I’ve always admired children’s ability to enter a new situation and make friends quickly. For some, it comes more easily than for others, and of course, it happens at different ages for everyone. For my two kids, it appears that age four was about the launching age, when shyness really disappeared, and they came out of their shell much more easily.
Oh, they’ve always seemed to get along really well with other kids. In fact, I, who can be a bit of an anti-social at times, have always been slightly envious of the Girl’s ability to walk up to most kids at a playground and say simply, “Do you want to play together?” (Of course, this was a few years back when she was younger and wasn’t aware of such things as girls’ cliques.) In any case, it’s a nice feeling as a parent, knowing that your children can get along well with all sorts of children of different backgrounds, ages, and personalities. This desire to do so can be tested at times, though.
Last week, the supervisor of their children’s gym class tried an experiment with segregation. The supervisor decided, mostly on her own I think, that the children should be divided into two age groups; she felt that the older children (over 9) would want to be separated from the younger kids and play in an entirely separate gym. This despite the fact that homeschooled kids are used to being in a mixed-age group, and the status quo had been working well for at least the three years we’ve been participating, and very likely for much longer. I can see that if the situation were, say, a dance, then the age separation would make sense. But this being an hour of games and sports that ranged from not-overly-competitive team sports, to the whispery game of Telephone, the kids of different ages really seemed to benefit from being with each other. The older kids learned patience and how to role-model, and the younger kids had someone to emulate, and were motivated to keep up.
The end result was that it made a lot of us parents annoyed with the supervisor for taking this decision on her own. But we were also interested to see which side the children fell on. While some of the older kids did admit that they liked to be separated from the younger ones (it was interesting to note that these were mainly the same kids who were always jumping on the ball or puck every chance they got, with the desire to score as much as possible), many liked being together as a large group. As my own two kids—especially the Girl, who fell right at the cut-off age between the two groups—expressed, “I like being in the big group. I like playing with people of different ages.”
It’s a sentiment that has long been expressed as one of the huge advantages of homeschooling, and one that I hope will carry them into their adult life: It’s nice to play with people of all different ages.