So, you’re considering Jewish day school—but you love your town, your neighborhood, your community. Will your kids feel isolated from their hometown or miss out on local friendships? Will you feel like an outsider at the neighborhood block party? Here are some ideas from parents who’ve straddled both worlds.
Backyard hangouts. ‘Tis the season—or the era— of the fire pit backyard hang. Invite your neighbors with kids over. There’s no reason not to start (or continue to) socialize within your neighborhood, even if you’re at a different school. This might be a tough ask when kids get older and more set in their interests, but for elementary school kids, it’s easier.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. What better way to forge a friendship than over thin mints, hiking or camping? Most troops stick together for years, so this is a natural way to form ongoing friendships (and because of the adult involvement, it’s a good way for parents to meet, too).
Community education. Sign your kids up for classes, either offered through your town or at local venues: dance, karate, art. This is especially important for kids who might feel pigeonholed at school as studious, athletic or shy. Independent classes can let them try on new identities.
Community service. Volunteer! Does your town have community service days or a food pantry? While these are often one-offs without the lasting connections needed to form ongoing friendships, it’s a good way to remind your child that there’s a big world outside of school.
Community theater. Encourage your child to try out for a part in a local production. The routine of rehearsals and the camaraderie of creativity will help create meaningful bonds. Bonus: Many kids who do theater keep coming back for more, so the connections will last.
A connector family. This sounds a bit strategic, but let me explain: If you’re struggling to penetrate your hometown’s social circle due to not being in the elementary school mix, try to befriend one family, preferably a neighbor with similarly aged kids, whom you’ll easily see with minimal effort due to proximity. Be honest: Explain your situation. Ask to be invited to stuff. Get introduced around. So many people are afraid to look socially vulnerable—but an ambassador, of sorts, can go a long way to easing any outsider-ish friction.
Facebook parenting boards. OK, some towns’ message boards are swirling cesspools of drama—but for the most part, they’re a good way to stay plugged into what’s going on, from events to new classes to groups of like-minded parents swapping information. Post! Share! You might hear about an under-the-radar activity, class, etc.
Favorite hangout routines. One family I know takes a walk to their local coffee shop every Saturday morning for crêpes. They run into the same people each week. Are they best friends? Nope. But it helps them feel connected to their community in an organic, familiar way.
Summer camp. Does your town have recreation camps? Community education programs? This is a great way to stay in touch with local pals (and also get your kids out of the house).
Synagogue. Goes without saying, but this was a popular recommendation.
Town sports. This was another biggie: If your kids are athletically inclined (or even if they just like to run around), sign ‘em up. Bonus: As kids get older, teams tend to travel, and carpooling can foster more bonds.
What did I miss? What’s worked for your family? Let me know in the comments.