I homeschool my kids - or rather, I just started to this year (my oldest is in first grade). There are probably more ways to homeschool than most people imagine, and I won't go into detail here; roughly, in our case, we fit our coursework around the more scheduled world of sport programs and physical education.
I have noticed, attending a certain homeschooling sports weekly event, that some of the parents seem rather (over?-)excited about being around other non-school parents. I usually settle in and let my daughter play; my son, feeling shy at the all-ages venue, hangs out on my lap, or surreptitiously fields balls back to their hampers. The first week I went I brought some knitting so I could accomplish a few rows of a scarf (for my husband, for Christmas) when I noticed a woman on the bench adjacent trying to catch my eye and making leading comments. Forsaking the fiber arts, I entered into a conversation with her and mostly listened (those who know me know I'm usually the talker in conversations) as she went over her child's cirriculum, her experience in the area and, essentially, quite a bit of her life story. Subsequent weeks I'd talk to a few other mothers would do the same: namely, speak and act with an animation generally reserved for those who don't make it out of the house, or out of their head-space, often enough.
Here's what's a bit odd: one might mistake the craven conversation and avid body language for some kind of isolation these parents, operating in a fringe (but growing) group might be suffering from. But last year in the public school system I saw even less parent-to-parent school-related connection. Indeed, I was one of two "room mothers" in my daughter's class, and the only parent to attend classroom time on a weekly basis (I helped the teacher twice a week). The school my daughter attended - a to-capacity, well-run and esteemed public school a few blocks from our house - had a Parent Night, or a Harvest Carnival, etc now and then, and parents would bring food or treats but do very little together in planning, socializing, or assisting in their children's extracirricular school activities. The monthly PTA meetings were ill-attended.
Currently I don't attend homeschool events very often, and when I do, it's not to make friends of "like-minded" sort. The world of homeschoolers seems to be as diverse as the more typical families who shuffle their kids off to a full day in the state's care - that is, some families are religious or operate from a faith tradition, some families are hyper-scheduled and organized, some families seem to be mostly letting their kids run amok - the list goes on. I am exercising the same caution I usually do in not throwing in with people merely because we are participating outside the system. I admit, though, that I am a bit frustrated at the lack of formal connection I have experienced in exercising our educational right of home-based instruction, in direct proportion to my frustration with the public system's barriers, red tape, and policy that often kept me at bay in terms of contributing to and caring for not only my child, but my daughter's entire class (I was lucky to have in last year's kindergarten teacher a cooperative and friendly professional). I know I am only a few months into my schooling experience and need to give the situation time to figure out what's wrong for me, which does not preclude me listening to, and getting to know, some of the other parents in our weekly gathering.
I notice as a parent that when situations seem a bit odd or disconcerting it can help to look at the child in question: in this case, it is so clear my kids (6 and 4) don't give a rat's arse about much when we go out in the world besides playing, playing, playing with kids, kids, kids. That's easy enough to accomplish and doesn't involve a lot of mental contortions on my part. As for the gym full of parents I do not yet know, I'm hoping to find a friend - or even better, a mentor - in the weeks and months that unfold.