The following is a guest post by Kassandra Brown of ParentCoaching.org.
“A big wind blows…”
My daughter is in the middle of a 30-person circle, holding one arm out as she turns slowly to look at all of us.
“On all of those….”
She smiles and pauses dramatically.
“Who have … boots!” she shouts triumphantly.
Chaos erupts as everyone scrambles for a new seat. Some folks are slower than others looking at each other and saying “I’m not wearing boots but I do have them,” before they, too, get up.
We’re in the midst of our community’s “Meet and Greet,” an evening event where we play icebreakers with the 13 strangers-about-to-become-friends who’ll be staying with us for the next week or two.
My daughter and I agreed to host the event and I’m delighted to see her participating so fully.
When we moved to the Dancing Rabbit community, she would far rather have snuggled on my lap than spoken out in the middle of the circle. Two years later she’s learned a lot about community — respect, safety, and participation. She seems to be growing in front of my eyes.
Next we do a small group activity. My daughter chooses to be in a group with another child — a different group to the one I choose.
After a while she comes to check in with me. I welcome her onto my lap and ask if she’d like to announce the next activity. She is excited to hear that we’ll be transitioning to the next exercise and asks her friend to make the announcement with her.
Reflecting on this later, I rejoice in her independence and her attachment. She knows I am there and that she can check in with me. She looks up to others and ask them for help when she needs it.
She speaks for herself and lets her voice be heard even in a group of people much bigger than she is.
Our last guided activity is the human knot. She gamely sticks her hands into the circle, persistently searching for hands to hold when the taller people forget that not everyone who is playing is at adult height. She twists and turns with us, climbing over and under arms and legs to help us go from an entangled mass to a circle.
After we wrap up the group activities, I invite people to stay and connect with one another. My daughter immediately plops down on the floor with one of the visitors and a younger friend. They start looking at rocks and semi-precious stones this woman brought from New Mexico.
They make shapes on the floor, talk about the properties of the different rocks, and pretend the rocks can talk and move. Bedtime comes way too soon, but home we go for stories and settling down for the night.
She asks if we have time to watch a movie. I say “no” and ask if she wants a story.
“Yes,” she says, “the chapter book.” I open A Wrinkle in Time and then pause.
“I’m really proud how you joined in with us tonight,” I say. “I really enjoyed seeing you in the middle of the circle and being so clear and helpful with all the games. I enjoyed doing Meet and Greet with you.”
She nods and agrees and off we go for stories. Uneventful to her, but to me this is a great example of a moment of shared community creation with my daughter. I didn’t have to get a babysitter or a playdate. We didn’t have to ‘dumb down’ the adult play to make it kid friendly. She was included and welcomed to the event just as it was.
As homeschooling parents, we’re more likely to create and expect such opportunities to arise, but even in our more egalitarian culture it often seems like the kids go off and play while the parents sit and talk nearby.
Our ‘Meet and Greet’ experience was unique and wonderful as an overlap of adult and kid worlds, a time when we played well together. I came away celebrating both community and homeschooling.
Sometimes I’m clear that homeschooling is working and is the right choice for my daughter. Sometimes I have my doubts.
Seeing her interacting with confidence in a way that added to the general enjoyment and flow rather than interrupted it, I thought I’m really glad I homeschool.
I’m glad we take the time to build this foundation of trust and communication that can’t be rushed. I’m glad she gets these opportunities to grow and stretch in safe and challenging ways.
In what ways have you witnessed your children growing through homeschooling and community involvement?