Homeschool playground days are always a highlight for my family. They provide wonderful opportunities for deepening friendships and developing social skills. Plus, they’re just plain fun! And every once in a while, they present me with a “window” moment: an opportunity to witness the beauty of this unschooling life in action. Today was one of those days.
The park consisted of a playground and several fields, so the adults were spread a bit thinner than usual. Still, there’s always a grown-up handy should somebody be in need. Today, I happened to be that grown-up.
As I stood surveying the scene, a group of children approached. Taking my hand, one of them said, “We need you over here to help us work out a problem.” They led me over to the edge of the playground, where a young boy was slouching against the green wire fence, looking as though he’d like to disappear through it.
Before I had a chance to speak, another child explained the situation, “That boy in the Spiderman shirt called Kenny ‘Zippy’, and Kenny doesn’t like it.”
Ordinarily, when something like this happens, the “first responder” will act as a facilitator, helping both sides to discuss and solve the problem. Our ultimate goal, of course, is to help our children to develop the skills to handle problems on their own in a healthy and respectful way.
We know it’s important. We believe it’s possible. But when it actually starts to work – wow! Window moment.
That’s exactly what happened today. After hearing about the issue, I was just gearing up to start mediating when three of the kids ran off.
“Where are you going?” I asked, puzzled. Hadn’t they just asked for my help?
“We’re going to get the boy in the Spiderman shirt so you can talk to him,” was the response. Just then, they spotted him. I was close enough to hear what happened next without being observed.
“Excuse us,” said one of the three to Mr. Spidey, “could you come over here for a minute? It’s important.”
Spidey wanted to know just what was important enough to call a halt to the game that was underway.
Next thing I knew, that little trio began mediating right then and there – without a word from me.
“Well, Kenny’s upset about being called Zippy,” they informed the webbed wonder.
There followed a short discussion which revealed that nicknames were being assigned for the game, and were meant in good fun. Peter Parker tossed out a few alternates, and Kenny happily chose one. Within moments, the group ran off. Kenny lingered behind for just a moment, giving me a chance to check in.
“So ‘Zippy’ wasn’t working for you, huh?” I asked Kenny. “Are you good with the new nickname?”
“Yup!” Kenny replied, and zipped off to find his playmates.
No name calling. No fighting. No choosing up sides.
Just a bunch of friends with the skills to help themselves in a way that would put many of us adults to shame.
Now that’s what I call socialization.