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Tween Freedom and Friendship (HSC conference 2019)

This year my family attended the HSC Conference for the first time. The best part of the conference for my son was the freedom. As a tween, my son has expressed boredom with the play-dates and park days that he loved during the last few years. So while Dad was busy with sister in the Epic Play Room and I was busy working in the Craft Zone or attending talks, our boy was free to explore with his friends. There was so much for him to enjoy and create while we were there. And the other moms and I were able to create a safe and open environment for our boys to explore.

One of the biggest challenges I have encountered this last year is understanding how to create the space for my son during our daily events that allow him and his friends to enjoy their time without his sister or myself and other parents being too involved in guiding his day. The conference offered plenty of space for his group of friends to do just this. The other parents and I were able to create a group chat on our phones that allowed us to communicate and track down our kids within minutes no matter where we were. His friends with cell phones also helped contact us instantly with information. With all of this in place I realized that the one thing my son needed most in the upcoming year was space. The space to wander, explore and to choose his own schedule. And more than anything, for me to stop demanding as much organization from him with his day because the need to be able to be flexible is a large part of making and staying with his friends. The biggest take home idea from this experience is that from now on I will have to set up more general meeting points and wider time frames that allow him to navigate “tweendom” with his peers in our daily events.

When I first looked at the conference schedule, I was excited to see all the events available for him so I could help him make a plan to attend everything of interest. This would allow us to meet up and organize our schedules so nicely! I was so wrong about that. Instead, my list of things he could attend became merely suggestions. To my surprise, he ended up attending and being in places I would have never thought he would enter, but because his friends wanted to check them out he agreed to try new things. Another pleasant surprise came when I found him WITH his sister at the Tween Pajama Party. When I first mentioned that event to him, he had exclaimed with a groan and utter disdain: “NO. Mom, SERIOUSLY? Why would I go hang out with a bunch of people I don’t know in my pajamas?” But Brandi Szabo had set up such a PERFECT and irresistible room filled with forts, jumping and climbing that we had a hard time getting our kids to leave when it ended.

Another thing that I had wondered about was whether or not he would be able to fluidly navigate through the teen and child spaces. I have found that in general public spaces, the teens are very clearly separated from the littles and this makes it challenging for tweens to decide if they want to play up or down. But everything at the conference was so fluid and welcoming that this wasn’t an issue at all for us. Shout out to all the wonderful speakers and event volunteers who made this possible. This was the first homeschool event that my son has thoroughly enjoyed in a while. He made new friends, tried new things and best of all confirmed that our family must come back next year!

-Laurie Gracia-Alikhan Editor The Homeschooler Post

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