A's dissatisfaction with the amount of time spent with friends over the summer came to a head yesterday, when she told me "I've only got about 10 real friends, including my cousins." I said I thought that was pretty good - and more than I had, but she wasn't happy. This threw me into a bit of a panicky/self-doubting/crap parent quandary.
I know that the school playground environment is the very thing that pushes many kids to want to get out and HE, and it wasn't all plain sailing for A all of the time, but it is the one thing she misses about school - social time.
I'm trying to tread carefully here, as I know the 'social isolation' issue is often used as a criticism of HE. I don't think A is socially isolated, she has friends, but she doesn't see them as often as she would like.
Whenever this issue is raised there always seems to be HEors who say things like: "oh, my kids have loads of friends, they don't have time to fit them all in, the house is always full of kids", which somehow makes me feel a bit inadequate as thats not our experience at all.
Our local HE network, lovely as it is, is very widespread and meetings are sporadic, so although we have attended quite a few events and A has got on well with some of the kids, no strong friendships have been built up.
I suppose what worries me most is that its my fault, and somehow I'm limiting her chances. I have specific problems with social stuff, and don't function well in group situations. I have a handful of close friends, but am quite happy spending time by myself, in fact I find I need regular time alone to keep my head together.
A's Dad was the opposite, he couldn't bear to be alone, and while A isn't that extreme I think she's more like him than me when it comes to sociability.
I have made a real effort to take A to different things, like the HE group, astronomy class, nature workshops - as I know this is really important for her. And while I've struggled at times, its probably been good for me too, as I've pushed myself to go to things that I've ended up enjoying. But I cant help feeling that if I was more outgoing it would give A more social opportunities.
We discussed going to school yesterday. Educationally I hate the idea of this - I know without a doubt that HE is the best for A. At the moment she doesn't want to try the local school, but I'm aware that if she continues to feel lonely she may choose to go to school in order to spend more time with friends.
A is joining a new local drama group next week, and I'm still trying to get hold of the local Guides leader to find out about A joining Guides. This is my main hope at the moment - that A will make friends with some local kids and so will get to socialise a bit more after school and at weekends. If this doesn't work out I'm not sure what to try next.
I'd really appreciate some comments here if other people are willing to share experiences on this issue.