Gotta Get Outside!

Get Outside!

Each season in New England, where I live, brings a different type of outdoor play. Fall brings the crisp, cool days good for hiking and biking and playing in fallen leaves. Winter is full of building snow people and snow caves, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and ice fishing, sledding, and hiking. Spring takes us outdoors to enjoy sunning and fishing, kayaking in full rushing rivers, canoeing on lakes in newly melted waters, and playing in mud! Summer lets us rest by the lakeside, take trips to the ocean, bike, hike, and picnic.

When we can’t “go somewhere”, the city streets may look boring to some kids, but in my city neighborhood I see groups of kids that really love playing outside! Some have unicycles that keep them happy going up and down the sidewalk. They’ve gotten really good at it! They also have a permanent hopscotch pattern made on the street. A boy and his friends roll a basketball hoop onto the street and dunk baskets for hours. Smaller children seem to enjoy endless hours of tossing a ball back and forth.

As this beautiful spring season brought the kids outside, I got to thinking about all the wonderful street games there are to play. At our library we have a terrific book, Go Out and Play!: Favorite Outdoor Games From Kaboom. It is published by Candlewick Press. I recently discovered Kaboom which is an organization dedicated to getting kids to play! Check it out! Here’s a terrific list of games to play: Streetplay.com: The Games

Getting outside doesn’t mean you have to be active either. Just being outside can bring its rewards. Watching the spring flowers grow in my garden has been a wonderful activity for me lately. The Oak Meadow science curriculum has many assignments that lead students outside for observation and study of the natural world. One 6th grade student just sent me her leaf prints in the study of leaf venations. She wrote that she had so much fun looking at the different types of leaves she found, and also observing how they grew on the stems before picking them. Another student, in the study of Helen Keller in 7th grade social studies, spent a day outside blindfolded with noise canceling headphones on to simulate being blind and deaf. His reflections on the experience were amazing to read.

So, get on your sneakers, get a bike, a ball, or a nature journal, and head outside! I hope you all have a chance to play today!

An Oak Meadow Homeroom!

If you are enrolled in the Oak Meadow 7th or 8th grade and you have an Oak Meadow email address,  you can join the Oak Meadow Homeroom Group.

A “homeroom” is a place where students in schools gather together before school starts to share ideas, have conversations about the day or a specific subject, and basically check in with each other.  Since at Oak Meadow we don’t have an actual place for middle school students to gather, and our students all over the world are waking up at different times and studying at different times, that makes it a challenge to gather together. Still, the teachers really wanted to form a group that might serve the same purpose even without an actual room. Thanks to the internet, we can do this!

If you’ve received your Oak Meadow email address, you’ve noticed that you can share emails with other students in the group. One conversation is about where they live and why they are homeschooled. One is enjoying talking about their pets. Another conversation has been suggesting good books they’ve read. These are books they’ve been reading for pure pleasure. I’ve posted the titles here so that you might try some of their favorites.

Thanks so much to all for your contributions of good books and if you haven’t joined the Homeroom yet, give it a try! It’s fun!

These are their favorite books so far. They’re not in any special order:

Series they like:

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan

The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

Books they like:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

 

What About Socialization?

The question of socialization comes up often in conversations about homeschooling. Parents who are new to homeschooling or considering it as a future option may recognize that school provides more than just academics. They may worry about how they will recreate those other learning opportunities in their home. Well-meaning neighbors and family members may ask, “But what about socialization?” Well, what about it?

What is socialization, anyway?

Societies have an interest in making sure the younger generation has the social skills and expectations needed to fit in with and be productive members of the group.

Photo credit: The Gonzales Tran Family
Photo credit: The Gonzales Tran Family

The Oxford Learners Dictionary defines socialization as the process by which somebody, especially a child, learns to behave in a way that is acceptable in their society.

Many people expect schools to do the job of seeing children through this process of becoming acceptably behaved citizens who understand the norms of their society and how to fit in without being a burden to the community. So they might wonder how homeschoolers will gain these skills outside of school.

Is this something I need to worry about?

Not at all. If you and your children are involved in activities with a range of other people, your children will have many opportunities for healthy social development.

In fact, some people assert that the kinds of social learning situations that occur in the classroom and on the playground impart a very different skill set than what children will actually need as adults. Typical schools group children by age and developmental ability, resulting in large groups of children who all have similar skills — and shared deficiencies.

In contrast, homeschoolers tend to interact with more diverse groups and individuals. So they are able to gain new skills from people who are much more socially adept and affirm those skills by mentoring those who are younger or less experienced. The more socially experienced members of the group provide a model for the others to learn from. This is a valuable form of socialization that is not usually part of social learning in a group of same-age children.

How can I meet my child’s needs for socialization? How do others families do this?

Socialization happens in any situation you can think of where your children are interacting with other people. Music lessons, art classes, sports teams, church groups, scouting, 4-H, wilderness groups, summer camps, mission work, community activism, and all sorts of other activities provide the opportunity for homeschoolers to interact with others and develop interpersonal skills.

Photo credit: Audrey Joyner
Photo credit: Audrey Joyner

If your child needs more social opportunities, they’ll let you know. You might seek out a homeschool group in your area or start one if one doesn’t already exist. There may be volunteer opportunities at a local nursing home or daycare center where your child can learn from elders and/or mentor younger children. Perhaps a neighbor would like someone to help them side-by-side with yardwork or housework. You might match your child with a caring teen or adult who has similar interests. If you live in a very isolated area, you might consider using the Internet or a pen-pal arrangement as a way for your child to connect with others socially through the written word. Here are more ideas from readers on Oak Meadow’s Facebook page. Can you think of any to add?

There are many “right” ways to foster healthy socialization!

What do I say to family/friends who press the issue?

Well-meaning family and friends may react with concern. Sometimes it can be helpful to dig a bit deeper to uncover their fears and respond from there. What exactly are they worried about? What social skills do they think will be missing from your child’s experience? Perhaps a simple explanation of how you will fill that gap is all they need to hear.

When you choose to homeschool, you may appear to be removing your child from the community’s collective method of raising its children. People may wonder if this means your family will now become isolated. They may assume that your child will be at home all day and will not have enough of a chance to develop and practice social skills. They may know adults who are unable to function in a socially appropriate way, and although there is no reason to connect this outcome with homeschooling, they may wonder if there could be a connection.

Photo credit: The Gonzales Tran family
Photo credit: The Gonzales Tran family

They may be concerned about homeschooling simply because they do not have any experience (yet!) with healthy, well-adjusted, well-socialized homeschoolers. It’s likely that they were indoctrinated with the belief that schools are the only place where children can learn what they need to know to succeed socially. Homeschoolers typically prove that wrong, but it may take some time for the people in your life to see that evidence unfold.

It may help to remember that these questions are generally posed out of love and concern for your child’s well-being. Be patient with the process and assure them that with your attentive care, your children are doing fine.

How do I make sure my children get what they need?

Decide for yourself what social and behavioral skills you feel are essential for your child to learn. Consider your child’s developmental level as you set your expectations. Stay tuned in to your child and his or her needs, and follow your inner compass in figuring out how best to meet those needs.

Make connections with others in your community and include your children in those interactions. Model socially appropriate behavior in different situations and support your children as they practice interacting with various people. Many homeschoolers find that socialization comes easily and naturally as part of their everyday interactions with others.

So the next time a well-meaning friend asks, “But what about socialization?” just smile and invite them to become part of your child’s ever-expanding social network.