What I don’t provide my children at home: marimbas, of every size, shape, or number.
I don’t lead a children’s choir (nor could I). I don’t have a drama club (though I probably could). And I don’t house two hundred children at a time.
So we registered our oldest in a summer music school for a few weeks in July.
She loved it.
She loved the class offerings: marimba, choir, backstage prep, and piano lessons.
Her gregarious nature loved to meet new people, watch kids her age mix with different ages, see how they think, and learn what they value. She loved dancing and performing and singing at the final pep-rally-like party.
She had a grand time.
And I loved it too. These people knew what they were doing. Since I’m unwilling to purchase, or even rent, a full-xylophone instrument for my home, or teach my children to stay on pitch (I don’t even really know what that means).
It was an experience like nothing I would provide at home.
But what I didn’t sign up for, though I should have known that I would have, was the incredible drain it was on my daughter. It wasn’t just because she had to be up early, by 7 at the latest. It wasn’t just because she needed to have her chores complete before she left, or packed a lunch (she kinda liked having cheese strings and packaged food). It wasn’t because she needed to do her paper route after her full day of school.
I saw that she was drained because she was surrounded by people; people that demanded her attention. People that indirectly, or directly, suggested how she must be, or act, or dress, or talk. She didn’t have time to process all the information rushing at her. She didn’t have someone to process that with. She didn’t have a quiet moment to just think, to be lost in her thoughts.
You might say these experiences are normal. The school experience is normal. In our culture, it is the norm. Most people go to school. I did it myself for twelve years, plus six years post-secondary school. But normal=healthy, I’m not convinced.
Attachment theory, Gordon Neufeld’s flavour, has cemented my belief that when kids hang around kids for long periods, they become dependant on their peers.
I’m not against my kids hanging out with kids, of course. They love their friends, love meeting new friends, and love to chitter chatter with friends of all ages, babies to seniors. But when their little hearts look to other kids to determine whether something is a good thing to do, whether something they do is valuable, whether they themselves are a person of value, then, nope, I don’t support that kind of social structure (a social structure, by the way, that will never be repeated in their life again).