on that too, our girls were closer when they had the same activities.

Jeannie Fullbirght Yes.

Shiela Catanzarite They were with each other all the time because they were doing gymnastics together and we were carpooling and they were doing the cheerleading, and so you do see that your children form friendships with people who were doing the same activities and the same interests and everything. And then as they move on and they get older, and maybe they're in different—we went to Metro Academic Studies. I think we switched our homeschool group classes and went to Veritas Classical, and then there's a separation because you're not involved in the same activities. And so it's difficult to sometimes maintain those friendships, but certainly the value of what they meant in the time when they had that closeness together shaped who they became was so important.

Jeannie Fullbirght Yeah and our girls—our two youngest daughters. They occasionally meet when they're home for Christmas, and they go out to lunch and they share their hearts, and they still have that bond. But it is just important that we as homeschoolers, as homeschool parents, help guide our children. And I think the Bible has a lot of guidance for that. You know, 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character." And, Proverbs 12:26 says, "The righteous choose their friends carefully." Proverbs 13 says, "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools will suffer harm." And we spoke those scriptures to our children regularly. When you are giving your children scripture, when you're speaking Scripture in your conversation and that's part of your regular conversation, these truths begin to embed themselves in your children. They know that when they are friends with somebody and they are alone with that friend, that's when, you know, bad character comes out. It doesn't come out in front of moms, you know, with the families around, it's when they're alone together. And there have been so many times, so many times, I can't even count the number of times with all four of my children that they have come to me and they've said, I don't think I should be friends with this person any more because of something, you know, they're lying about something, or they were talking about things that were inappropriate, or they were just, especially for boys— and my boys really early had to— boys started talking about porn and stuff— from good families. Little boys from good families started talking about porn when they were ten years, nine and ten years old. And my sons would have to distance themselves from these situations. And it was hard because a lot of times we were in groups with them, we had playdates and we had— so if we were going on with them and then they would have to— it was very uncomfortable that they would have to tell me that he keeps talking about this. And so then I would have to find a way to very lovingly but, you know, make sure that we had to distance ourselves from those families. And sometimes we had to drop out of activities because that was the only way to do it, because there's nothing more important than your children not being corrupted by the bad character of every other children. In fact, loneliness is far better than the effects of a bad friendship, because they really do— it really is true that bad company does corrupt good morals, and children can compromise. And they, you know, and then as they compromise, just like, okay, you know, I'm going to guess that's fine. I'm not going to worry about them thinking this way or doing this. And it just starts to get it— starts to sear their conscience. And we want to keep their conscience very active. And the way we do that is by ensuring that we are not putting our children in a situation that makes them uncomfortable. And so we have to have open lines of communication with them on these things. And I think that's a really important thing when helping our children choose friends is really helping them to find friends that lift them up, that are not jealous. I would say with girls, the issue that you deal with mostly is other girls friends that don't have a heart for the Lord, they just have this kind of, like, I would say, almost like a jealous spirit. And that was something that we dealt with. There was one time when my youngest daughter, she, again, she had a really struggle finding friends her age—and my other kids, there was tons of children and their, you know, their general two year period that they could be good friends with—and so there was this one girl that we met at these little art classes we were taking, and she would go over to her house and I knew her dad was a pastor and she would come home and she would say, she said this to me. And I thought, oh, gosh, that's so mean. I mean, why would she say such a thing? And then I knew that this girl had a mean spirit. And I hate to say that about young little girls, but she had a mean spirit towards my daughter. But I, you know, she was my youngest, and I will admit that maybe I wasn't as careful with her as I was with my older kids, so I allowed the friendship to continue a little too long and that girl really hurt my daughter. So much so that she's still hurt. She's 24-years-old and is still hurt today. When she sees her picture on Instagram, she's like, ugh!And I just feel like that shouldn't have been. She shouldn't have been forced to be, I mean, I should have put my foot down and said, okay, we can't be friends with this family because this girl is unkind. She has an unkind spirit towards you. And it was a jealous spirit. They were both in an activity that required a lot of competition and even though they weren't doing it together, they were doing it separately at different companies but it was just a— it was just a really ugly spirit. And I just, I feel like we have to be so careful not to allow our children to be stuck in those situations, because they cause years and years and years of angst. You think about the bully at your high school who bullied you a little bit, or maybe somebody who was just unkind to you, that's still, even when you're an adult, it still is injurious to your spirit to think about it. And so we want to guard our children against being forced to be around people like that. And I think that that's a really important thing for us to consider when we are moving towards a friendship with somebody that our children has chosen to be friends with. And again, sometimes it's hard to find friends. And when you do, treasure them, hold on to them. And I'll give you all some ideas in a little bit about just where and how to find friends if you're struggling with that. So, Shiela, why don't you share a little bit more what you think about the children's friendships.

