Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Unschooling post I promised...RANT, RANT, RANT!

Okay, so I have been involved in many a homeschooling support group over the 13+ years I have homeschooled.  One thing that is becoming overwhelmingly obvious is that we homeschooling moms are still not getting it.  And by it, I mean the socialization of our homeschooled kids.  Now this is not the socialization issue that "schoolers" bring up against "homeschooling", but the actual socializing of our homeschooled kids with other homeschooled kids.  Only one group I am in gets it...and they have had a Homeschool Park Day, for over 10 years now, where the kids get to just play.  It seems that every other group I get involved with always has to turn the meeting of other homeschooled kids into a miniature school. UGH! It is really frustrating.

Probably more frustrating is that in order to get your child(ren) into a social situation, like the one I mentioned above, is that the moms have to be integrally involved.  And by being involved, I actually mean, said moms will have to teach a group of kids in a classroom some pre-determined subject that the adults have decided on (not the kids, God Forbid). No offense to my daughter, or anyone else's kids, but I spend alot of time with Autumn and if I get a chance for alone time, I want it.  I don't want to teach other people's kids...I don't "teach" my own (in the traditional sense).  That's why when Autumn takes classes 'she is interested in' I can just hang out and read a book, or drop her off run some errands, and pick her up.   Autumn wasn't interested in her classes at Torch, and she isn't interested in the class I teach at her new co-op SOG.  Now, she loves the Art class that SOG just added, and she wanted to try the Spanish, which they just added too, but she doesn't like it (because the teacher expects the kids to read, and Autumn is not a fluent reader yet). 

I have already pulled myself and Autumn out of our parish's new American Heritage Girls troop.  Instead of setting up a date twice a month where little Catholic girls of the parish could play and become friends, the grown ups had to make the social time "count" by starting this Christian scouting group.  What a nightmare.
When I realized this was making my home life worse, and not better (because they meet on Friday nights at 7pm!) my husband told me it was time for it to go.  I can't tell you how relieved I was when he said, "Get out of there."  Autumn wasn't as thrilled with leaving, because she liked seeing her friends.  But she didn't care a bit about the scouting part of it.  Why do parents stress themselves out with this stuff?  We do all this stuff thinking the kids are going to love it, when if we asked them, they would probably say they would just like to play with their friends for 2 hours instead of doing a bunch of tasks to fulfill a badge requirement which is just a piece of fabric one wears to tell the world, "Look at all I have achieved."  My daughter doesn't have to achieve a darn thing for me to love her.

What Autumn wants to do at these co-op/scouting classes is play with other kids, especially girls, because she's with me most of the time. I know she loves me, but I am sure I can be boring to her at times.  I don't blame her for wanting some peer time.  I have been hounding her Dad for another baby (a 2nd girl would be awesome) for years, but nothing is happening.  So, Autumn just has to deal with the fact that she has an 18 year old brother whose life is completely different than hers (though he loves her) and another brother, 11, who (when the stars are aligned and the planets in the right house) will happily play with her, otherwise he just instigates fights with her.  Autumn, being essentially an only child homeschooler, gets lonely.  She wants to play and relate to other kids.  I dare say, even kids who are homeschooled with siblings probably want to get out and see other kids in a social setting every once in a while too.

I don't construct events or structured situations in order to get together with my friends, for example: only seeing them within the context of classes etc.  I see my friends to spend time with them and develop, deepen, and strengthen our friendship. Our times together are free form. Sometimes we may choose to do something structured with each other...a movie, a cooking class, bible study etc...but mostly I just want to sit with them and chat over a cup o' joe or glass of wine. What I see going on in the homeschooling community is that there has to be a more important reason to get kids together than just for play. WHY!?!  That ends up, yet again, admitting, that kids still need something schooly.  Well, they don't.  They are kids, they want to play.  It is so good for them to play and use their imaginations, and to build lifelong friendships.  In free form play they really do learn to socialize, because it isn't a structured activity like school, team sports, dance, art classes or any other type of situation where adults are running the show.  I am not suggesting that classes aren't ever necessary.  Autumn loves to dance and wants to learn how to do various dance styles.  I can't teach her that. I am not a dancer.  So, she takes ballet, jazz, or tap classes depending on the mood she is in when it comes time for registrations.  She also wanted to work with clay and learn more about acting, so she takes a pottery class and drama class and adores them too.  

