We’re so far beyond the preschool years now that it seems like a silly battle cry to take up, but I have a plea for all you seasoned homeschoolers, one that, while I find it baffling, is apparently pretty controversial.
Please let the parents of little ones use the word “homeschooler” to find their tribe.
When Mushroom and BalletBoy were little, we had a little playground meet up with other parents of kids their age. They had a group of little friends they recognized and remembered who we would see, sometimes by plan and sometimes by accident. The parents were cool, the kids were sweet. We stopped by each others’ houses, we hung out, we commiserated about the trials of raising toddlers.
Then, overnight, kids began to turn three and they disappeared. They just vanished. And suddenly my 3 year olds looked like playground giants at the toddler parks. They were out of place at the library story time. And our old friends didn’t have time for hanging out. They were going back to work, living on preschool schedules, settling into a new phase of life.
Thank goodness we found a group of other parents who were also planning to homeschool. We found them by looking for homeschool groups in the area. Like us, no one was really doing the “school” part of homeschooling. A few parents did programs like Before Five in a Row or had a phonics book but most of us were easing into the homeschool life with art activities, field trips to children’s theater and museums, and lots of nature walks, outdoor play, and pretend play time. But we did a lot of that together, at a weekly play date. The parents talked homeschooling instead of school boundaries. We got ideas from each other. We had the same outlook because we all planned on a similar path.
I was always pretty determined to homeschool, but having that group around me was so comforting. We knew that “socialization” really wouldn’t be a problem and that people would be welcoming toward us. Having that strong group with friendly parents helped make homeschooling seem less scary and more possible.
I know that for some homeschoolers, they don’t want preschool parents embracing the homeschool label for all kinds of reasons: they don’t believe in early academics, they are bothered by the very concept of “pre” school because how can there be school that’s before school, they have experienced preschool homeschoolers who don’t plan to do it for the long haul. For me, none of these objections are enough. School is the norm at age three here and not doing that means stepping outside the mainstream almost as much as not sending your child to kindergarten. And while it was disappointing that some families sent their kids to school come kindergarten time, it wasn’t the end of the world.
It was by searching out the “homeschool” community that we began to find our tribe of people and began to make our long-lasting parent friends. I want that for other families.
In fact, that’s my piece of advice for anyone out there with younger kids who is planning to homeschool. Use this time to find your tribe and establish friendships. Preschool is such a magical time of open ended play. There’s so much more time than there will be in a few years when they have actual budding interests that take their time and school begins to become more academic and take longer. Seize that time to solidify friendships and just hang out. And do it with homeschoolers.