This year, the three big children have been taking a combination swimming and gym class for homeschoolers at our local YMCA. I had initially decided this would be a good idea as YMCA swim lessons are excellent and the price was right!
As time has gone on, though, (we’re on our fourth set of six weeks of class) I’ve been reminded that it is an immense value for a homeschooled child to have a teacher who isn’t mom and classmates who aren’t just siblings!
Here’s what I see.
- I know my children well, and sometimes that means I compensate for their lack of attention or lackadaisical performance, rather than hold them to the standard for the subject or for a child of their age/developmental level. Having other teachers who are kind but don’t stand for slacking helps me see where I need to tighten up, and to determine where they can do much more than I think they can.
- Teaching them to wait for me to finish working with someone else before they can ask a question, is a bit hard to duplicate at home. Typically, the big children just pick another subject to work on if I’m busy, and in the context of our homeschooling/ independent learning, that’s what I want them to do. However, there is value in learning to patiently wait for someone else to grasp a concept before you get to move on.
- Seeing someone be significantly better at a skill than they are is also good for them. It is too easy for the homeschooled student to think they know everything. This is particularly the case for intelligent, firstborn children who do know more than all the other children in the family. My first born has a hard time with this, and being in a class helps him see that he just doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does!
- Learning to deal with extra noise or distraction without losing track of what the teacher is saying, or getting mad at the distracters will be helpful all their lives long. How many of us have sat in meetings where people went off on long-winded tangents–a situation that requires us to practice patience and forbearance?
- Learning to deal with children whose parents have different standards for behavior is also valuable. They will meet many different kinds of people in their adult lives and the conversations we have now about why so-and-so acts such a way–and how my kids should handle it, are a training ground for how they will interact, in their adult lives, with the weird guy with the stinky breath who stands too close.
- They experience getting knocked down and standing back up again. A few weeks ago, Mouse and one of the other girls in the class had a spat. The other girl was trying to be friendly in kind of a pushy way, Mouse was in a bad mood and ignored all her overtures in a rather rude way, and the other girl got frustrated and smacked her. My immediate impulse was to rush in, but I sat back to watch how the gym teacher handled it. He had them discuss the problem, apologize to each other, and then get back into the game as partners. Neither of them was very happy about it, but that was the beginning of a life lesson. Learning to admit wrong, apologize, and go on working together is something they will use in the workplace–and in their marriages. They could learn it at home (and we do work on it), but having it happen in the context of a class reinforces the lesson and makes it clear that it isn’t just one of mom’s idiosyncrasies.
- They learn to be aware of surroundings and people, both to protect themselves and to avoid knocking others over. ‘Cause when you have 16 children between the ages of seven and three in a gym “playing” soccer, you had better have your wits about you! Some of my children like to space out, and spending an hour a week running around and focusing helps them learn to control this impulse!
Of course, not all classes will provide all of these benefits–and some classes can be downright detrimental–but with some parental discernment and looking for the grace of wisdom in choosing classes, these kinds of situations can be very valuable. I realize, too, that I’m simply not able to provide this part of their education. Yes, I could teach them to swim, but with a new baby due in May, I don’t see that happening this summer. Yes, I enjoy playing soccer with them, but there aren’t enough children in the family for two teams, so that limits what we can do. And frankly, I don’t have the time or energy to do those things more than occasionally. In the trade-off of time, energy, and funds, having someone else teach some of these things works for us, and we have found the benefits of these lessons exceed those of learning to swim and playing games!
This article by Kyndra Steinmann was originally published on the Home Educators Association of Virginia’s Blog and is used with permission.