No, It Doesn’t Take a Village, but . . .

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.

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