Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Friday, November 8, 2013

Homeschoolers and Community Involvement

It wasn't until I recently re-read the book, "The Well Adjusted Child," that I realized how much our lives have changed as Sam has grown. (She was 2 when I read it the 1st time.) And also how involved in the Community Homeschoolers-at least my homeschooler-is.
I remember reading and thinking, "Um, wow, these people are either showing off or I'm slacking off. Maybe we should be more involved." Looking back, we were just as involved as any two year old should be. She went to dance and church every week and she was part of a Community Group called Parents As Teachers. That, I feel, is more than enough for a 2-year-old, but, as most newly decided homeschool Mom's feel, there was soon this guilt plaguing me. So I got a licence. (No, I didn't have a license until I was 19.)
And overtime, naturally, we got more involved. Socialization is one of the best parts. Yes, the "S" word. I never worry if DD will be "socialized" well enough. Without going into the facts, or my opinion, I know that positive socialization is not something DD will receive in school. It is something she will receive from being out in the community, talking to others, learning from others.
For our child, God has commanded us to homeschool. And I believe homeschool is more than "school at home" or "school in a box." After much searching, praying, and fighting myself, I believe it is about a life of natural learning. It is about learning whatever you can, whenever you can. And not even drawing a line of distinction between if what you are learning is "useful" ie Math, Science, Reading, S.S. related or "not useful" ie just playing for the sake of playing. Whatever she is doing, it is relevant to her life then, and that is how we adults live, isn't it? I feel like I have learned more about writing speeches, researching my interests such as homeschooling, gardening, and anything else I have put myself into the past 5 years, than I ever learned in school. So in order to live this life of free learning, for one, I must quit sectioning things off in my head and isolating them as one subject or another. And two, we must put ourselves out there.
No, we don't leave the house on Saturday. Hello, crowds. No thank you. But all week we are on the go. I think I carschool more than I homeschool. On the way to where we are going (usually 30-40 minutes apart) DD and I talk. We talk about God. We talk about the tornado damage we see. We talk about shadows. We play a game called "Guess the Animal." We do math facts. Make up stories. And then when we get where we are going, we continue to learn. Gymnastics. Recipes. Adding up the grocery bill. Making new friends who teach you to sled down a hill on cardboard the "proper way." Totally relevant to her child life. And if I wanted, I could call it Geometry because you have to get at a certain spot and slide at a certain angle, but there I go again....
There are 5 ways I want Samantha involved in our community. They are these:
Volunteering (Serving): Since I serve at a local Women's Center, it has been a natural extension of DD's life to help out ever since she can remember. She counts change donations, sorts and hangs clothes, makes copies. She even helps me speak at local churches
And since I have a tremendous amount of trust for this girl, I am able to leave her unattended. (In a safe environment, where she can get to an adult if she needs something. Chill, y'all.) I tell her this is THE most important thing she could do for God right now. I counsel women. Give them their options and encourage them to choose LIFE. I also counsel women who have chosen abortion and just need to find healing in God's Word. This is hard to do, focus, give the Living Truth, and cry with another woman who is scared, when you know you have a kid sitting in the room next to you that might be tempted to knock on the door and ask when we are leaving or decide she is bored. But she never does. She plays. Draws. Helps out wherever it is needed-like when they are watching a distraught client's baby, so Sam occupies them. She talks to the other women who work at the Center. She has built up quite a relationship with each if them. Mostly Amy. She likes to tell Amy about gymnastics. And Amy will tell Sam about God. To Samantha, adults are grown up children who also make mistakes, the same as her. They are not scary authority figures she shouldn't talk to. And I thank God she feels this way, because I think she should enjoy all ages. (Although in the beginning, I'll admit it freaked me out when anyone older than Sam talked to her. I thought they must either be a creeper or want something.) Anyway, I'm off track. The fact that I can leave her alone without her causing a disruption or misbehaving gives me 1. Enormous pride in my child's behavior and 2. It lets me know that God gave me a child with her temperament because "He knew the plans he had for me."
My point to all this being, through serving in her community regularly, Sam has learned 3 very important things. 1. She has learned to serve God. 2. She has learned her time is precious, and giving of your time is an amazing gift that can change someone's life Forever. And 3. She has formed close bonds with other Christian adults that can help guide her. I know those relationships will blossom and become a deeper as she grows. And 4. Not to mention all the office experience she will have. When she turns 18, she'll have 15 years experience. ;)
