Our homeschooling program is coming to an end for the year. Of course, for an unschooling family not much will change. I won’t have to write my twice-monthly report on what Daughter has been up to, otherwise, life will continue as it has all along.
We are, however, finishing our last community centre class today and I haven’t registered the kids for anything in the summer session (the leagues of parents desperate not to be “stuck” with their kids all summer filled up most of the classes long before I realized it was time for the next term). We’re taking a break from classes and I for one am happy about that.
As a homeschooling mum I feel like these classes are really an important part of their early education. But doing classes has been a battle for years. Daughter turned 3 when Son was about 9 months old meaning parent-participation classes were out for us, not that there were many left. In the mainstream world of preschool, 3 year olds are expected to be able to function without the comfort and security of their parents. My child was not there yet, and I foolishly tried to push the issue before accepting that a) it would not be detrimental for her to leave off classes for a while, b) it would be detrimental for me to push her beyond her comfort limits, and c) I could pretty much guarantee myself that, at some point, she would willingly attend a class without me.
Finally, when she was 4 that small step towards independence was taken and she enjoyed gym and pottery. This last term her brother finally reached the age (and, more importantly, the maturity level) to handle attending classes. Conveniently, at 3 and 5 they were able to be in the same class together. Son would feel more assured with his sister there, I reasoned, and I would enjoy an unprecedented break every now and then. I thought it was the start of a new era.
It didn’t quite work out the way I’d planned, however. Son had some separation issues (not as intense as his sister at that age, however) and if I suggested that he just not go in that day then Daughter would insist that she not go either. We dropped out of gym class early in the term because Son simply could not focus to the degree required (the first half of the class was an all ages warmup, meaning big lineups that Son just couldn’t handle) which left a 1 hour pottery class and a 1.5 hour art class. Son was hot and cold about pottery; more often than not I found myself bribing him to go. Daughter finally confessed last week that she didn’t want to do pottery anymore (she’s taken the same class for three terms now; my shelves are overflowing with the same bowls, pencil holders, and lumpy animal figures).
The only success was the art class. I credit this to an experienced teacher and a very small class size (they keep it limited to 6 kids). There are several activities, including a story time and sing-a-long circle. I was nervous about leaving my energetic, restless, and sometimes too-physical boy in this environment. So I was delighted when I came to pick them up on day 1 and saw him sitting there singing along, doing the hand movements, and clearly enjoying himself. Today is the last day of that class and I will miss it. Having 1.5 hrs to myself was gold! And the kids have always enjoyed it (this class does not go over the summer).
We’ll hold off on classes again until September when I think Son will finally be ready for some classes on his own. He is very much into physical play and is showing an interest in ball sports. Daughter enjoys more cerebral pursuits, although she says she wants to learn golf. I’m also considering some sort of preschool-type class for Son, no more than twice a week. It’s hard for him to be always under the umbrella of a precocious and highly verbal sister with strong leadership tendencies. I think it would be nice for him to enjoy an enriching play environment and develop himself on his own terms.
In the meantime, I’m resolving to Trust more. My kids are too young to “need” to do anything other than play and explore and follow their interests. If they aren’t enjoying community centre classes why go through the expense and effort to put them there, just because of some silly notion that kids “need” these things? Heck, as Miranda recently reminded us, her kids don’t even have a community centre (we have four in our community!) and they are obviously thriving. My children are not social butterflies and they could care less about being around groups of other kids. I must remember to honour that. Meantime, I’m looking forward to doing a lot of family camping this summer!