Shiela Catanzarite Yes. So I think homeschooling again is about freedom. I always go back to that. So with homeschooling, we have the freedom to choose. Our children have not been artificially placed in a classroom or in a school with people who have been chosen for them. So we have to remember that we have all of our curriculum choices and all of our activity choices and all of our things that we choose in homeschool, but there's nothing more important than the friends that are chosen for our children because we know that character is above everything. Character and our children's hearts are the top priority, above the academics, above everything. And God gives us a choice, like you said. And the verse you quoted from Proverbs, I said this all the time to my girls, "He who walks with a wise will become wise, but he who is a companion of fools will suffer harm." I used to say that all the time I remember. God is basically saying, you have a choice. You have a choice between wise companions and foolish companions, and I'm going to tell you the consequences of the choices. If you choose the wise companions, you're going to become wise. There's going to be blessing with wisdom. If you choose the foolish companions, you're going to suffer harm. And so then again, we see that God gives us a choice of what types of companions, and he tells us what we'll experience. And this is really, really important for our children because we want them to become wise. We want our children to grow up to be wise people and wise students and wise in everything.

Jeannie Fullbirght What I love about that verse is that my children saw that in reality. When they continued friendships with people who were— they knew were not on the up and up that were being sneaky, were lying to their parents, were doing things that they weren't supposed to be doing, they always—my children—always suffered harm. It's like, well, there you go.

Shiela Catanzarite That's good. Yeah. And I think when they're old enough to kind of understand the concept between a wise person and a foolish person, of course Scripture has, you know, Proverbs is all about that we know, but you can even begin to talk with them about this. What is a wise person and how will you become wise? I remember maybe we did a notebook, I can't remember it. Maybe it's hard to think back. I remember we did a Bible study on a, but you could even do some note taking on this whole idea. You can take that verse when they're old enough to understand the difference between wise companions and foolish, and what is a wise person? Okay, so how will you become wise if you spend time with him? What will your life look like? What does a wise life look like? Okay, let's contrast that because the Proverbs is contrasting two different types of people. So God is giving us a picture. Okay, well what about the foolish person? What's a foolish person like? Let's define what foolish means. You can have a little Bible language arts lesson integrated and notebook it and come away with incredible insight and wisdom for your children. So what does that look— said you'll suffer harm, God tells us. What kind of harm will you suffer? What are the potential ways? And if you can begin to, you know, when they're younger, cast a vision of this type of the person is going to bring this type of blessing into my life, this type of person is going to bring this kind of harm into my life. And let them really absorb the fact that we have been given a choice. And I think when they're younger, like you were saying, Jeannie, we as moms and dads, we have to choose for them. That we choose for them, and we protect them and we make the best choices, but as they get older and begin to understand the choice that they're going to be making, we can start walking them through that and helping give them a biblical picture of what God has said about wise and foolish companions and the effect on our life. And sometimes when you suffer harm, some of the harm that suffered is the consequences last a lifetime. They last a lifetime. And so just this concept of this biblical principle that God has given us, I think it's an ongoing conversation. Even in college, I still quoting the verse, you know. Even when our girls went off to college. Girls, you know, wise companions and so I think this is a principle that's not just for our children, but for us as well. And, Jeanne, we're going to talk about moms, but this is something for as long as we're living on Earth, we have to keep in mind that there is a choice with our companions. And this choice, there are not very many places in the Scripture that says if you do this, you will suffer harm, ee know there are a lot of consequences to sin, but specifically saying people can bring harm to your life and bring harm to your life. And so we want our children to understand this idea, continually be talking about it. Not judging people, but try to judge and look down, but trying to say, is this a wise companion? And so I think when you're choosing for your children, when they're younger, of course, one of the things I thought about, you want to choose, friends for them that come from families who have your same values. So they might have a friend who they enjoy them at a co-op, or they meet them on a field trip out and about, and they have fun and the child's a lot of fun, but maybe you find out that the child's family doesn't have the same values that you have, well, you're not going to probably want your child to go spend time in their home because the parents will be teaching or modeling something that's against maybe what your convictions are, what's important to you as a family. So that's really important. Look at the family of the child. Again, we're not judging, we're just discerning is this the best companion? And it does take a lot of discernment and prayer when we're talking about friendships and just really asking God. And, you know, I just saw an Instagram post that I sent to my daughters that said, When God brings someone new into your life, pray for discernment that God would show you their real intentions. And I think that that's just an important thing. While we do make the choice, we do need to seek God and pray for wisdom and discernment about the character of the friends that our children are considering and that we're choosing for them. And not just the child, but the family. The family's lifestyle, the family values. If it's what we would support, what we have for our families, for our children. I would say too, just like you said, Jeannie, I had two girls so jealousy, being competitive, we wanted to just avoid those friendships that would maybe take away if our daughters had an accomplished they'd worked hard for that they were proud of. We didn't want them in relationships where somebody might try and downplay that or compete with that or gossip about that. We want to have friends who support our children's accomplishments. We want to have people who cheer on and champion our wins with us, not put them down to feel better or to be better. So I think that that's, again, like you were saying, just really looking, is there a mean spirit in that friend? Is there a jealous spirit that might really, really be difficult for our children? And then just, of course, character. You know, discerning the character and the attitude. I remember there was some show on TV I never let our girls watch because— we didn't have a TV for a while when my husband and I got married, and I'm a reader, I'm not a TV watcher. I don't think there's anything wrong with you, but I'm a reader, so we didn't have a lot of TV, but there was this one show that everybody watched. I feel like we were always a family that didn't do what everyone was doing. If everyone was doing it, we were going in the opposite direction. But, it was some animal and they had the worst attitudes toward their parents. It was some cartoon with this animal. I think he was— I don't remember what he was, he had a little sister. I can't remember, but he had a really— he was real disrespectful and talked back to his parents and I just didn't allow our girls to watch it. So even movies and even TV shows—

Jeannie Fullbirght TV shows and cartoons can influence their attitudes and behaviors for sure.

