How to Explore Interests and Build Friendships as an Online Student
Think back to your best friend in grade school. You may have met in class, on the playground, or over the fence in your backyard. But the fact is that proximity and convenience didn’t seal your friendship. Your shared interests did.
The same is true for our online students. It simply takes a little bit more planning to help them connect and make friends with like-minded children in their local communities. Here are some tips on helping virtual school students find opportunities for building face-to-face friendships based on shared interests.
Take an Interest Inventory
You can probably list your student’s favorite activities off the “top of your head.” But, to make the most of opportunities in your community, you’ll also need to consider why he or she loves a particular activity. For example, if your student loves soccer because she loves running, she could also learn to love tennis if that’s more readily available or popular with the kids in your neighborhood.
To find out, ask your virtual school student to name his or her five favorite activities. Then, ask what he or she most enjoys about that activity. You may have to gently prompt your student with questions to come up with a list that could look something like this:
|I like to . . .||Because . . .|
|Read||I like imagining I am someone else.|
|Play baseball||I like running and being outside.|
|Play video games||I like getting better each time I play and scoring more and more points.|
|Dance||I like the way I get to move and listen to music.|
|Ride my bike||I like being free to explore places on my own.|
Next, take at a look at the list and consider what your student is really telling you about his or her interests. Your imaginative reader may thrive and make friends in a local children’s theater group. Your bicyclist might enjoy outdoor adventures with a local scout troop. Your competitive gamer ccould make friends at gaming conventions or forge new interests and friendships playing ping-pong at the rec center.
Making Friends in Your Community
With a clearer appreciation of your student’s interests, you’re now in a better position to find a wider range of activities in your community where your online student can connect with like-minded peers. Here are some of the best places to look for the following things:
Art programs and activities:
Online school student clubs
Local universities and museums
Art and dance studios
Local school district programs
Community college youth programs
Local volunteer opportunities
Outdoor programs, activities, or lessons:
Local field trips offered by your virtual school
Local recreation and parks department
Local zoos and nature centers
Boy Scouts of America
Girl Scouts of America
Free/low-cost lessons and trips offered by outdoors stores
Community recreation centers
Local sports leagues and clubs
With a little effort, it’s not hard to help your virtual school student make friends in your local community. Tell us how you’re helping your student find friends with shared interests in the comments below.