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The philosophy of ability

Today being Friday we spent the afternoon with our new homeschooling group. It was the first meeting of the year that was held indoors in a rented space with a youth room and gym, and the kids mixed over air hockey, foosball, blocks, and playing tag. At one time I looked out the second story window and saw kids in the trees.

My son spent most of the time exploring the game tables and watching the other kids play. He is happy being a watcher and playing in a game world made up in his own mind. He is imaginative and self-sufficient and happy, but I sat at tables with the other mothers and fretted. Should I go over and play with him? Should I help him find something to do or some way to fit in? Is this something I need to worry about???

In the car ride on the way home I asked him if he'd had a good time and he answered in the affirmative. I asked him if he had just wanted to play alone or had he not found anything to do with the other kids? He hemmed and hawed a bit about that one but I think the answer was that he'd tried to play and hadn't been welcomed, but that he wasn't unhappy playing by himself. And this is what it had looked like to me at the time, too, so I had reassured myself that the point of the meetings was for him to mix with other children and to explore and discover new things, which he certainly couldn't do with me hanging over him.

My inner jury is still out, but I think mine was the wrong answer today and if I had it to do over again (which presumably I may at subsequent Friday gatherings), I would join him in exploring the games or playing in the imaginary world of his choice. What, after all, is the downside? That he'll never learn to get along? That he'll never learn to play by himself? Clearly he's already very capable of both of those things. He has learned them the same way that he has learned reading, writing, spelling, math, piano, science, everything else worth knowing—simply by living, by trying, by watching our examples. When he is picked on he moves on, when he is left out he watches in interest and learns, when he is included he participates with consideration and enthusiasm.

Kids are confident, curious, and resilient all on their own, each in their own way. Because Calvin is confident in his own abilities he doesn't question them when others do, nor does he question his value even when others don't seem to see it. Oh what I couldn't have done with that kind of self-assurance back in school. So if he is by himself again next week I think I see myself trying out foosball and maybe I'll learn some of that self-assurance from his example.

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