How to deal with potentially explosive mixed age group situations? Month 4 of Learning at Home

Edward, aged 7, has been offered the chance by his (hopefully) new Arts mentor to join a group of 12-14 year olds at a ‘How to Make Movies’ workshop. It’s a great opportunity that I’m really grateful for. He’s extremely interested in making movies and I think he’ll really enjoy the exposure to older kids, although they are schooled kids, so I don’t know how open they will be to treating a 7 year old as an equal (homeschooled kids are, apparently, more used to mixed-age group learning/play situations and allegedly are kinder to younger kids). Edward may be mature for his age, but not that mature! For instance, Edward’s not so great at accepting other’s points of view and we find he tries to brag a lot in order to feel equal to the older kids on our compound which only annoys them, especially since the bragging is usually of extraordinary, imaginative proportions like, “I’m having a real suit of armour made, out of real metal, with a real sword” and he insists and insists and promises and promises that it’s the case even though it’s extremely unlikely it’s going to happen!

However, when the kids, rarely, come to me with the disagreement, I do say that although it’s extremely unlikely, if we managed to find a metalsmith who could make a suit of armour with very lightweight metal that didn’t cost us a fortune, then why not (but not the real sword!)? In other words, I try and pass a message to Edward and his friends that nothing is impossible until it’s been thoroughly researched to be so, although I add, things could always change, so if it’s important to you, just consider that it’s impossible only for the time being and keep looking out for new developments, information or people that could make it possible. I try and explain to the kids that it’s good not to limit your thinking, your options, by thinking things can’t be done but try and think how it might be done and to keep thinking how it might be done even when people keep saying it’s impossible. This is an important lesson that I think my home educated son lives by and I hope will continue to live by, but that the older, schooled kids are sadly quickly indoctrinated not to believe, especially in British schools, which is Edward’s ‘can do’ attitude annoys them so much. Anthony Hopkins, the actor, apparently said that he moved to the US because he was sick of the UK’s “can’t do attitude” versus America’s “can do attitude” which, as a Brit looking in from the outside, I really understand.

I am really trying to find exciting opportunities for Edward ‘out in the world’ and I’m hoping this movie making workshop will be one of them. But going out into the big wide world, as a 7 year old, even as a 7 year old being shepherded by his mother, means that I have to work out how to deal with him possibly being confronted by issues I’d rather he didn’t have to consider at this age. Actually, it’s not that I don’t mind teaching him about human reproduction and any questions that might entail. I could deal with him hearing older kids swearing. I would explain that’s not how we speak. But we’re living in a pretty conservative society here – not just because it’s an Islamic country but also because of the number of religious Christians we’re meeting through homeschooling.

Although the other day, the shoe was on the other foot! I let Edward watch a 5 minute clip from the movie ‘Mission Impossible 3’. It’s the part when Tom Cruise scales the outside of the Burj Khalifa, the (not for long) tallest building in the world. My husband and I had rented the movie for a much-needed brain break. The next day, because I know Edward is very interested in the Burj Khalifa, which he’s seen several times since it’s next door in Dubai, I let him watch this clip. I hadn’t registered that there’s a mild swear word in the clip and he latched on to it immediately; he must have heard it before, quite possibly from me I confess, and realized it was a bad word (perhaps because when I do say it, usually when I’m driving, I try and say it under my breath?) and he was fascinated by the fact it was in a movie! I explained it wasn’t a good word and that nobody should use it. And I didn’t hear him use it, perhaps because I didn’t enjoin just him not to use it but implied I shouldn’t either. But when we had a homeschooled friend over, who’s 9, he apparently, I think again to brag, told her he knew the word and she apparently said dismissively, “Oh, my  father says that all the time!” Hysterical! Probably in the car too, there are some crazy, crazy drivers here.

My husband and I are very ‘crunchy’ so we’re very relaxed about nudity and sexuality. I love that term ‘crunchy’, I’ve just discovered it and think it’s hysterical. It’s an American term coined because ‘hippy’ types tended to eat granola for breakfast because it’s healthy, natural and vegetarian/vegan and non-hippy types thought this very weird, tasteless food epitomized their overall weird views.  Here’s a bit of a definition. Although I consider myself pretty ‘crunchy’, I definitely aspire to being ‘crunchier’ but as one of the ‘crunchiest’ people on this island and not being in a community of extremely ‘crunchy’ people, I’m probably as ‘crunchy’ as I’m going to get right now! After reading the definition, I took a ‘crunchy test’ for mothers (if men and non-mothers are reading this, I’m sure there’s a crunchy quiz out there for you too)! Although it, annoyingly, didn’t evaluate my final score, since I scored 100% on most questions, I think I can now officially call myself crunchy 😉 Anyway, I digress! Sorry, but that really amused me.

