One of the biggest hurdles we face as homeschoolers is the issue of socialization. Yes, homeschoolers are in contact with society. They meet and learn to interact with people at the market, at the playground, in church. However, when it comes to interactions with other children, my kids do not get to mix with many kids on a daily basis, unlike those who go to school. Which means I have to be conscious about creating opportunities for them to meet and play with other kids.
This can sometimes be challenging, since I am an introvert, and my older two seem to be introverts too (especially Junior J!), and most days we are more than happy to just stay home. They do get to play with others in Sunday School, at the playground, during cell meetings and adhoc playdates. What has helped would be the two regular co-ops that we attend, where the kids get to meet, play and learn with their friends, while the mothers also get time to chit-chat and share. These are small groups which have helped the boys to feel safe, and there is plenty of time for them to play together. I have enjoyed seeing the boys blossom socially in these co-ops, and it is great being able to meet up with other mothers to catch up each week!
These co-ops were formed as "spin-offs" from a larger home-schooling community that interacts on Facebook, and that community has been most helpful in supporting us in our homeschooling journey. There are veteran home-schoolers in the group that readily give advice and guidance, and the camaraderie and encouraging spirit in that group has been a key factor in keeping me going. I've learnt that a community is important for homeschoolers. It is crucial, because both parents and children need these social interactions. Parents especially need others to journey along with them, as this alternative route can be bumpy, especially at the start when you have to figure everything out.
Our community organized a Homeschool Festival last weekend, and it was a joy to attend and catch up with other homeschooling parents. We met at Bishan Park, and spread out our picnic mats over at a pavilion as the dark skies threatened rain. More than forty families gathered together, and it was especially heartwarming to see the fathers and grandparents present, since most of the time you meet the mothers during co-ops and gatherings! (I am sharing mainly close-up photos for privacy reasons. (:)
In a sense, this festival is a celebration of many journeys. The individual journeys of each homeschooling family. The learning journeys of various co-ops and groups, some which showcased their works at the festival (like hand-made books). The collective journey of the FB group which has grown.
The kids were kept busy: there was a group working on their Rainbow Looms, there was a station for crafting with 3M tapes, and there was also a storytelling session by Linn Shekinah on her book, Star Anise, Superstar. Some went wading in the stream, some chased bubbles. Everyone had a lovely time. There was lots of food (it was a potluck event), and there were even goodie bags and presents! Us parents had a good time catching up with old friends, and getting to know new friends. It was good being able to match real people to FB profiles.
We had a wonderful time, and I am very thankful for this community. I think many of us may not have dared to embark on homeschooling, if not for this group!
PS: If you are homeschooling, and are looking for a community, our group can be found here. For those who are exploring the idea of homeschooling and are looking for support or people to answer your questions, you can join this group.
Please note that both groups require you to write to the moderators to introduce yourself, and requests to join without an accompanying introduction would not be approved. We define homeschooling as when the parents are the main educators of the child, and the child does NOT attend school/kindergarten/pre-school. Some may think this is too restrictive a definition, but this is to keep our groups focused, as the challenges for homeschooling vs. after-schooling (supplementary learning after school) are very different.