December 21, 2005

Starting in Public School

Starting kindergarten at public school may not have been the best thing for my son, but it was an awfully good thing for his mother and me.

We're not social butterflies, and even after having lived three years in the same house, we had few friends. We stuck to our nearby family instead. For a couple of years I worked long hours. My wife, naturally shy, would curl up with a book during her rare free time more often than she would schedule a play-date or meet a neighbor for coffee.

When Nathaniel started kindergarten, everything changed. I, recalling my own loneliness in school, was adamant that we do whatever we could to get him involved with other kids. My wife, concerned that he receive an adequate education, was determined to volunteer in the classroom and meet other moms in order to share information about the school. We became—well, for us—social butterflies.

This was good for us, and it was good for both our kids. Within two months, Nathaniel had three regular buddies, two of whom conveniently had younger sisters. We all made valuable friends.

We also learned firsthand some of the pluses and minuses of our public school. (Some pluses for our son: gaining independence, meeting new children, seeing other kids interact with an authority figure. Some minuses: staggering class sizes, trendy but ineffective methods imposed on teachers by the administration, the depersonalization of our five-year old.)

I don't think it's impossible, or even particularly difficult, for homeschooling parents to make social connections. I don't think it's impossible—though it probably is difficult—for homeschooling parents to keep a close eye on what's happening in nearby public school classrooms.

Now we know something of what a modern classroom is like, and we have valuable friends who are still in the public school system. I'm grateful for that.

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