Published with Permission
Written by Mary Hood, Ph.D.
No, it doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes a committed family unit to raise a child. However, the judicious use of community resources can add a lot to the home base. We always said that our home was the heart of our homeschooling, but most of our learning occurred out in the larger community.
When our family first began homeschooling, few resources were available to homeschoolers. There were no support groups, no curriculum fairs, no catalogues arriving in the mail, no Facebook, and no Internet. What we did have were numerous community resources: libraries, church and secular organizations, volunteer opportunities, and family field trips to a myriad of interesting places. In some ways, I believe those days were so much better than the current “season” of homeschooling, in which there has been an explosion of homeschooling resources.
One of our most successful experiences was with community theatre. My two oldest children were enamored with the world of music and acting. When we lived in Maryland, there were several community theatre groups in our small town, and one of them was actually a professional troupe. I remember the day when I walked into a production of Fiddler on the Roof and saw my son step out over the balcony with a fiddle in his hand to play the opening song on top of a tiny, steep ledge. I was sure he was going to fall off, but he didn’t, and he did an excellent job.
When Ginny was about 14, she wanted to enter high school to participate in the drama activities there, but for a variety of reasons I didn’t feel comfortable about letting her go. Instead, she stepped up her involvement in community activities. By this time we had moved to a Southern town that offered fewer theatrical opportunities, but Ginny found a small community production that was in the works and became the choreographer. There were many frustrating moments—and a few tears—as she discovered that some of the adults in the cast had no intention of listening to a mere “child” giving them direction. Once again, the production culminated with very few hitches, and she received many expressions of gratitude, which more than made up for the frustrations of the rehearsal process.
There are so many things that my children learned during their theatrical involvement. They ran into difficult situations and learned that they had what it took to tough it out and see their work through to a successful conclusion. They met people of many different backgrounds, whose ideas and lifestyles did not always fit in with our own beliefs, but my children were able to come home at night to discuss those things with my husband and me. How much better a transition to adulthood this was than my own situation. What a wonderful way to transition into adulthood.
Another community resource that we thoroughly enjoyed was 4-H. I was cautious as I took my homeschooled kids to the local public school to enroll in the 4-H program. However, within the first few months, my daughter was elected president, and two of my other children were also voted into important positions. Learning to plan and run meetings and speak in public were largely instrumental in helping Ginny prepare for her later years, when she coordinated a variety of programs at an international school in South Korea. Sam, who was much less inclined to be a public speaker, also learned a great deal through having to stand up and give talks about his projects, which mostly involved making guitars and doing electronics.
Participation in community sports, including baseball, softball, tennis, and soccer, was another means of taking advantage of community resources. Some years were wonderful years, with great coaches and winning teams. At other times, the learning experiences were harder—when the coaches were too pushy or the other children swore too much or the other parents got crazy or the team didn’t win. The lessons learned were worth the experiences a thousand times over.
Some parents are afraid to let their children participate in larger community activities, fearing that the influences of the other children will do them irreparable harm. I hope you don’t follow that line of thinking. However, as you open up your children’s world to the larger community, I think there are several things you have to keep in mind, to make sure everything stays balanced.
First, you have to consider your own level of participation. You don’t want to smother the kids by constantly trying to protect them, but you also have to be out there and available in order to monitor those influences—and be ready to pull the plug if necessary. You also have to consider the age and maturity level of the children in question. Are they ready to be exposed to other ideas and points of view, or are they too likely to be swayed by ideas that might prove injurious to your family life?
The quality of the programs and adults and children involved is also critical to consider. Most of the community activities we chose were staffed by people with excellent moral values. The occasional coach could get too ornery at times, and we pointedly stayed away from one particular league where everyone was known for caring about winning at all costs. However, we found many caring adults who served as mentors and became lifelong friends. I personally found it very enriching to make friends with some of the public school parents in the area and believe it helped me avoid becoming narrow-minded.
Now that my kids are all grown and scattered from Oregon to England and beyond, I can’t say that I really miss the double headers on 90-degree days or the nights spent shivering under a blanket in the stands watching practices in February, but I do miss the camaraderie of the other parents, the fun and excitement of the competition, and the glitter of opening nights in the theatre. Obviously, what I really miss most is the opportunity to spend more time with my kids!
What wonderful memories I have of the experiences we had out in the larger community! No, it didn’t take a village to raise a child . . . but the village sure added to the experience in ways I could never have predicted when we first began.
Mary Hood, Ph.D., and her husband, Roy, homeschooled their five children since the early 1980s. All have successfully made the transition to adulthood. Mary has a Ph.D. in education and is the director of ARCHERS for the Lord, Inc. (The Association of Relaxed Christian Home Educators). She is the author of The Relaxed Home School, The Joyful Home Schooler, and other books, and is available for speaking engagements. Contact her via her website, www.archersforthelord.org.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.