I’m calling today’s field trip social skills practice. After all, we didn’t exactly learn anything educational on this trip except big slides are really fun, apples come in big wooden boxes, and it’s really hot outside!
It’s fall festival time, and our local “farm” amusement parks are gearing up for full swing. Our homeschool group went today, and we had a lot of fun. At the end of the day, I sat down and realized that we didn’t really do anything educational. That’s ok, of course – and there were certainly plenty of public school field trip groups there as well, but I often feel guilty about it. We played all day instead of doing math problems. We ran around like crazy kids instead of practicing reading.
I started thinking about it in broader terms than simple education: life skills. Sure, our kids all learn life skills just by living and doing things with us. Public school kids learn many of these life skills while in school. Why shouldn’t my children do the same? So I started making a mental list (because that’s how my mind works) about all the things we learned and practised today that we routinely struggle with.
- Being kind
- Sharing even when we didn’t want to
- Waiting our turn in a line, and not jumping in front of people
- Being polite and getting out of others’ way
- Safety skills
- Health skills
- Being sensitive to others’ needs
- Being brave even when we’re scared
- Staying together as a group
- Paying attention to others when spoken to
- How to deal with rude people
- Obeying those in authority
I’m sure we practiced a lot of other things, but my brain is tired so I’m missing a few.
The thing is, it’s not like this is anything new for us. It’s that this was an intense session – super practice, if you will. At every turn my kids (and the rest of the group) faced challenges that they needed to meet. They dealt with kids trying to jump in line in front of them, kids who shoved and pushed, being the kids who jumped in line (and were subsequently dragged back into place by mommy,) and obeying the attendants who told them to wait, stop or “quit that!”
They never got a break from these lessons – it was intense. It was hard at times, but I’m super proud of them. We only lost the Destroyer and the Princess once, mostly because they split up and I couldn’t track all of them at the same time around the big hill for the slide! They did great.
When the baby on the hay ride got upset and cried because the hay was too prickly and the train whistle was too loud, my kids asked if she was ok. They didn’t say anything mean about her crying, they just dealt with it and made sure that there wasn’t a problem. Given their own sensory issues, that’s huge! That was a great step forward – not only did they handle their own sensory issues well, they tolerated a screaming baby in close proximity without flinching.
When the kids tried to shove in front of them in the line, they simply moved aside and let them go, without being rude or picking a fight. I wasn’t so kind, and politely told the kids trying to push past me on the stairs that they needed to wait their turn.
When I asked the Destroyer to get off the tractor he really wanted to play on because the other little girl was heading toward it to play and I didn’t see her, he happily hopped off and went to play elsewhere instead of screaming and fussing about it. When I took him to the big slide with the big kids and he got scared, he stuck it out and rode with me, realizing halfway through that this was really fun! Then we did it “again!” over and over until I wanted to drop on the ground.
When the attendants told my kids to stop and wait for others to clear the slide, they patiently sat there and waited. That’s huge! We struggle so much with being patient and listening to others that I really didn’t expect that from them. I’m very proud of their behavior today and they know it. They’re the proud owners of little animal figurines and 2 gallons of apple cider now because I wanted to reward that kind of victory.
Make no mistake: today was a victory. Today was a series of victories with a few minor bobbles mixed in. Today gave me hope.
Maybe we’re not raising little snots who refuse to share and be polite after all! Maybe all of the work we’ve put in to learning these things is finally paying off. Maybe, just maybe, we’re not horrible bad parents after all! Amazing, right?
Today was worth it. Worth the $40 in rewards, and apple cider, worth the migraine I’m dealing with now, worth sweating so much my clothes feel stiff. Today I realized that I’m not a parenting failure after all. Today was good.