Shiela Catanzarite Yeah. So you're looking at character issues, attitude issues, you know, jealousy issues, lack of value. And again, not to say we're better than them and we're not associated with— but no it's to say, is this a wise companion because God's told us we have a choice. Let's discern, let's pray.

Jeannie Fullbirght And sometimes they can be— the other child can be leaning in a direction because maybe a neighbor or somebody else. And I'm thinking about boys specifically here because the sexual stuff starts early for them, and it's very secretive. And it usually starts with some boy influencing another boy. And then it's very, you know, it's alarming, but then they share it with another boy. And then there's just this mystery to it. And if you have trained your own boys to be wise to this and help them to talk to their friends about it and just say, but you know what, we shouldn't do that because that's not, you know, if your child has the ability to know exactly— I think sometimes you have to role play even. You have to say, okay, what if your friend says, I want you to see this website. Look at these naked girls, or whatever it is, come and look at this website with me. And then teach your son how to respond to that. Role playing is incredible. We did a lot of role playing where we would pretend like we were a kid trying to get our kids to go, and we would show our children how to behave. And I remember one time when my daughter was about 14, she came up to me and she said, when y'all used to do those role playing things with us, I thought there's no way anybody would ever say that. Like, what are you scared? Or like the little things we used to role play. She's like, but that's exactly what they say. They say it exactly like that. And so I do think it's important that we role play with our children how to respond when another girl is rude or a boy is trying to lead them down the wrong path or a boy talks about something that's sexual or, you know, there's other things boys do that are wrong—they can be, you know, bullies, they could be mean ,they can be, you know, fist fighters with other kids, they can start trouble—there's a lot of things boys can do as well besides the this one area, but I did see a lot of this one area that my boys had to be confronted with pretty early not just with other homeschool boys, but with the neighborhood boys. And I think role playing is so valuable and it's a way to open up lines of communication about things that are open to talk about.

Shiela Catanzarite That's good.

Jeannie Fullbirght And just giving them the tools to be able to say what needs to be said right at that moment when they are confronted with something that is painful or wrong. And I think that role playing with the girls, as far as dealing with other girls and how they can behave towards you and maybe helping them with things they can say rather than just being so devastated by something another little girl might say to them. But I think one thing I really want to encourage you, just as a mom who's looking back at things that happened, is trust your child's instincts. I mean, trust them. Because sometimes they're not going to even tell you, but they know in their heart that something is wrong with this group of kids, or with the leader of this group of kids, and perhaps they're in a co-op or you've signed them up for some classes and they just don't want to go. They don't want to go. And in your mind, you're thinking you just don't want to do the work, or you wanted to do this activity, or you want to do this sport, and now you don't want to do it. I've already signed you up, you have to keep going. I would say, I mean, I did this with my son in Boy Scouts. There were some— we were in a really strong Christian Boy Scout group, and I found out not then, but I found out many years later some really, really bad stuff that was going on with those boys and they were really doing bad things. And it was just this perpetuated thing where all the older boys were really cruel to the younger boys in the group, and it was just a perpetuating thing for years and years and years. I didn't know it. I didn't know why my son didn't want to go to Boy Scouts, and I kept making him go. And then finally I just gave up because he was so against it. And then I found out later I should have just listened to him the first time he said I don't want to go to Boy Scouts, I should have said, okay, well, let's talk about this. And even if he didn't want to tell me, I needed to trust him and his instinct and know that there's a reason and there's probably people in this environment that make him uncomfortable, that are doing things that he feels in his heart are inappropriate and wrong. And they were, but he didn't know how to explain that to me because he couldn't put his finger on it. He just felt it, he felt it in the air, he just knew it. And I regret that I didn't listen to him, that I felt like I knew better. I had already signed him up for this thing, we'd already paid for this thing, he already had all these badges, I wanted him to continue. I had this mental idea that he needed to complete what he started, when in reality he knew that this was not a wholesome environment. And so we really have to just trust our children. If we have shared our hearts with them, we've had role playing, we've talked to them, we've given them Scripture and they in their hearts know what is right, when they don't explain it to you, but they are hesitant about a situation, you need to be hesitant about that situation, even if you're not discerning it like they are.

