Saturday, March 12, 2011

Our Park Date

We had our first ages 10 and up Park Day at a local park.  Unfortunately it had rained A LOT the night before.  There were flood warnings and local law enforcement was making announcements through the streets with a megaphone in some parts of our town that residents should prepare to be evacuated.  Fortunately, the area of our town where we live does not flood and we do not have to worry about evacuation.  But, this did mean that only about half of the people who said they were interested in the park day, actually made it to the park Friday afternoon.

We had 8 moms and 20 kids!  A's ten year old friend from coop joined us, which was great!  It was so nice to see a familiar face and to spend time with her and her wonderful family.

We met some more kids in the 10 plus age range and their siblings, all of the kids played hide and seek and other games together.

What I did not expect - although I should have! - was how much I learned from these veteran homeschool moms.  We had joined a coop because a) it was our first year and we wanted to make friends; b) it took some of the pressure off; and c) our homeschooling neighbors were members of this particular coop.  While we have enjoyed coop, it is an all day commitment.  I learned that several homeschool families in our area (just the next town over) meet for a science class for a few hours once a week; other families meet for a writer's workshop every other week and still other families meet for a teen lit discussion at the library in a neighboring town every month.  I learned that with all of these programs, and with all homeschool programs, most moms say, "We will try it and see if it is a fit," before they sign up and pay for it.  Good to know, since honestly, there have been MANY emails that I discarded because I was just unsure if it was a fit and I didn't want to pay for a class that we weren't interested in.  There was a lot of discussion about the needs of different homeschool families being different, learning styles being different and how a program may be a good fit in the spring and not the following fall and all homeschool moms know it and are cool with it.

We discussed how most of the field trips on our local message boards are geared toward either pre-school age kids or 7-8 year olds.  While our kids enjoy playing with kids those ages, they are not as engaged with field trips geared toward that age.  While I realize that one of the great things about homeschooling is that children make friends a variety of ages, I do want to find some friends around their age for them to really connect with.  I find that the children 3 or 4 years younger are fun to play with, but I don't think that A will be able to discuss things with them as she enters adolescence and I personally feel it is important for her to have some different friends who are also in the throes of adolescence.

We have decided to meet again next Friday and to all start planning activities for kids that are in this age range.  Bike days were mentioned.  Laser tag at the sports arena was mentioned.  More park days and hikes were mentioned.  Activities where kids have a chance to bond with each other, as well as educational field trips.

Another discussion topic was community college.  In our state, at age 16 kids can take two classes per semester at an incredible reduced rate! Some of the moms had older kids who had done this.  By the time they were 18, they had taken 8 classes!  Most of the kids continued at the community college.  We discussed the merits of community college.  Usually you take your core classes in your first two years of college.  In a large university, you would take these classes in a huge lecture hall with a hundred or more kids. In a community college you can take the same class with 30 kids and have much more of a rapport with your professor.

I feel as though I LEARNED so much just hanging out with these moms for an afternoon - my intention had been for A to meet some kids in her age range - I had not thought about the positive effects for me as well!

The thing that I love about homeschool moms is that there does not seem to be the competition that there was in public school.  A had a friend in public school whose mom would call to tell us that her daughter was invited to so and so's house for a playdate.  This same friend's mom also asked all of us moms where we got our daughters summer sandals and then went out and bought her daughter 13 pairs of sandals so that she had the same sandals as EVERYONE else.  There was a lot of that in public school.  If my kid had a dsi, another mom would rush out to get one.  If someone's kid had a blackberry, the next thing you knew the other kids were all getting blackberries or androids or iphones.  I recently talked to a mom at the library who said that she thinks parents in our schools will go to any extreme to make sure that their child is popular.  Weekend long extravaganza birthday parties that include being whisked by limo to Manhattan, trips to a salon in Manhattan and two nights in a hotel for ten 9 year old girls!  Allowing children to play videogames like Call of Duty.  I guess I am being judgmental here, but I don't see the same things happening with homeschool mothers, and as a mother, I am old fashioned, I subscribe to the "if everyone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?" philosophy of parenting.  I want my children to do what is right for them, not follow the herd.

I find that homeschool mothers are more interested in developing their children's interests and abilities than in making sure their kid has what every other kid in their school has.

We met two other families with kids around A's age who are in their first year of homeschooling.  They brought up a very good point.  Last year, when they were in school, our kids were consumed with what was "cool" and even if no one was looking, they would not take a chance at doing something "uncool".  Some of these kids are 9--it just seems so young to be already worried about this (we discussed how marketing to tweens has such an effect on their perception of what is cool and wanting to be cool).  Now that our children are homeschooled, they are exploring their own interests.  Not only do they have time to explore their own interests, but they are not as influenced by whether or not their interest is "cool".  They like to make things out of fimo clay or build furniture for American Girl dolls or they like to sew clothes or act out plays they have written and they no longer worry if some kid in their class would make fun of them for it...they just do it because they enjoy it.