Today was the first day of school in our neck of the woods. Last year at this time I had four kids unschooling. My eldest was doing a little bit of coursework through the local high school but mostly via independent study with her own brand of self-sufficient efficiency, and entire weeks would pass without her attending the school in person. She mostly unschooled: busy with reading philosophy, dystopic novels and ecology, writing fiction, practicing violin, mounting a full-length solo recital, singing, playing piano, working a couple of part-time jobs. My other three kids were all unschooling and none of them had ever been to school.
This year my eldest is moving away to Montreal to live on her own and study music. My 12-year-old announced mid-summer her interest in attending school full-time. And then my 14-year-old decided to do three courses in the classroom for the first time ever, one of which is a compressed single-semester course, so he's actually in school three days a week this semester.
Which leaves me with one unschooler at home most of the time. Down from essentially four last year.
Wow! What a shock! Especially to my remaining youngest kid, who is 8. She is a social kid. Our home-based days weren't a problem for her before because she had all these older siblings milling around to hang out with. But she's been feeling quite abandoned, lonely, left out.
Unfortunately our rural life, which has never really been a problem before, makes this transition extra difficult. It's hard to fill her life up with social opportunities and activities where we live. The only other homeschoolers in the area are in the 5-7 age range and they just do not jive with my dd whose friends at summer camps and around town seem to invariably be 9 to 11-year-olds or older. She does have some local friends who go to school but there are almost no group activities available in the after-school hours and we live quite far from them so it's hard to see them. Her closest friend moved a couple of hours away this past summer. Pottery class is cancelled for now. Cross-country running is only for middle schoolers, and while she's a middle-schooler academically and socially, she's only 8 and still well under 50 pounds. Soccer is only in the spring. Violin is on, but group class is only once every two weeks. We already travel a lot for my older kids' music, and my youngest has to come along because she's too young to stay home alone, so she isn't keen on committing to something that will require long weekly drives to get to. We've found one overnight field trip to do with a homeschool group towards the end of the month, but we have to drive four hours to get there, so obviously that's not going to happen too often.
We had a talk again this evening and after a few days of mourning she's feeling a bit more optimistic about the prospect of spending lots of time "just us two." So maybe she'll adapt okay. We've got some nice things planned for this week: a mushroom hunt, a kayak trip to a picnic rock, an afternoon out at a local café. And this afternoon I bought her some "school supplies," just like the big kids, and that helped too. And in a neat twist that's a win-win-win, she's appointed herself chief maker-of-school-lunches for her older siblings. Tonight she invented "Canadian sushi": sushi rice pressed into celery sticks, topped with sesame seeds.