However, in the last 2 co-ops we were involved in, Autumn really just wanted to play with the kids in her co-op class, she wasn't much interested in the topic.  Oh, sure she would participate, and I would have to beg and cajole and even threaten her that I would send her out, in order to get her to participate sometimes.  And I don't need some arbitrary subject/class setting to have me angry with my daughter.  She is not in school for many reasons, but one I loathe is the constant shaming and blaming kids who are distracting, or disruptive, in a class, because they are bored and would rather do something more interesting like talking with their friends.  There is enough in a regular day that I might get upset with Autumn about, the LAST thing I need to come between us is a mock school setting. And you know how I knew she didn't care about those subjects at the co-ops?  Because she barely retained any of what we covered.  I don't retain anything I am not interested in learning either. If I am not ready or don't care it goes in one ear and out the other...and I bet it is very similar in almost everyone. It's like when I was in school and retained something long enough to take the test and promptly forgot it. 

So, when we are done in the next 6 weeks with this co-op we will probably move on.  I think it is more worth it to pay the yearly fee to these co-ops and take advantage of the cool field trips they offer, than it is to take the classes.  I actually want my daughter to have more time to play.  She is the one I am homeschooling, no one else. I could kick myself for getting angry with her because she is distracting other kids, who are not mine, from what I am supposed to be teaching them, because she would rather talk to the little girl next to her.  I'm on her side.  I am involved in this group for her. Not for anyone else.  So, if it is not working for her, then it's not working period.

I am really going to work on some kind of a set play date for Autumn's friends homeschooled or schooled.  Maybe a Catholic Friends group.  She already has Tuesday Park Day with a diverse mix of friends.  But she does have a bunch of friends at church, so a Catholic Friends group would be cool.  And I am not going to tie anything, it's just going to be friends playing with friends.

I hope you are all lathered up. With that I step off of my soap box. 



Wendy said...

Amen, sister.
I was just griping about this very subject the other day. Everything our hs group plans has to be so "educational"

Leonie said...

I'm with you! I organize a Homeschool Teen Group ( younger siblings welcome ) and we do just social and hang out and fun things. Some other ums broke away and formed a more school-ish group but we keep ours low key. :-)

Catholic Wife and Mother said...

I have no idea what your daily schedule is like, so perhaps this is not helpful at all, but have you ever thought of setting up your own group? Kids from every group you've met would be welcome, but the group would be strictly a "play date" kind of a thing. Is there a local gym you could use? That way, the more structured parents could check off the "physical education" box, but it would be simply an opportunity for kids to run around and let off steam?

Rachel said...


I am going to do just what you suggest. I am going to set something up that is social and preferrably Catholic. I don't want to be exclusionary, but my kids already have a Homeschool park day on Tuesdays that is completely secular...they groups takes all kinds people and it is very neat. I would just like something for the Catholic moms and kids, because I am as interested in getting to know people as Autumn is. And it IS nice to be able to ask for prayers and feel free to share one's faith in a social setting. Something no one really does at the Tuesday play day.

Thanks for the advice!

~cactus mouse~ said...

Great post! I have been part of so many homeschool groups over the years - my oldest is 18 now - and so often it starts as a park day, but then turns into this or that educational thing, and then - the worst part - is everyone stops coming to the park day, 'cuz they are "too busy". Ugh! I love just be able to get together and let the kids play. It is what they want to do anyhow! :)

Emily said...

Okay, I can't resist on the unschooling thing.
I could have written this post!!! I am so absolutely frustrated by our local homeschooling co-op. (and I haven't even been once... I'm so unfair!!:)
Seriously, though... all I want is some kids for my kids to hang out with. I just don't understand why everything has to be some documentable learning activity. I really don't know what to do, though, since we moved here 9 months ago and really don't know anyone. My oldest son does not have a friend even remotely close to his age, so I feel terrible. If we were living somewhere where I knew other families with homeschooled kids I would start my own group or just invite some friends over... but we don't really know anyone. I feel almost compelled to participate a few times just to find some kids, but it would be seriously difficult because they want parents to either teach a class or babysit little kids in a hallway. I can't teach a class because I have too many little kids for that to be feasible, and I really can't see babysitting other people's children in a hallway for hours with my own littles, who are 3, 18 months, and will be newborn.
Any suggestions?