Thursday, October 8, 2009

Group Dynamics

First- the cake did not turn out so good.  I let it bake too long, so we have to wait.  The frosting was definitely a dud.  And still, everyone ate the cake.

I keep pondering what it means to live with so many people.  As I drive in Vermont, I am still startled by the way other drivers look out for one another.  So many people swerve back and forth across the yellow line, the one that usually separates you from oncoming traffic, and other people just seem to expect it and stay out of each other's way.  Another example is this- when waiting to turn left from a side street or parking lot or at a busy intersection, someone WILL stop and flash their lights to let you turn in front of them.  I am not kidding- every single time.  My Texan self could not believe this the first time it happened and my sister laughed her head off when it happened with her in the car.

I wonder at this consideration.  I would submit that the fewer people you have to deal with, the easier it is to be nice, to make room for the frailty of others.  It's not that people in more crowded areas are less kind or considerate, it is perhaps that it's just more difficult.  If you stopped on Hulen to let someone turn left in front of you, there will suddenly be 15 cars pulling out in front of you and a line of traffic pissed off behind you.  On Route 14, the two cars behind you (or no cars behind you) can see what's happening; everyone knows it will only take a second; and it works.

I then reflect on my experience as a classroom teacher versus our home "classroom".  One year, I had 12 students, and I have to say, I think that was just about ideal.  There were enough children to get a group momentum, but few enough that everyone was heard on almost any topic.  The other two years, there were over twenty, and I just never felt that I was really meeting more than about a third of their needs at time.  Also, there were "difficult" behaviors that just were not a big deal in a group of 12, but were impossible in a class larger than 20.  I know because I had some of the "difficult" ones all three years with the easy year in the middle.

With homeschooling, I still am rarely meeting everyone's need in the same moment, but no one has to wait long.  Also, I have the mental and emotional space to really address the polite way to wait your turn.  I still have some "difficult" situations and behaviors, but there are so few of us, that we just work around it.  At the same time, there are so few, that I can continually turn my attention to teaching new behaviors.  And yet, there is no group momentum; if Phaedra decides she is NOT going to do something, there is no group to carry her along.  There are no handy playmates, either.  We have to work to have enough people.

There is some balance.  I feel healthiest when we have people in our lives, but I know I cannot be a good friend to very many.  I know I am happier when the people I hold dear have the time to talk and write and recreate with me, but I cannot give them the time they deserve when their are too many others' needs to consider.

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