|N. drew this at home, not in his art class!|
I said the usual things in response: it might be fun, you'll meet other homeschool kids, you'll learn new things, if you don't like it after the first class you don't have to continue. He agreed to give it a try. N. said he was nervous in the days leading up to the first class, and I couldn't really allay his concerns since I didn't know what the class would be like. Although I had phoned to make sure the class wasn't going to be a bunch of cookie-cutter "projects," I didn't know the teacher's name, how many students there were, or even where in the building the classroom was.
When the day came N. put an unusual degree of care into choosing his clothes, as I remember doing for the first day of school as a child myself. He pondered bringing samples of his drawings with him to show the teacher, for he wanted her to see what he liked to draw (he ended up not bringing anything because the task of choosing something representative was too daunting!). He was still nervous, but excited too.
Tim and I were nervous too, as I suppose parents are when they send their children to kindergarten on the first day. This was one of those iconic moments of parent-child separation that we have mostly avoided so far. Because N. never went to preschool, summer camp, or taken any other classes, this was his first group instructional experience (and our first experience, besides piano lessons, not learning together with him). I eagerly awaited word at work about how the class went. As it turned out, he loved it. The teacher was a sweet young woman whom he immediately liked and the 5 other kids in the two-hour class were all boys, which seemed like fun. Over the course of 5 meetings, the class introduced him to a wide variety of materials and methods of making art. He didn't get to learn much about drawing people or perspective, but he didn't seem to mind that. He's hoping to take a class in the next session (although right now there are not enough students enrolled to enable the center to hold the class).
As with piano lessons (which, by the way, continue to be a huge success!), it seems that mildly encouraging N. to take this art class turned out well. I am not convinced that the art instruction itself was maximal, but it was good enough, and the class has been a positive experience in other ways. It gave N. an experience of a kind of classroom environment, with its norms and expectations (however loose these are in an art class!); in fact, after the first couple classes N. said, "I like my art class. Maybe I would like going to school." I didn't bother to tell him that a two-hour intensive art class one day a week with six homeschool boys was not much like "real" school (at least not like any schools in our city)! Trusting us that he really could quit the class if he hated it, he learned to face something he was nervous about, and that his fears and the actual event may not have much in common. He gained confidence that he could take a class without us, learn from someone besides us.
Kids in our area have so many opportunities for "enrichment" experiences, and thanks to their flexible schedules, homeschool kids can take advantage of these without their days becoming too hectic. Instead of taking a class for school kids at 4 pm on a weekday or on Saturday morning (during what is sacred chill-out time at our house), N. got to attend a two-hour class at 10 a.m. on a weekday when he was fresh and ready to delve deeply. I'm glad we've begun to sample our city's enrichment offerings and although we are wary of getting too over-committed (in fact, Tim was a bit frustrated because the 10 a.m. art class fell in prime learning time for him and N.), we look forward to continuing to supplement N.'s learning at home with learning of all sorts in our community.