We have, more or less, decided to homeschool Owen at least for the early school years, unless we stumble on an awesome alternative, our local public school turns out to be perfect, or any number of other options.
If Owen were an introvert, it would be an easier decision, but he’s an extravert. Locals who homeschool point out that I have to “not be afraid to drive,” and that we have lots of park days available (yeah, more or less) but still, keeping him out with other kids is going to be a lot of work. The teaching, or facilitating learning, will be easy. I mentioned today in an online discussion that he has a hard time at park days where most of the children are 8+, as he feels left out (understandably, and I don’t expect olders to include him) and someone told me that kids his age are better off forming warm relationships with adults.
We’ve done that. He’s got his adult peeps. But I know my kid. I’ve seen him with welcoming kids of his own age (ideally, for him, 4-6ish), and with his bestest friends he glows, he thrives. And I’ve taught kids his age in group settings. Some kids are probably best off with mostly adults, but some seem to need at least a few hours a week in community with kids near their own age.
The problem with modern public school is that’s a false community, artificial socialization, 25 kids and one harried teacher with little time to just kick back and know each other. There’s always the next directed activity, or sit and listen, or rush through lunch to get any time at all running around at all. Yes, kids need socialization, but not *that*. They need time, and just hanging out.
When I was a kid, we had kindergarten 3 1/2 hours a day, and that involved a lot of recess and play dough, hanging out with friends, even a nap period. Those are the olden days, and that classroom experience is gone.
So: I’ve got this bright, extraverted, “spirited” child, and all the Exploratorium memberships and random playground visits in the world won’t get him a posse. A very good, unschooly nursery school might, and I’d love to send him part time to one, but the two that first come to mind are on the peninsula, and up in Berkeley/Oakland, and then we come back to how much I’m willing to drive. Preschool schedules involve rush hour driving at one end or the other, and carschooling has its place, I really can’t physically manage that much driving. I don’t like it, it’s bad for the environment, it hurts my body.
Currently my workable ideas are:
- If we can find someone local who’s free on weekdays, gets along great with O, and would love our quantity of materials and kid-friendly space, I can host a playdate.
- Join the most likely of our local park-day organizing groups and go to the park days that work out for us. (I don’t like having enforced schedules unnecessarily, so we join lots of park day and similar groups and go as often as works for us.)
- Getting involved with a UU congregation — there are four within a reasonable distance, two of those have strong children’s programs — and letting a couple of hours of his week be part of that community, which could last him for years.
Those seem good, all of them. Also, they make me tired to think of. But it’s what I’m signing up for, and I prefer it, for O, to having him in what modern public elementary school has become in California.
And then there’s moving to Baltimore, which has a homeschool community center that I truly covet. But that might be the least likely option, short of having him join a four-square church youth group.