So, it’s not so much that I’m worried for Edward if he’s exposed to ideas that might be deemed a bit old for him, whatever that exactly means. I am worried that he might learn about things that he’ll share with other kids and this might really upset their parents. We live in a very small community. I can’t afford for him to lose friends because my son has ‘taught’ their’s the ‘facts of life’! But then again, in school, there are kids with older siblings who provide at least as much risk of age-inappropriate influence.  So, I don’t know if I’m worrying needlessly. I’m think I’m just a bit sensitive that if Edward is the one to talk about things other parents would rather their kids didn’t know about, we’ll be doubly blamed/ostracized because we’re homeschoolers. The fact we aren’t part of the mainstream will be quickly blamed and the fact kids are influenced badly at school all the time won’t be considered, especially if that particular parent hasn’t experienced it yet.

The great thing is that if Edward comes across anything questionable, I’ll be there, which wouldn’t be the case in school! I can either jump in on the spot to stop it going further or jump in and subtly deflect attention away from the path of that conversation or I can jump in with additional/more accurate information or I can just listen and think how to discuss it back at home. Of course, I may not actually be party to the conversation. I may not be aware of it happening at the time, because I will aim to keep a bit in the background at these sorts of events, but I will have a much better idea about what sort of kids he spent time with and I will know for sure the content of the workshop because I was there too, so I have a good chance to be able to handle the matter at hand with better understanding of its context and accuracy than if it had happened at school.

I would love to hear how more experienced parents or homeschoolers have dealt with mixed-age situations. Edward is my oldest child, his friends have been mainly his age from school although he has some older friends on our compound, so I haven’t had much experience of this. I would love some advice about how to deal with this, especially if you too are surrounded by kids who aren’t from liberal households. So please do comment! I would much appreciate your wisdom on this matter!

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About homeschoolingpenny

Hi and welcome! My name is Penny and I used to live in Bahrain but In November 2012 moved to Dubai and now we live in Granada, Spain! If you want to contact me my email is I recommend you start my blog on 'Day 1' but please enjoy whatever you dip into. 23 February 2012 marked the first day of no more school FOREVER for my two kids. Edward, who is nearly 10 had attended a variety of schools since he was very little. Petra, who is now 6, has never gone to school. On this date we decided Edward was never going back to school and Petra never would go to school. We hope to successfully homeschool from this day forward, although we would consider an alternative school as an option- if there was some amazing Sudbury or other really alternative school. Actually, I prefer the term 'home learning' than 'homeschool' because I don't like to think of school coming into our home. In fact, I hope to go further and guide/learn alongside, rather than teach, my kids using the 'unschooling' philosophy to instill a lifelong love of learning in them. We lived in the Middle East and now Spain all of which are very challenging places to home educate. This is an exciting journey that I used to blog about regularly, at first it was on an almost daily basis. Please join me on our travels and I hope we might be able to help each other out along the way. I certainly hope I can be a source of support and comfort and, in time, knowledge to all potential/presently participating homeschoolers/home educators/unschoolers. Good luck to us all! If you want to read about why I started home educating, why I pulled my son out of a 'very good' private school mid-term, how I felt at the very start and how my philosophy has evolved, please start from 'Day 1' of the blog. Please do post comments at the end of any days that you read. Your opinion is valuable and it's great to start up debate amongst other people commenting too, however old the post. Thank you for visiting homeschoolingmiddleeast.
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2 Responses to How to deal with potentially explosive mixed age group situations? Month 4 of Learning at Home

  1. I don’t know about wisdom on the subject but I definitely relate as we tend to be the more liberal ones in a sea of Texas conservative. I remind my kids that Harry Potter references would confuse the other kids and some would even think you are evil because you read and enjoy the books. I try to be available to explain things that are considered more grown up. For instance, my sister and I took the kids to a pizza place near a university. The pizza joint was called the mellow mushroom and the references to hippy drug use was strong. My sister and I were chatting away and cannabis came into the conversation so when the kids jumped on that we had a chat about that right in the restaurant. Most of the conservative types I know wouldn’t even allow their kids in there even though nothing bad is actually going on. I think the best wisdom I have is to be honest but make sure he understands that not all parents are ok with that much honesty and that some subjects are not appropriate. Then when he ignores you and tells all about human reproduction to a group of 7 year olds you can laugh nervously (hysterically?) and bit your lip like I do.

  2. Oh, gosh. Yes, Texas. I should count myself lucky! I don’t need to worry about Harry Potter here at least – they are so into mainstream culture and the movies made Harry Potter so mainstream which at least helped us in that respect (we love Harry Potter!) Hysterical about the restaurant. Yes, we wouldn’t have an issue at all with that but yes, others sure would. We’ve regularly had the ‘other kids’ parents have different values from us’ conversation but that’s my point about immaturity with him, in this case – he doesn’t really get that it’s not OK to tell everyone what he thinks, has learned, finds interesting. It’s a lovely open confidence in himself and the world and I’d love him to stay that way, but he will need to temper it or there will be repercussions. We’re spending 3 weeks in the Netherlands, a lot in Amsterdam, so some interesting things might come up then, perhaps I can blame it all on the Dutch 😉 whilst secretly being pleased it’s come up and been discussed openly in a relaxed, holiday situation.

What do you think? Please do let me know. I would love to hear your opinion!

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