Inside the Mommyvan

Homeschooling & Life Inside the Mommyvan - an old dog learning new tricks

friends

To the women in my life, past and present, who do not have children this Mother’s Day: I honor you today, and thank you for mothering me in your own ways and helping me become the Mama I am today.

You were role models and cheerleaders through my career in a field dominated by men. You showed me what fulfilling independent lives looked like when my own future was unclear. You gave me hope and comfort during my journey to motherhood. You allow me to enjoy your lives vicariously, with tales of travel, adventures, career paths, and other things that I traded in for my life as a full-time mother. You give me perspective and clarity from a point of view that isn’t so intertwined with little developing personalities. You care for, and about, my children with love and kindness.

Whether this is a day of happiness, sadness, or indifference for you, know that this grateful Mom appreciates you today.

 

A couple of weeks ago, a friend had an idea: a flashlight Easter egg hunt! She gathered a bunch of families via facebook, scoped out a local park (one open past sunset, with some lighted areas), and set a date. Most of the families, us included, are homeschoolers, so she picked a Thursday night thinking that the park would be less crowded on a “school night” — and indeed, the last of the basketball-tossers were leaving just as we arrived.

Our booty!

To spread the workload, each family brought 24 plastic eggs per child, stuffed with small candies or little toys. The organizer found a batch of golden eggs to hide with the rest, and each family also brought $5-or-less golden egg prizes. These were all laid out on a table, and each kid got to choose a prize as they found a golden egg.

The golden egg prize table

We had the kids wait out of the way (one parent got smart and led them in a game of Red Light – Green Light while they waited) while the parents scattered the eggs. The little kids got a few minutes head start, but since everyone was collecting just as many eggs as they came with, we knew no one would be seriously disappointed. A few people also brought extra golden egg prizes so that the last ones to find theirs would still have a spread to choose from.

Waiting for the hunt to begin

Overall, it was a great success! Simple, low-key, and the kids had a blast hunting with flashlights… and staying up past bedtime in the bargain. For the adults, it was far less chaos and (over)excitement than most of the public events around, and we got a little time to stand around and chat in between helping the younger kids. The kids got a nice assortment of goodies in their eggs, and had a chance to enjoy the event with friends of all ages. The older kids giving the younger ones a hand (or an egg) was especially heartwarming.

J searching for eggs (we put some in the brighter areas for the little kids)

The hunt underway out in the field

Conclusion: A++++ would flashlight hunt again next year! 🙂

We are back from our travels, and despite some tired kids (and a tired Mommy), we got ourselves to co-op just a few minutes late this morning. As usual, it seems that on the days I am tired and come this > < close to staying home, things happen that make me appreciate our co-op families even more than usual. Today there were several. A toddler in an adorable lavender crocheted top that rekindled my interest in picking up crochet again (if my sore fingers will allow). A mom was selling box after box of books and curriculum material, some of which fit perfectly into gaps in my bookshelf -- including a children's first thesaurus, something I had hoped existed, but hadn't seen before. She needed money, I needed books that came with review from someone who'd used them. Later, my youngest and another girl were on the playground, playing 'mommy' to the aforementioned toddler in the adorable purple top. A boy who was, according to my son, "Really good at catching lizards," gave my boy one to hold. Another mom brought my older girl to me (I was just inside the door, chatting) after she got bonked by a swing so I could take a look at the boo-boo and know she was OK. The other mom had already comforted her, brushed off the mulch, and made sure she wasn't seriously hurt. Later, at the park across the street where many of us congregate after classes, my kids were once again absorbed into the group of co-op kids. These kids play together with almost no regard for age differences or whether or not they've seen each other before. My son was caught up in a game he couldn't explain to me, except that it involved spies. My girls were swinging and running around with the other girls, younger, older, and in-between. I was collecting my kids to leave because there was a thunderstorm getting close. As I got my youngest down from the climbing structure, she told me, almost in a panic, "But the baby's still up there!" Sure enough, a toddler was still up top, and my daughter wouldn't leave until we found his mother and made sure he was safe from the storm. On our way back from the bathrooms, another girl couldn't find her mom. I didn't know the girl and didn't recognize the mother's name, so I took her over to a group of women who'd been at the co-op longer than I and made sure they knew who she was before I left. All of these people are part of the 'village' that is helping raise our children, and theirs. The first thing that springs to so many minds (and tongues) when homeschooling comes up is socialization. This group is an outstanding, but thankfully not unusual, example of the socializing that goes on among homeschool children and parents. I thinks it's a fine way to learn the care & feeding of friendships, both old and new.