Church: Aside from serving God, she needs to Worship God in an encouraging environment. It doesn't have to be a big church with fancy get togethers. In fact, we go to a very small church where the people there, she has known for years. She was 1 when we started attending. And though we have grown, we might have 100 regular attenders-including children. We know pretty much everybody. DD is forming relationships with the kids, on the common ground that they want to learn more about God too. The teenagers, her teachers, because they are "feeding her," and the adults because they are doing the same. The kids are involved in most things. We don't have childcare for everything and I prefer it that way. Why stick them in a room and say, " You aren't old enough to help at the yardsale." Or whatever it is. Instead of letting them see us get involved and get excited about getting involved too? But going to church doesn't just mean showing up on Sunday to sing and do a lesson. It means helping out at events like the Big Give after the tornado. It means building those relationships with others so that you can build each other up. It means being a PART of the church. Not just being AT church. And I want her to understand that.
Activity: We also require Sam to be in an activity, to stay active and learning her particular interest, which right now seems to be gymnastics. And I doubt that will change any time soon. Sam has gymnastics twice a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Our busy days. I like that she enjoy what she is learning, but again, community building. She is meeting others. Forming relationships with kids and adults. Some that may be lasting. Others not. We spend our time after gym going to the recycling center, walking the Greenway which is this Beautiful nature area with a duck pond, a creek, a giant wooden swing, all sorts of nature, going right through Collegedale. We go to the local playground. Shop at the thrift stores. We just enjoy ourselves. (We drive 14 miles one way. Why only stay for gym?)
Community Places/Events: I expect Sam to know about the "hot spots" and current events in her community, at least in Ringgold. When she was little, we always attended Catoosa Kids day and we began going to storytime at the library, so it was a natural extension to go to check out books, go to l library events, or anything else local they advertised on their board.
Of course I also want her to shop locally too, which I encourage by shopping locally myself. We are very well acquainted with the owner of the local fruit stand and the ladies at the local "junk shops." We do shop at Earth Fare too, but they sale local foods and they are about as local as you can get. We see the same people each time. It is a small enough store that people remember you when you come in and they have the time to talk to you while you wait on your meat to be packaged or while you check out. Plus, it is better environment to be in. No candy bars or profane tabloids at the checkout counters. No isles packed with unhealthy, artificial flavored and preservative filled foods. Natural care products. Just an all around healthy environment to be in, for the mind and the body...Here I am though getting off track again.
Other Homeschoolers: The last area I expect her to be involved in is with other homeschoolers. She already takes gymnastics with homeschoolers, but I like her to be in an unstructured setting where she can sit and talk or play, which is why we joined the local group, CHEA.
Recently...Well, yesterday, we had a group play date, and I never can believe it because every time we get together, it is exactly like what I read about in homeschool books for years. I always thought, "Home
school can't be this good." But it is. And I expect her to keep involved because the children in her group share a lot of the same interests and it keeps her from getting lonely during the school day, when she has friends who can meet during school hours or spend the night on a weekday. Not to mention the field trips and other learning experiences. Being involved with either homeschool groups also means she gets the inside on what is going in. Things she can participate in or places she can go. If this is the lifestyle she is going to grow up in, she needs to be well acquainted with it, and she is. I know she can't imagine her life being different.
AND since I believe in leading by example, I too get involved as much as possible, by volunteering, getting involved in church, talking to the Moms of her friends, setting up "play dates," and most recently volunteering to plan her homeschool Christmas party. (Which is exciting, but I'm a little nervous about all the work that will go into it.) It'll be a new experience though and I'm sure I won't regret it. I did it because I want to show her not to be scared to get out there. Even if you are scared because you are new, put yourself out there anyway or you might miss your chance.
Living a community centered life isn't as hard or as busy as people may think. Some things we only do once a month or maybe twice. Others weekly. But it is part of our living life and "schooling," so even with all that, I don't think we spend the 30+ hours a week that school requires.
Note: For us Community means our small town Ringgold and the surrounding areas, Collegedale and Dalton mainly. Both small areas. 
Through homeschooling, Sam has developed a close connection and love for her community. The places, the people. I have developed a closer bond with her as we get more and more involved together. And a deeper trust as she shows me she is more grown up than some people give a 5 year old credit for. These things-volunteering weekly, homeschool groups, all the 2 hour visits to the library, they just wouldn't be possible if she were in school. Community ties are so important to us. To BOTH of our growing minds. I can't believe all those years I missed out on living in my community. Endless possibilities. Close relationships. Things so many people miss out on when they are in a hurry. Something some people never care to have. But community is something I hold dearly. Closer than I ever have before. We are a group of people just relying on each other. And that's a Beautiful thing.

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