Several mothers of middle schooled homeschooled children whom I have spoken to recently (with children ranging from almost 13 to 14 and a half), have said that their children have asked for either classes with a peer group or expressed an interest in someday attending school. My own older daughter recently told me she would like a Latin class in a group of peers, which I thought was interesting timing on the heels of some of the conversation between myself and other parents.
This question has also given many of us as parents a small wondering pause. Many of the parents who have planned to homeschool through high school are wondering if the pull towards peers is going to become stronger and stronger and will our teens be happy homeschooling high school or will they want to do something different? And then there is always that delicate balance of how much does a child get to decide for themselves what course their education is going to take during the teen years? Much like many children do not have a choice whether or not to attend school, many homeschoolers feel a traditional academic school is not a good fit for their family, even in high school. These are the delicate issues that must be grappled with.
And I think this wanting to be in a peer group for classes and learning also points to a different piece – being with peers socially. My daughter told me the other day that she loves homeschooling and wouldn’t change a thing about it, but she does wish she could see her friends more during the week.
Because there is a big change that happens in middle school homeschooling, I think. At least in what I am seeing in my area. Most of the folks I know who are homeschooling middle school children are very busy – either with activities for their middle school children or due to older and younger siblings. If homeschooling parents are teaching multiple grades, then their school day often doesn’t even end until three or four, so even on a day with no structured activities outside the home, it seems daunting to try to hustle everyone out of the house when clean-up, laundry, dinner preparations need to be made perhaps at that point of the day. Geography can also be part of the picture if the friends you want to meet live further away and evening traffic is beginning. Some children are lucky to have neighborhood friends their own age, but at least in our area, the middle school children who are in school don’t get home until 5 PM every evening and then they have homework so they are often not available during the week. So, what I am finding is that whether middle schoolers are homeschooled or in public or private school, no one seems to have time to just play (or “hang out”) during the week; only on weekends. That has been a big shift from our time in early childhood and in the early grades (of which I still have children in those age brackets as well). So perhaps this piece of “socialization” extends past not just homeschoolers, but into all children of that middle school range – typically ages 11/12-13/14.
In the homeschooling arena, the thing that seems to hold parents getting together often seems to be attending some sort of class one day a week. Sometimes this is drop-off classes, and the parent takes the other children and runs errands or something else; sometimes this is only a few classes and the mothers talk whilst the younger children play and the older children are in classes. This can be a good thing if there is time afterwards for play. Middle schoolers still need play; unstructured play and movement that is just freedom of movement, not being directed on a playing field, is still so important.
Socialization is touted as such a huge thing in the early years and the early grades. In a way, there is some validity to that as you may have more time to forge friendships and if those are good ones, they may carry your child and you into the teen years. However, having friends is important to a teen in a way that is different than the younger years, with less time (seemingly) to form more intimate bonds. It seems that making new intimate bonds, whether as a middle schooler in home, private or public schools, is often difficult. I am curious to see what the high school years bring.
Just marking my observations, and hoping you will share your stories and observations too so that we may learn from one another,