Although we have plenty of opportunities to socialize, most are during organized activities. It’s just as important to have friends with whom we just have fun. Without ready-made school classmates to invite over or meet at the playground, we need to be particularly proactive about making and keeping friends from our various adventures.

The “Disneyschooling” group is one of these. I discovered this group a year or two ago, but just recently felt like I could really join in, posting things and attending meet-ups. Our first in-person encounter was last Friday, and it was wonderful! The ‘Duffy & Friends Adventure Club’, which one of the members started for the younger kids, got together at Magic Kingdom (for any non-Disney people, 20120904-082538.jpg MK was the first of the four theme parks that, along with the many resorts and smaller attractions, make up Walt Disney World) for an afternoon of fun with new friends.

We had no idea what to expect from this group that seemed friendly enough online, but… you know how things can go when you try to do something together. We arrived a little bit late thanks to misjudging Disney transportation (I should know by now to just add an extra hour to everything); fortunately our friends were still playing at the splash pad near the new Dumbo ride. Great idea for a place to meet, since the kids can stay occupied there for quite a while!

Since we were there on a “school day”, the park was nearly empty. We hopped from ride to ride, enjoying some of the shortest lines I’ve seen in years. The group was quite amenable to changes in plan, waiting for parents of little ones to park strollers, parts of the group going one way while the rest went another, coordinating via text message to reunite later, keeping an eye on each other’s kids when a child wanted to stay with friends for a ride while their parent sat out, and… well, everything. I couldn’t tell which moms knew each other before and which didn’t, everyone was so pleasant to each other.

We stuck together for several hours and then families began drifting off to do their own thing before heading home. For us, ‘home’ for the night was a hotel just outside Disney, so that we could avoid a late drive home, and in the morning enjoy some Downtown Disney shopping that the kids had earned with their B. Bucks.

All in all, it was a tremendous amount of fun packed into a relatively short time. We made some friends I’m sure we’ll see regularly, even if they don’t live around the corner. We have a group from whom we’ll surely be able to find some who want to do the same Disney things on the same days as we do. And perhaps one or two of these will be among the friends my children build memories with as they grow up.

Even in my brief tenure as a homeschool mom, I’ve heard the ‘socialization’ question often enough that it’s right up there with many of the FATQs 20120906-125104.jpg (Frequently Asked Twin Questions, such as ‘Are they identical?’ even when one twin is dressed head to toe in pink and the other in blue) for making me sigh and roll my eyes. I try to use my ‘inside voice’ for the sigh of exasperation, but it takes some willpower, that’s for sure.

Socialization. A psychologist would say it’s the process by which a person acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society; or the development of behavior according to the societal norms of the individual’s culture and locale.

By those definitions, my kids, and most homeschooled students I’ve met, are doing just fine. They wear clothing in public, they have decent table manners, they sit quietly in church, and so on.

The socialization questioners usually have something else in mind, though. What they really want to know is won’t my kid become that weirdo in high school, the one who sits alone at lunch and never learned about deodorant? Just last week I had a teacher tell me that homeschooling was OK for younger children, but that teens really needed “the high school experience.” I’m not so sure about that. 20120829-083345.jpg First off, the main emotion I feel when I crack open my high school yearbook is something between disbelief and embarassment (that perm was really ill-advised). Second, various local homeschool organizations organize yearbooks, senior trips, prom, even a large, statewide graduation ceremony for those who choose to partcipate. Homeschooled students in this state are eligible to play on sports teams of the public school they would attend if enrolled, and they can participate in any other extra-curricular activities (and receive special services) at the public schools as well.

As for socializing — which I think is what people in fact mean to ask — the opportunities are endless. So far this year we have group gymnastics lessons, a mid-week children’s program at church along with services and Sunday school, classes at two co-ops, 4-H, 20120828-204425.jpg field trips with homeschool friends, even a group that meets at Disney World (during the week, when we have the place nearly to ourselves :D)!

And finally, I’m posting this entry a bit later than usual because tonight we attended a sunset beach party with a couple dozen families from one of our co-ops. One thing I love about the homeschool groups I’ve encountered is how often I see kids of different ages playing together. There’s no stigma attached to an older child playing with a younger one, and the kids themselves often don’t even know (or don’t care) what ‘grade’ they are supposed to be in. As far as socializing goes, it looks far more pleasant to me than the social scene at my school: the teasing, cliques, cafeteria politics, and a friend pool limited to a single class.