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Homeschooling: The Good Stuff #4 -- Mentoring

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The fourth in an occasional series about some of the under-recognized benefits of homeschooling.

Once a week my kids and I -- all eight of them -- get together for fun and learning. They're not all my biological children, but no matter. When we get together to write and play, they're mine.

I've been facilitating creative writing groups for homeschoolers for a long time -- since my now 29-year-old daughter was about 12. Along the way, I've encouraged other homeschooling parents to give it a try. It's easy, it's fun, and it's a great way to build relationships with your kids and their peers.

One common misperception of homeschooling is that it's isolating, that we're sitting around the dining room table all day doing schoolwork instead of experiencing the great wide world. For most homeschoolers I know, it's just the opposite. Especially in a culturally rich city like Boston, the opportunities are infinite. We sign our kids up for field trips, classes, workshops, and more. Pretty soon we're pulling our hair out looking for down time.

While we provide opportunity after opportunity for our kids, burnout can loom over us like a dark cloud. Sure, there are ways to unwind -- yoga classes, a night out with your partner, a relaxing massage. Those kinds of things are important to our well-being, of course. But here's an idea some homeschooling parents may not have considered: sharing what you love with kids other than your own is nurturing in a whole different kind of way.

When I get together every week with "my kids," we joke, laugh, and learn. I develop relationships with them beyond just being another kid's mom. I watch their ideas and writing skills blossom. I see their growth and struggles as they learn to use their creativity as a tool to express themselves and understand the world around them.

That's rewarding, but it goes deeper than that. It allows me to reconnect with my own childhood, remembering what it was like to be 10 or 12 or 14. It helps me hang on to that younger part of myself, which helps me to relate to my own kids better. It gives my life a sense of flow and fullness it wouldn't have otherwise.

I've seen how this kind of connection with young people excites grown-ups. When my son was a teenager, his varied interests turned him into a magnet for adults who loved the fact that someone wanted to soak up their knowledge. Many adults generously offered their help, support, and teaching to my son, but I know it wasn't a completely selfless act. I know because I've felt it, too -- the satisfaction that comes from connecting with the younger generation. Schoolteachers may also enjoy this, but as homeschooling parents, we're luckier. We can do it without having to grade or judge kids and teens. We can do it as one human being to another, with the implicit truth of the relationship an unspoken given -- that one person is an adult whose experience and knowledge the other person respects and seeks to acquire.

It's been that way throughout history. It's human nature, and it's important. So figure out what you love, find some young people to share it with, and get in on the fun.

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