Shiela Catanzarite Yeah, I think that's good Jeannie, like, you saying, if you would have said, let's talk about that and opening the conversation. I know, I can think of many times I really wish I would have done that. Especially as the girls were older, there were times I would just quickly be like, we're not doing that or we're doing— without really respecting that, you know, they're old enough to have some thoughts about it and opinions and ideas, and I want to open up the opportunity for them to share. So that's one of the things that I did not do well, I feel like as our daughters got older, was not creating more space and asking more questions. My husband is a master— he's a coach— he coaches and yeah, life coaching and spiritual life coaching, so he's really gifted, but I'm more of let me tell you why this is the right thing and just more, you know, here's the wisdom behind it and not asking a lot of questions. If I could go back and redo everything in my mothering, I would ask a whole lot more questions. And luckily, I still have that opportunity as an adult mom. A mom of an adult. But I think asking simple questions like, in taking a coaching approach like, well, how do you feel about yourself when you're with them?

Jeannie Fullbirght That's a good one.

Shiela Catanzarite How do you feel about yourself when you're with them? How do they make you feel about yourself? Just how do you— I don't even know, that just question came to my mind. But depending on the situation because you want them to feel safe, you want them to feel safe. And we are much more mature in our faith and our understanding than our children, of course, we've lived this many years, but we want them to feel like I can come and open up, and sometimes they're too afraid to tell on the child because you're friends with the mom. You're friends with the mom or they're a popular kid and they don't want to name names because they don't want to get someone else in trouble, so they're not going to tell you. So I would just say, when there's something going on that you think something's not right about this, try and provide a safe conversation where you're just tell me how you're feeling. What made you feel that way? Did someone do something? And that would be my— I wish I would have done more of that because you want them to come to you when things are hard, and when they feel unsafe you want them to be able to come and tell you why, but I think if they feel like there's not going to be an openness or they're going to get a quick answer or they're going to get reprimanded in some way, then that cuts off the line of communication between you and them. And then they may not address some things, they may end up staying in a situation longer than they really should. So I would say just to build those open lines of communication and take, as they get older, that coaching questioning approach when you're dealing with those situations.

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Jeannie Fullbirght I agree with that. And that actually just reminds me of something else that I want to encourage you about, because this is something that I had to learn the hard way, because I made some mistakes in this area, is that you need to be careful, because I had to learn to do this, is to be careful about oversharing about your child to other moms, especially your friends— your children's— like, you're friends with your child's friend's mom. And when you're talking on the phone with them, there's things your child may not want his mom to know or her mom to know because you know, 100%, they're going to share it with their child because they just will. And so we have to be careful. We have to be trustworthy for our children not to share things that we know about our children. Oh, he's kind of got a crush on this girl or whatever. We don't share our children's personal lives with our friends. And I made that mistake a few times, like, oh, I think he likes her or whatever it is, it was just—my son one time told me, he said, mom, I feel like I can't trust you because you're going to tell such and such everything that I tell you or everything that happened. And sometimes he would tell me things that happened with the kids and then I would talk to the mom about it, and so I had to get to the point where I realized if he told me an event that happened or somebody who did something, especially if it was something wrong, but even if it wasn't something wrong, just it was an event that happened, I didn't need to be calling up the mom and discussing that event with her. That was something my son shared with me, or my daughter shared with me, and that was between us. That was our own personal conversation, and I needed to be trustworthy with him sharing things that happened in their friendships or things that were going on. And he needs to be able to trust me not to share it with my friends or with their parents and just not be talking about it, you know, even asking, you know, if it's okay if I share it with my husband, with your dad. We really need to gain our children's trust really early because we can lose it, and once we lose it, then when they get to middle school and high school, they will never speak to us about what's going on in their lives.

Shiela Catanzarite That's so true. Yeah. That's so good, Jeannie. Start when you're young. Yeah, start when you're young with that—when your children are young.

Jeannie Fullbirght Yeah. Just always make sure you're never talking about your children to anybody. They will overhear you and they will stand back behind the stairs and listen while you're talking about them. They'll never tell you they overheard you. Don't do it. Just don't talk about your children to anybody. So that's, you know, a hard lesson to learn. So I want to talk about ways to find and encourage friendships. And so I'll talk about kind of the ways that we did it in our family, and then also some things that are— when you live in rural areas, some ideas for that. So I would say obviously the first thing is to join a homeschool group. And you can find homeschool groups in your area through the state organizations or churches. Find out where most of the homeschoolers go to church, because those people usually have homeschool groups that they formed either through the church. The library, sometimes, you can put signs up or look for, you know, people mentioning it. There's, you know, the bulletin boards there. But just find a homeschool group or start a homeschool group, create a homeschool group and advertise it in the libraries and then the grocery store and all the places, and let people know we're starting a homeschool group that's going to meet once a month or once a week to do parties or field trips or gatherings or park days. Our homeschool group was extremely busy, we had stuff going on— we had several things going on every week, and I couldn't, I mean, none of us could keep up with all of the stuff that was going on, but we had probably a field trip almost every week, we had park day every week, which we were pretty consistent at going to park day. It was a big, huge park that was really fun and all the kids just had their little things that they continued to play every week that we went. So the park day was really important and it's really— park day is as important as your school so don't neglect park day because they haven't finished their math sheet. You've got to prioritize these things because they are important. And another thing we did is, one of the things that we really did to help cultivate my children's relationships with their friends, is that when they got a little bit older, we had a Bible study. The girls would have a Bible study we would do, when they were like 12 we did a Beth Moore Bible study. And then the boys have their accountability groups with their dads and that sort of thing. So it was really important for them to cultivate a spiritual connection with their friends. And that's something you just have to be really proactive about. You have to make sure we're doing this and we're going to make this a regular thing, and those girls will grow spiritually. So that was a really important part of my daughters maintaining such a close relationship with one of the girls that had been in our homeschool that she'd been friends with. Today their conversations are super spiritual and they just have a really strong relationship on the spiritual level, and that's something you want to cultivate with them as they get older, and you can do it even before middle school. But, I just think making sure that you're opening your home for people, gatherings, events, having things at your home, having parties, having events at your house so people feel like there's a place for them to connect.

