Since I started homeschooling, I've found the biggest concern people have for my kids is their social lives. The question I get asked most often is "How will they make friends?"
Followed by, "Won't they get lonely? They won't have anyone to interact with."
And finally, "How will they learn to live in the real world if they never have to deal with people?"
All valid questions, and honestly, they focus on an area that my husband had the most concerns about.
See, we initially started homeschooling because I felt really strongly that my son wasn't ready to go to junior kindergarten. He was very shy, had a lot of anxiety, and was very stressed out about going to school. Really stressed out. When we went to fill out the enrollment package, his hands were shaking, and when we got home half an hour later, he started to talk about his concerns and threw up he was so upset about it.
So I talked to my husband about keeping him home for junior kindergarten, and while he wasn't thrilled with the idea, he agreed that he wasn't ready for school, and we started on this wonderful road to homeschooling.
My husband's main concern was that our son wouldn't have any friends and that he would be seen as odd or weird by people. Especially since he was so shy already.
So I asked him this question: "When did school become about making friends? Isn't it supposed to be about learning? How many people from school are you actually friends with now?", "When did we start caring what people thought of our family decision" and a host of other questions to prove my point.
I will admit that behind my bravado, I had the same concerns. But after a year of homeschooling, the way I see things is so different.
School, to me, is a very contrived environment. There are 20 kids mostly the same age in a class, all mostly at the same stage in development. All are there based on their age because the system works better that way. And for many kids, this system works well. I'll even venture to say for MOST kids this system works well.
But that doesn't mean that those same children wouldn't thrive in a mixed aged setting. Just because something is the norm, doesn't always mean it is the best way.
Think of the skills that can be learned by having a group of children that are of different ages. And I'm not talking about a combined junior and senior kindergarten class. I'm talking about a room full of kids aged 3-12. A room where the older kids interact with younger kids, lead them in games, help them. And where younger children observe the behaviour of the older children, learn from their example.
Aren't taught social skills, but they learn them by example.
I'm not trying to paint an idealistic vision of what can be. I know that when kids get together they aren't always like that. And yes, I know that children will learn undesired behaviour from each other just as quickly as the desired. But what I'm saying is, that kids learn better from other kids, and I have seen first hand the good that can come of that kind of environment.
One thing I remember most from my time as an ECE working in the toddler room is when I heard another teacher saying to a parent when a child bit or hit another child "Don't worry. It is a toddler room, it is bound to happen".
And it is bound to happen. It is bound to happen because in a room full of children the same age, children have less opportunity to learn from each other and it become the teacher's job to teach social skills.
My view is that maybe social skills are easier to learn from a setting where they can observe the interactions of other, older children and learn from their example.
Okay, off my soapbox and on to the point of this blog.
So how do we combat the social aspect of school?
We leave the house.
No, seriously, we really do.
Contrary to popular belief, homeschoolers do a variety of things other than stay at home and school!
We have participated in a host of activities in our year and a half of homeschooling. I started a co-op last year, and while it didn't really get off the ground we met so many wonderful families who continue to participate in activities that I plan.
We participate in nature programs in High Park, go on regular play dates, join group trips to parks, pioneer village, art workshops, the ballet and plays, hiking and music classes. We recently went to a weekly drop-in free play time that the kids loved. And on top of all that, the kids have cousins that they play with at least twice a week and both are enrolled in weekly gymnastics classes.
And yes, I am always there, where ever they are. My kids just feel safer knowing I'm there. My oldest hangs out a bit while he gets comfortable with new situations, my youngest goes right off and does her own thing, coming back frequently to say hello or tell me about what she is doing. And I cherish the times we are at a program with an instructor because for those two sweet hours, I get to be just the parent while my kids go off and enjoy the knowledge of someone else!
We are social. Sometimes I wish we didn't have so much to do!
So that's that in a nutshell. We aren't recluses.
The Bouviers don't live here.