Sunday, August 12, 2012

Activities?

Quite often homeschool parents are really focused on offering a host of classes or activities for their kids to partake in. Even in the local unschooling community I've found this to be more common than not. Sometimes I wonder if some homeschoolers feel that since their kids are not in school they have to be doing x amount of things with other kids outside of siblings and outside the home. That's fantastic if that's something your child wants to do. But how do you really know if it's something your child really does want to do?

  • Is it something they asked about? or is something you strongly suggested?
  • Are you the parent telling your child, they have to partake in something or they won't make friends?
  • Are you the parent trying to live out your childhood through your child? I've seen this happen many times : (. 
  • Does your child prefer to stay home when it's time for said class or activity?
  • Is it you, the Mom or Dad who feels the child needs to have that interaction to be "normal"? Or that you need that interaction yourself? Or time to yourself while they are in the class or activity?
  • Does your child cry or get upset when you bring up the activity or take them to it?
  • Would you make them stick it out even if they tried it and didn't like it?
Last summer my older girls who are now 8 and 10, expressed and interest in a clay class offered by the parks department. It sounded lovely at first. It was pretty much mayhem. Kids running everywhere, touching projects of other children, rude behavior directed at other kids, at their own parents, parents afraid to say a word of correction to them. Summer especially had a really hard time with it. She got pretty emotional and tears began to stream down her face. I'm not sure if it was just an overload of stimulation with all the craziness happening around her, or if she just felt scared that I might leave her there, or nerves about being with strangers. 

In reflection I didn't handle it well.  I should have been more understanding of what she was feeling. I should have walked outside with her and hugged her and just sat with her and let her cry if she wanted to and needed to cry. I should have used some active listening skills to help her (which I didn't know about at the time). That class session ended up having a good outcome though. My Dad who was visiting, came in the class toward the end and helped myself and the girls make some stuff. Then we left and went out to dinner with the rest of my family. 

Another night the girls and I were talking and I asked them what they wanted to do about the class. They were on the fence. They wanted to use clay but not in the class. And they wanted their projects. We discovered some air dry clay to use at home. And my brother picked up their projects for us on his way to work one day. So they got to paint them at home. These were solutions we came up with together. And everyone was happy. 
The reason I share this story is because I was reading a post from a Mom on Always learning tonight. She was talking about her kids and them joining activities. 
Here is Sandra Dodd's response which I felt was one of her many gems and wanted to share here. The part with the lines in front is the original post content Sandra is responding to. Sandra's responses are in italics. 

---=-, but every time I suggest something, no matter what it is, they refuse to
give it a chance.-=-

That sounds antagonistic. "They refuse" sounds more like you were pushing
something than "suggesting."


----=-Last week we took him to a 2-day workshop at the Apple Store (dh had signed
him up, without consulting him). Ds was very reluctant to participate, and right
before things were to begin, he actually had tears in his eyes. (when he went to
school and when he joined activities when he was younger, he never cried - it's
something new since we started homeschooling.) Anyway, things turned out ok
because they let my other son participate so he had his little brother right
there, and the activity turned out to be fun for him - making music and movies
on the iPad. But……-=-

BUT… why didn't your husband go with him?

How would YOU have felt if someone signed you up for a two day workshop (or a
one HOUR workshop) without asking you?

How would your husband feel if you signed him up for a two day workshop without
asking him?

As trusting relationships go, I think both of you are getting colder, not
warmer.

-=- ds's behavior has become more extreme since taking him out of school and I'm
not sure how to help him. It used to seem that he was simply uninterested in
trying new activities. Now it seems to be a fear of social situations.
-=-

#1, you're making it worse
#2, he was bullied when he was in school
#3, he's 9 years old. Let him be home, at peace, until he himself wants more
interaction.


-=-Dh was upset when he saw the way ds was acting.-=-

Your husband created that situation. I think any objective observer would have
been on your son's side.


-=- I feel pressure to have them interact more formally with others, to show dh
(and the countless others who ask "what about socializing?") that they ARE
socializing. -=-

People NEVER ask "what about socializing?"
They ask, "What about socialization?"

You and your husband are trying to enforce some "socialization." It is NOT
socializing.

You should, as a family, find friends and do things with other people. Don't
send your kids out, school-style, to sink or swim in social situation. Be in
social situation as a group, as a family.

-=-and I'm wary of committing to things "behind their backs".-=-

Good.
You should have a firm policy and a moral certitude about not committing anyone
to anything, ever.


-=-From what I understand about unschooling, I should let the kids take the lead
and choose what and if they want to join group activities. But I think they're
not giving things a chance and missing out on social interactions and learning
new skills/sports that they would likely end up really enjoying. -=-

The misunderstanding comes from "take the lead."

You should be doing cool things WITH them, and your husband should be, too.

I think you and your husband aren't giving unschooling a chance. You want it to
look like school, where you stay home while the boys are off with kids their
age. That's not what unschooling looks like.

http://learninghappens.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/unschooling-is-not-child-led-lea\
rning/

http://sandradodd.com/nest

Let your children be at peace, and grow into their own desire to venture out. 
The more you pressure, the more they will want to stay home. The more confident
they are at home, the more confident they will be when they want to explore.

There have been families throughout history where the kids only saw siblings
(maybe occasionally cousins) for years, who grew up with no neighbors within
walking distance, and they grew up fine.

Sandra

My kids are friends with each other. They have some really touching amazing moments between them that really make a Mom's heart melt. As far back as I can remember we've always told them that a sibling is a friend God has given to you. My kids have waves of ups and downs just like any other humans. There are times they want to be alone and not play with each other. There are times they play for hours and the house is filled with happy giggles. There are times I find two of them snuggled in one of their beds late at night watching Netflix together. Or times I walk into someones bedroom to see everyone laying and chit chatting about their day so sweetly. 
On the subject of siblings....Siblings Without Rivalry is a great book for anyone who might be having issues with the sibling relationships of their children or to prevent you from causing issues between your children. And even to address ones you had growing up with your own siblings. 

I read a book in the beginning of our homeschool journey called The Socialization Trap by Rick Boyer. Sandra's post reminded me a bit of that book in some aspects. So might be worth a read for anyone interested. 

Recently my girls have each expressed an interest in trying another type of activity, in the form of swimming for one and gymnastics for another. Both sports that have come from their watching some of the Olympics. We talked about it a bit, told them what it would be like based on what each sport is and things they might expect, how to dress, the ages of kids,  and things that might be expected of them during the sessions. My kids like knowing information up front. They have decided they would like to pray on it for a bit and get back with me. Skylar (10) said to me the other day that if she brings something up like taking this class, or getting a new toy, book, etc., if she forgets about it and never talks about it again, then it's not important to her, it's a passing interest. And that if it's important to her, she'll remember and bring it up again to follow through. 

I took a few rabbit trails here, but in closing I'd say. Let your kids be however they wish to be. If they want to stay home and play with siblings, or even if they want to just be alone and enjoy the quiet. Don't try to change them. Even only children (of which I was one until my brother came along) enjoy time alone playing by themselves. 
Don't force something that feels wrong to them. If they want to pursue something, help them do so, but don't force it or direct and demand that they do it. Let them be free to be who they are, not how you wish they would be or how society says a "normal" child is supposed to be. They are perfect right where they are. 

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