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As a homeschooling family, we were always on the lookout for ways to build community for my daughter and our family. We also wanted her to have a wide variety of experiences with kids and adults, and hopefully, the benefits of adult leaders in her life.
Through the years, we looked for things that fit my daughter's interests and that led us to join in a number of community activities. We found a kid's co-op K -2nd, did dance classes at the Parks department, did some gymnastics, then drama, etc...whatever she was interested in, we gave it a try. (Within limits, of course, re the driving time, lol.) And we were lucky enough to find some other nurturing adults, along the way.
When my kiddo was 5, we looked for a program that would give her a chance to make friends and be a part of a group. We found a once a week co-op that was actually held at a public school. There's lots of great homeschool co-ops out there as well, of course.
Our co-op had a lovely group of kids, which gave our daughter a feeling of belonging and some early friendships. But as it turned out, having a teacher to interact became the biggest bonus for her. Somehow the stickers she earned there meant more! She loved getting feedback from her teacher, so not"just" from mom at home. (Her words)
We found that teachers and other adult leaders would come to mean a lot to our daughter. Homeschooling worked very well for us, as it challenged her, helped with her ADHD and sensory issues, and was a much better choice for her, than public school. But we wanted other teachers/group leaders for her, too. So we just looked for opportunities in the community, where she could interact with other adults, different points of view and different personalities.
She looked up to her dance teachers, gymnastics coaches, etc and that meant a lot to her. One year, my daughter became fascinated with science. We found her a science hands-on lab class that was offered at a local public school. It was a magnet school, and we were allowed to enroll for just that class, as homeschoolers. Most states allow homeschoolers to enroll in ps, part time.
She did this for awhile, and over the years, became friends with the science teacher there. This teacher took her to science museums, told her about science lectures in the area, and encouraged her interest in the subject.
Later this teacher asked her to become her volunteer TA. This was a great opportunity for our daughter. It was her first volunteer job. This teacher helped her to learn how to assist, and gave her challenges to meet along the way. And working with her did a lot for her self esteem as well. Finding a homeschool mentor at ps, that was fun! A nice surprise.
Then my teen heard about a leadership program that she wanted to try, called Youth and Government (Y and G). It is sponsored by the YMCA, so it included homeschoolers and ps kids as well. We liked that. She participated throughout high school, and there met a woman who later became a mentor. She was the leader of her Y and G delegation.
As my daughter progressed in the program, this leader taught her a lot of leadership skills. My daughter ended up running for office, and later became a mock chief justice at their annual Mock Youth Legislature. Great experiences.
My teen watched this leader and learned a lot from that. When she joined the teen leadership board of this group, she got to know this adult leader personally. My teen was enthralled with her style of leadership. This inspired her, and led to her desire to become a leader, but didn't know how yet.
At the same time, she became more involved in our church. She attended our youth group, and got to know the youth leader there. Through that, she was invited to a statewide youth conference, where she learned more about leadership and inclusive community.
This and her work in Y and G, helped her to later decide on a major. In freshman year (in college), she found a leadership program on campus. (Honors Global Leadership, brag alert) That is where she is currently studying now, with an eye on a political career possibly.
Having these mentors, the science teacher and her Y and G leader, added a lot to our daughter’s homeschooling years. These adults helped her on her way, and exposed her to new ideas.
We were also pleased that they wrote college reference letters, which helped our teen get accepted by multiple colleges. That gave her a wider choice. But more importantly, they helped to open up the world to her, as each of these women shared their passions. And their encouragement.
And they showed her another way to be, a part from my husband and I. Another perspective, another lifestyle to learn about, and another hand to help the growing along the way.
What are your kids interested in exploring? How have you found mentors along the way? Or has that been a difficulty? Please share in the comments.
This is a part of the Gifted Homeschool Forum's November blog hop with posts from other gifted homeschooling veteran bloggers.
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Betsy is mom to her 20 year old daughter whom she homeschooled from day one. She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early years, high school & college and wrote the book - Homeschooling High School with College in Mind. She offers free homeschool help through messages at BJ's Consulting.