Like many people, one of the first questions I had when I was thinking about homeschooling was ‘Where are all the boys friends going to come from?’
We are not very social people. We do not belong to any interest groups. Living where we do, there are not many interest groups around, outside of team sports. All my recollections of team sports are of pack mentalities, and the glorification of a few individuals at the expense of a lot of losers. I am just not prepared to spend energy teaching that to the boys.
Being part of the subculture of homeschoolers can be a further limiting factor. There is simply a smaller pool of potential friends to pick from.
Both of my boys are very friendly, and very articulate. Many of our conversations tend to revolve around fart jokes, slapstick humour, and other fairly typical imaginings of small boys. Outside of that, though, they can also be very formal and precise with their language, especially when they are discussing an engaging subject or negotiating particular circumstances. They speak very well to a wide range of people in a lot of different situations. While that is great, it still does not fill the need of spending the day playing with a friend.
They rely on each other a lot for a playmate. While they largely avoid the peer group pressure that comes with being part of a school group, they definitely spend less time playing with other kids their own age than they otherwise might.
One of the first things I did to try and make up for this was join the local homeschool group. If we were going to be part of a subculture, I figured we should be an active part of it. I started a chess club, which ran for about six months, and have been on some nature walks and craft days. Despite this, I have always felt it to be something of a struggle belonging to this group. I noticed that, apart from one exception, the boys were never much interested in playing with the other kids either.
The other day, there was a museum style exhibition coming to town, advertising itself as ‘Mysteries of the Ancient World.’ These sorts of things do not come by here very often. I have always found ancient history fascinating. Partly for that reason, partly as an educational event for the boys, and partly for the social potential, we went along.
Despite giving the impression of being about ancient Egypt, the display was actually a weird mishmash of different cultures with no real way to distinguish what was what, or how they all related to each other.
There were Egyptian grave goods, Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals, Assyrian statues, Roman wax tablets and Jewish pottery lamps. A large section was dedicated to the Dead Sea scrolls. I was unable to describe six different cultures at once to the boys, and so could give them no context for what they were looking at. A large timeline took up one wall. It started with the big bang in 4000 BC, and went on to describe history as I have never seen or imagined it before.
The exhibition guide fairly quickly arrived at his crucial question of ‘Can all the Christians in the room put their hands up?’ If ever I had not understood my fringe position in this group, it was clearly demonstrated here. Standing with my arms by my sides looking out at room full of waving hands was a decidedly uncomfortable moment. At least no one asked me to justify myself. It seems the boys and I are part of a subculture we don’t belong to.
The guide expanded on his personal beliefs, and then went on with the tour of relating different artifacts to various bible chapters. It meant nothing to the boys. I tried to interest them in some of the details, but they were bored, and I was depressed. We left early.
On the oval outside, the sun was shining. We kicked a soccer ball to each other.