Shiela Catanzarite You did that, Jeannie. If we came over for an event there would be something from one of your science books. I remember coming over for a camp and you had a whole wall in your basement was the Zoology 2.

Jeannie Fullbirght Oh, yes.

Shiela Catanzarite With all the different water zones and the animals and the huge, you know, shadow box project and everything. But I was always amazed at how hospitable you were. We were over there for lots of different things. You were so hospitable, even while you were writing all these incredibly life-giving science books, you were still bringing people into your home.

Jeannie Fullbirght I definitely had Grand Central Station. And here's one of the keys to that, is that you got to stop worrying about what people think about your level of cleanliness. Yeah, we just— I would say that one thing I heard so often, I should have been insulted by it, but I wasn't, but people would say, wow, Jeannie, when I come into your house, I feel so much better about my house. So let go. Let it go. You know, there's a mess over here, and you haven't done the dishes and whatever, it's fine. Have the peple over. It's great. And also just create, maybe create a class like, or pursue your child's— well, if you have a class that you can create, like we had this lady who loved to teach history and so I started having her come and teach a history class at my house, and all the kids would come and be a part of this history class. And so it helped her because she was a single homeschool mom and it helped her earn some money, but it also was a real fun way for the kids to get together every week. And also when you help your children pursue their interests, when they have an interest, find a class. Find a way for your children to join in other kids who have that interest to learn about it, to grow in it. There's just, you know, whether it's photography or whatever it is, help your child get with other kids who are learning that or find a teacher, find a professional and say, hey, can you come and teach photography at my house? And then invite friends and this is how your children sort of develop that regular connection with other children. It really does— you have to be proactive about it. You can't just be always at home, just you and your family and not joining in with other people and inviting them over. I mean, the Bible talks about practicing hospitality, talks about friendships, and I think it's really important that we find every opportunity we can to help our children develop, to meet and develop friendships. The most important thing, of course, is to be praying with our children for friendships. That God will bring the right friendships into their lives.

Shiela Catanzarite Yeah. And if you find your group of people who you love, you love each other's moms and the kids love each other, you just say, let's just do an art class. I remember we did that. We had our friend group we're like, let's ask Miss. Joe to teach an art class for us. And we found— yeah, and so you can do that so easily. That's a way for you— you hire someone to come teach a class, like you said, Jeannie, history or art, and then you have them come weekly and then the kids are in class together having fun, and then you leave, you go have coffee as the group of moms or go have lunch while the kids are in class. And that way they're forming their friendships and you're forming your friendships, and then they're learning by an expert in something that you don't want to teach or don't feel led to teach. And so just get the people who you love being with and create your own classes, your own learning. What is it, Brownie Troop—we had a Brownie Troop, and we had all kinds of different things year to year. But, I remember specifically the art class, I think we did that for like 2 or 3 years, and it was just a lot of fun. And it did build their friendships and they knew, oh, every week we're going to see them. You know, we're going to see them every week or we're all doing this field trip. I remember the field trip— there'd be like 50 field trips in a year offered through our homeschool group and we'd go, which ones are you going to? And we'd try and do the same field trips together so that we could carpool, and it was just giving the kids more time together to build those relationships. But again, it goes back to the freedom of choice that we have in homeschooling. We can go to any homeschool field trip with anybody we want. We get to do what we desire and what we love, and so take advantage of that freedom aspect of homeschooling when it comes to your friendships, your children's friendships, and your friendships. And you can integrate all those relationships with amazing learning opportunities and extracurricular opportunities at the same time.

Jeannie Fullbirght Yes, I agree. So, and I will say we don't live in a rural area, we live in a suburban area. And so I am not familiar with what it's like to be isolated, to live on a farm, to not have that connection. But what I would recommend you do is find a way for your children to develop pen pals and develop letter based friendships. My best friend growing up, she was— I only knew her in person for one year and she moved away several states away, and we maintained the closest friendship through letters. And then we would see each other sometimes in the summer just to visit each other, but it was through letters. We had these weekly letters that we wrote to each other. And that is a real precious thing. That is really how friendships were maintained for hundreds of years before cars were invented. It was letters. It was in letters and letters. And people developed close knit connections through the written word. And so I know we have social media and all that, but there's nothing like receiving a letter. And so I would find a way and I would make sure you know the parents that you're— maybe it's somebody you were friends with or somebody you knew somewhere that moved away and have children the same age, or there's, you know, ways that you can find pen pals through, you know, Facebook groups or that sort of thing. So I would just encourage you to pray that God would bring that opportunity into your child's life, because it is, I mean, maybe not quite as fun as a friendship, but it's definitely very fulfilling to have a pen pal sometime or a friendship that depends on letters. So that's what I would say about that. Do you have anything else Shiela you want to talk about as far as children?

