Last week I was fortunate to have Donna Simmons, owner of Christopherus Homeschool Resources on my blog, responding to questions related to young children (8 and under), the perceived need for socialization, classes, and activities away from home. Unfortunately, Donna ended up with some computer issues and was not able to participate as she had hoped.
Donna was able to address a few questions but knowing that she was going to be incognito, I let everyone know via Facebook to hold their questions that they wanted Donna specifically to respond to until further notice. I apologize to all of you who did not get the opportunity to “talk” with Donna. I did encourage everyone to chat amongst themselves, and we did have a little Facebook chat going that turned out to be pretty productive. In addition, I received some great emails and I responded to those as well.
Donna was able to speak to two questions I get asked frequently and I am pleased that her responses will be available in the comments for review. The first discussion had to do with balancing the needs of children whose ages varied greatly. What is a parent to do when they have a 12 year old and a 2 year old? Donna provided some really valuable insight. The second question stemmed from experiences my friends have after a long day of classes, activities, playdates, errands and such. It seems like the child's behavior degrades on busy days. Donna also offered her thoughts on this as well and her response is something I encourage all parents to consider.
There were two other questions that came to me via email that Donna did not get a chance to respond to. I want to share these with you in the hopes that my dear readers might wish to express their opinion. I also will throw out my two cents.
The first question was how do you balance the need for errands, visits with family, and general obligations in a situation where both parents work outside the home and your child is in a child care setting outside of the home?
My thoughts – first, do as much “errand running” as possible during your lunch hour if that is practical and possible. It may not be. If everything must happen on the weekends (or whatever days you are home with your child), is there a way to divide responsibilities so that one parent is home with the child while the other is taking care of errands and personal obligation? Can you grocery shop online? Can you order cleaning products, toiletries, and household essentials online? This would save precious time in the errand running department allowing you to spend quality time with your child in your home.
Insofar as visiting family or going to some sort of gathering (birthday party and what have you) certainly you will find yourself in the position of wanting to visit family or friends. Staying home with your wee ones is not intended to cut you off from the rest of the world. If possible, perhaps you could have family visit at your house or at least alternate between leaving your house to visit and having family come to you. Celebrations and gatherings are probably something you have to think about on a case by case basis. You know your child best. You have to parent your child at the end of the day. But make sure that you are bringing your child with you to a celebration or gathering because it is something that they have a shot at enjoying and not something geared towards adults that will bore them to tears.
Basically, you have to put yourself in your child's shoes. They have been away from home most of their waking hours for X number of days per week while both parents work. All they want is the comfort of their home, their stuff, and their environment. Do whatever you can to make it possible for them to decompress from their week too. It might not always look perfect but just strive for consistency so that your children get much needed time at home as often as possible. And yes, this means no classes, sports, and extra activities until your child is older.
Again, these are my thoughts on this particular question. Donna may have a different opinion or a different way of responding. I am VERY interested in hearing from parents who are IN this situation. How do you respect your child's need for home?
The second question that didn't make it into the conversation was pretty interesting. The mama asked “do you really think it is the end of the world if my young child goes to a mommy-and-me group, a music group, a La Leche League meeting, a gymnastics class, or engages in a non-competitive sport? And what do you see as the ultimate impact if a child runs errands with their parent once per week?”
Here is my rather simplistic response to the latter. Life happens. There are only so many hours in the day. As a parent, whether you stay home full time, work part time, work full time, etc… you have a responsibility to your family and part of that means feeding them, seeking medical care, having a clean home, keeping everyone clothed and the list goes on. So yes, you have to leave the house and make life happen. Sure, you can shop online but not for everything. Multiple children also complicate this issue as well. So don't fret about it. Do what you need to do. Just attempt to have a rhythm to your errands and obligations so it becomes a more natural part of weekly life in your family. Having no rhyme or reason to when you do anything will have a far greater impact on your young children than taking them on an errand or two.
I am lucky in that I can walk to several stores from my home. If I need to grab something from the store, I can make it part of our outdoor time. Tiny and I can get plenty of sunshine, explore nature on the way, grab what I need, and get home without making it seem like an “errand.” If you can do something similar, see how that works for you.
As for the first part of this mama's question. Is it the end of the world to enroll in a class or go to a supportive meeting? No. It is necessary for your child? No. Is it more about the mental health of the parent? Most likely. And personally, I know that if mama isn't happy, no one is happy. If you need breastfeeding support by all means, go to a La Leche League meeting. If you are feeling isolated, try to find a monthly moms group that you can connect to other moms with. If your child has to come, so be it. Just don't schedule outings and meetings every single day. It isn't fair to your wee one. And by all means, don't blow a nap for it!
Donna addressed classes and other activities quite a bit so I won't rehash that. What I will share is what I wrote to one mother in an email regarding her son wishing to participate in a very non-competitive soccer team:
If your son took the lead and expressed the desire to become involved in soccer, then honestly, let him try it. The fact that you have found a team that is relaxed is important. Throwing him into an uber completive league would probably not be the way to go and it sounds like you already considered that point. Every child is different and I do think that there is value to allowing your child to explore their interests even if those interests involve activities outside of the home at a young age. I love Waldorf BUT there is also that little thing called life. We can plan and plan and plan to do everything Waldorf by the book but our child is needing something more. And that is ok. Go with your gut on this decision. What is the worst thing that can happen if your son does play soccer? It goes poorly and you stop. You then take the time to help him work through what happened.
So if your child is expressing an interest in moving beyond what you can offer at home and you feel that your child is developmentally ready to participate in a weekly lesson or class, then do what you feel is best for your child. Remember that this is not about what YOU want them to participate in but what your child is truly showing an interest in doing. I would also offer that you should give your child several weeks of “asking” before you move towards enrolling in a class or activity. Make sure that this is not some passing whim and is indeed a genuine interest. Like I wrote above, if it goes poorly, or if your child's behavior degrades, reconsider the activity and our child's readiness for it.
Again, my sincerest apologies to those of you who were not able to interact with Donna. I do hope you visit her site and please, link your questions up here. Maybe another mama can give you a different view.