Shiela Catanzarite No, I think we covered everything. I think that's good.

Jeannie Fullbirght Yes. Okay, great. Well, now we're going to talk about moms and friendships with other moms. And this is, I would say Shiela and I both have our own thoughts on this. And I would love for you, Shiela, to just why don't you go ahead and start.

Shiela Catanzarite Okay. Well, some of my closest friends have come through homeschooling and some of the people I'm not as close with now because some people continued homeschooling and our girls went to college, you know, one year apart. So I was, you know, we were done kind of all at one time. So for different reasons, maybe not as close, but definitely during that time of homeschooling, I could not— I just don't think that we could have been thriving in the way that we did without the relationships that I had. And I value each and every one of them, even though, like I said, I'm not as close to some of them, I don't see them as much. Still, the place that they had in my life was really, really important. And so I was always closest with the moms that my girls were close with. It just worked out that way. We all really loved each other and enjoyed each other. And there were a couple things that I was thinking about this, two main areas when I think about what kind of friends that homeschool moms need, the type of friends. And I would say, first of all, you want to choose life-giving friends and then you want to choose like-minded friends. And so there are a lot of things I thought about in that. Life-giving friends and like-minded friends. And it was really important to find people who were life-giving. And what I mean by life-giving is full of life, full of joy. People that when you were with them, you just felt built up. They were positive, they were looking at all the things they had gained in their homeschool and not all their gaps, you know, they were people who were always trying to find resources to grow and help their children grow, and they were just fun to be around. They were just life-giving people. They didn't drain you. They filled you up. And so homeschooling can be discouraging and it can be, you know, it can feel lonely and it can feel like you're not measuring up to everyone, you're not doing it right. Sometimes in homeschooling, we're questioning am I doing enough? Am I doing it right? There's just a lot of— can be some self-doubt that creeps in. There can be a sense of isolation. And so we have a choice. Like God said, we want to choose wise companions. And so I think it's important to define what is a wise companion to me. How would I define a wise person, a wise friend for me as a mom at this season in my life? So the types of friends that you need as a homeschool mom, completely different than the types of friends maybe that you would choose when you were single, or when you and your husband were first married with no children, or even as an empty nester. I have different people in my life now. Other than Jeannie. Jeannie and I, we're just going to stick it out forever.

Jeannie Fullbirght We're still going. Still going strong.

Shiela Catanzarite We are. We're just growing. We're just continuing to grow and create new things, which is super fun because we both value that so much. We're like-minded and we're life-giving in our friendship. And so those are the two priorities. But I would say figure out what kind of person do I need in my life at this season in homeschooling. And it might change, like if you're not doing any classes outside and your children or younger, the type of friendships you need might be different than when your children are driving and they're going to a co-op two days a week, and you need different types of moms in your life. So I would say, of course, starting with praying, asking God for wisdom. He knows your needs, he knows what you're going to face, and he knows who you need in your life. So we always start with seeking God's wisdom. But just think about what kind of friend I needed this season in my life. Who is going to bring me life? Who is going to lift me up? Who's going to make me laugh? Who's going to help me feel energized? How do I feel when I'm with this person? When I'm with this person, do I come away doubting myself? Do I come away feeling like I'm not using the right curriculum? Do I leave that time feeling discouraged? Do I feel like I sat in a gossip session and I feel bad about that? Define for yourself what a wise friend is, based on what God has shown us and choose the life-giving friend. But I would say, too, it is so important to choose like-minded friends. I had some experiences with this where very quickly I learned, okay, we have completely different views, we have completely different beliefs on some things and it's okay that we do, but it's not really healthy for me to be in close friendships with people who are judging the decisions that we're making or trying to hold me to the same standard maybe that they are holding themselves to. So it's really easy in the homeschool community to compare and to push our— because, you know, as homeschoolers, we're renegades. You know, we're very strong. We have these strong— we're doing this, we're going against the grain. We tend to be renegades. And so sometimes when you get all the moms together, people are having really strong opinions. You know, our primary reason for homeschooling was educational. That was our reason. Our daughter was signed up for the private Christian kindergarten and I was thrilled with that. I'd been teaching in a private Christian school, and we were going to do that. And then we, you know, hired an educational consultant and, after she did testing with her, we realized that school wasn't a good educational choice for her, that she needed more freedom. So our primary reason was educational. Well, I know a lot of people, it was more spiritual or something different. And so, you know, finding people who valued education, and valued, you know, intellectual, you know, pursuit in the way that we do was important to me. Like I said, I valued what other people wanted for their children, but, you know, that early homeschool group, they're like, our girls aren't going to college. Our girls aren't going to college, that's not believing us. So there were just some views, and I thought—

Jeannie Fullbirght Yeah, there was a whole section of our homeschool community that didn't believe women should go to college. And that's their— that was their opinion.

Shiela Catanzarite Exactly. But I kind of fell into this whole thing of just, you know, defending well, our daughter wants to be a medical doctor and she's gone on mission trips and she's, you know, she's in her third year of medical school. But, I mean, early on, I was in a group that had a different belief about girls and women, you know, going to school and so that was difficult for me because it came up a lot and I felt like I had to defend it, and I just wasn't— it's like, this is just not a like-mindedness. And so, nothing wrong, wonderful friends, just found a group that had similar beliefs and similar views. And it just made it easier, you know. So homeschooling can be challenging enough, you have to have the right people on the journey with you. You have to have friends working with you who value what you value and you have the same basic beliefs. It's not that you can't be in a co-op or class with people who are different. We accept people are different, but your closest people have got to be pushing you toward what you believe God has called you to, to where you're not always having to explain or defend yourself constantly. You need the supportive— you need cheerleaders. You need people who will champion— you champion each others course without being jealous or threatened or insecure. You're like, what, that's awesome, that's what God's doing for you, go for it. You know, we chose something different but, hey, I'm excited for what God's doing in your path and your children. People who have that level of maturity and who are secure enough to say we're so excited for you and what you're doing. So again, going back to the life-giving and the like-minded friends, really important for you as a mom, you have to have the support. And when Jeannie and I were talking about this, you know, there are different friendships in different, you know, we had our friend group and that was certain friends in the friend group that we choose to spend time with and socialize, and then we had like co-ops and that might be a different level of friendship, and then, you know, for me, like the Mom's Bible study at church, or I remember one church we left the church because the pastor's wife was so against homeschooling, and she let it be known all the time how she thought homeschooling was exclusive and we just had to leave because it just wasn't a place where I felt like I could go worship and I felt like I was being judged. And so that group of women who were wonderful women, again, it wasn't life-giving for me. Sometimes you're in a Bible study and you feel like this is a wonderful Bible study, but it's a group of people gossiping and I don't feel called to spend my time in that way. That doesn't build me up. So there's so many different opportunities when you look at women's group in church or women's group in the homeschool group or your social group or your co-op group, where again, as a mom, just remember you have a choice. You have a choice who to let in your life. And there's that famous quote that says you become like the top five people that you spend the most time with. And, there's just a lot of neuroscience research on this that whoever we spend the most time with, we become like them. So you want to think, do I want to become like that person? Is that friend someone that I would emulate? Is their life a life I would emulate? And making a choice to be really, really particular and intentional with those people who you are allowing up close in your life to shape you on this journey of homeschooling.

Jeannie Fullbirght 100%. And I know there are a lot— there were so many beautiful, godly women in my homeschool group, and some of them, my daughters or my sons, were good friends with, but they were not life-giving to me. I didn't feel when I left there— when I left spending time with them, I felt like either I had been belittled or I had been— just subtly. There's sometimes, you know, those things can be really subtle with adult women and it can be a little bit putting you down, but really, like, I'm just joking, you know, that sort of thing. You just have to be very discerning because those people can suck the life out of you. You need to be filled with joy to homeschool well, and if you have friends that you see and they make you feel bad, they make you feel inadequate, they're bragging all the time about their children's accomplishments or they're constantly questioning your curriculum choices or the way that you educate your children and telling you and letting you know that they think that you're not doing it right. And a lot of people think you need to be doing it the way they're doing the public school. I've talked about that many times. We know that's actually detrimental, but there are people who are going to try to subtly make you feel insecure about that or try to, you know, in the way they question you and that sort of thing. You can not spend your time with people who try to extinguish your fire, who try to extinguish your light by calling into question who you are. So just be really discerning about who you're spending time with, because you need to be around people who build you up, who are, as Shiela says, life-giving, who want the best for you, who respect your choices, even if those aren't their choices. That they respect your choices and they just have the Spirit of God about them. And I would say that, you know, one of the things that's really important is that when you do have those friendships that you are sure that you are cultivating them. I think now in this society— it was easier back when Shiela and I were homeschooling. There was email, but there was no phone. I mean, not until way later in our homeschooling. There was no phone that entertained us all day long. So we were constantly like, hey, do you want to get together? And so I think it's harder now for people to make that step to get together because they're texting each other or Instagram, whatever it is. They feel like they're spending time with people because they're seeing their Instagram or their Facebook, but they're not. You need to take the time, and whether it's you start a Bible study in your home and just buy the Bible study and the leader's guide and have, you know, get a group of women to come every Tuesday night to do Bible study at your house or a prayer group. One thing that we did regularly was, me and a group of women—really powerful, strong in the Lord women, they would all come over to my house and the children would all play and just run around, run around and play. And the moms, we would start praying. We just started praying. We would pray, I mean, we were praying for people who needed prayer, not just ourselves, but we were praying— we saw marriages healed, we saw so many miracles happen with this group of about five women that just sat down and prayed once a week for about an hour and a half while the kids ran around. And the older kids kind of, you know, took care of the younger kids, and it was just a powerful prayer group but that really developed friendships. And when I see those women now, I'll run into them at, you know, events, you know, Christian events around the area, and we're always just, oh, do you remember when we used to pray together? It's just a really precious thing to do and just make sure you're doing a girls night out, getting time together with your friends regularly. I would say weekly because it's how you cultivate those friendships that you do need. You do need those friendships. And again, be discerning about the women that you choose to spend your time with. If they make you feel judged, if they gossip about other people, you know, they tell other people's secrets, they act superior about their homeschool philosophy, you have to make sure that you're not filling your life with people that make it hard to feel joy. So.

Shiela Catanzarite They need to lighten the load. Your friends need to lighten your homeschool load, not weigh it down. They need to lighten you and lift you up as a person where you are in your journey rather than, you know, putting a damper on it.

Jeannie Fullbirght That is exactly right. I think about that scripture verse where Jesus says they tie up heavy burdens and they lay them on everybody's back.I feel like a lot of times homeschool moms can do that with each other by talking about how great their kid is doing in Latin or whatever it is, and then the other homeschool moms are feeling really insecure about it. We have to be careful that we're not accidentally tying burdens on other homeschool moms backs by how proud we are of our children. We need to be lifting each other up. And I do know that when I got into— I had a big group of friends when my kids were really little, but as we moved into middle school, you could see that there was a lot of fear in a lot of the parents, and a lot of their philosophies became very fear based. And I had to pull back from them. I couldn't spend time with those women anymore. I couldn't go to their girls' night out because it was all fear based. It was all, well, you know, this is going to happen in high school, and if they don't start doing this, they're never going to do well in college. And all of these things I didn't believe a word of it, but everybody believed each other and I just backed away from it. And then my oldest daughter went to college on full scholarship and graduated magna cum laude and she had never sat in a classroom of more than more than eight people until she got into college. So all of the things they said they needed to do, she'd never taken a multiple choice test. None of that ever happened for her. And she graduated magna cum laude, so I just have to say that just trust, you know, trust what the Lord is leading you as far as your own philosophy, but don't let other people make you fearful. And don't let those fear based beliefs about what children should be doing in order to succeed later in life, none of those are true.

Shiela Catanzarite Yeah. And I would say last that you have the opportunity to choose your friends, so you be the one to start the group. Jeannie, you were great about that. You were always starting something new.

Jeannie Fullbirght I was.

Shiela Catanzarite If you feel like I need a supportive group, choose the people you want in your group. I mean, like-minded people love to be together. It's not really being exclusive. You're not being like, we're better. You're just saying, you know, we're going to choose a group of people that we are like-minded, that we know we can equally encourage each other. And so go ahead and you be the one to start it. And it's okay to hand pick the five of us from church or from our Charlotte Mason group or whatever, the five of us seem to really— our kids like each other, we encourage each other, these are the people that I want to be around, I think this will be a life-giving group and just take— if you don't have it, do it. Because this is one of the things I've learned, if you wait around for someone to come find you and choose you, it's just not going to happen. You've got to decide what you want.

Jeannie Fullbirght Be proactive.

Shiela Catanzarite You have to decide what you want and be proactive. And you can create an amazing group of friends for you and your children if you pray about it, and like you said, Jeannie, use discernment and just choose and just have fun with it, you know, and share the love. But it's out there. The relationships are out there, but you definitely have to be intentional about it.

Jeannie Fullbirght Yeah. And I would say that, today I am still friends with probably the three women that I most connected with on a spiritual level, on just an ideological level, on our personality level. Me and those three women, Shiela included as one of them, we are still friends. We still do stuff together, we still talk, we still encourage each other, we continue to be life-giving to one another, even as our children are all grown and gone. And so this is, you know, this is a special thing that you do need to cultivate now because one day you are not going to have your children around you anymore, but you’re still going to have your friends around you.

Shiela Catanzarite So true. That's so true. You have a life after homeschooling. So keep that in mind and keep your favorite people close because you're going to need them when your kids go. So.

Jeannie Fullbirght Well, thank you Shiela, for sharing these thoughts with me and everybody today. I think that was really good. It's, you know, good to look back and just say, okay, this is what I did right, this is what I wish I would have done better. And I hope that was helpful for all of you, Charlotte Mason Show listeners. Thank you for joining us, and we look forward to hearing from you and seeing you next time.

Shiela Catanzarite Yes. Have a great week.

Shiela Catanzarite Thank you for tuning in to the Charlotte Mason Show. If you want to learn more about Charlotte Mason and discover a beautiful Language Arts curriculum that uses her methodologies, go to my website at ShielaCatanzarite.com. There you can find my new blog where I discuss Charlotte Mason's principles for Language Arts, and how to implement her philosophy in your homeschool. Please enjoy my free resource on how to mark a poem. Simply provide your email address and I'll send you the free PDF that teaches a simple, hands-on, Charlotte-Mason-inspired way to bring poetry into your homeschool. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode.

Shiela Catanzarite 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.

Shiela Catanzarite 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 covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the U.S.. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I hope to see you there. Have a wonderful week. I look forward to being with you next time.

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