Anybody who has met R in real life has a hard time believing that she’s afraid to talk to people. I don’t mean “people” as in “friends, family, and neighbours she’s known her whole life,” more like strangers in transactional situations—at a snack bar, in stores, at the bank. Sometimes we’ll be someplace and she’ll have a question and I’ll say, “Go ask that person with the name tag,” and she’ll shake her head violently, grasp my hand, and beg me to come with her.
This evening we volunteered at the orchard, running the pickup table for a fundraiser. I would greet people, ask their name, and check them off while R and E found the corresponding bag of apples; then I’d prompt the girls to give the person an information sheet while I explained a bit more about it.
It took six or seven pickups for R to warm up to the task; gradually she started explaining the info sheet before I could do it. Then she began to greet our customers. By the time our shift was over, she was running the whole pickup table and making conversation with everyone.
She refused to leave her post, even after the next shift had arrived and it was time for us to go home for dinner. I agreed that R could stay at the park with the other volunteers; E and I walked home for dinner.
We returned just as the volunteers were packing up. Apparently R handled the whole thing herself; the other volunteers (both of them adults) were impressed at how competent and confident she was, and sat back to let her run the show. As I approached the table I could hear R chattering away to someone about the problems with how Percy Jackson had been translated from book to screen.
All I could think—and what Mr. December commented on—was that volunteering has been an incredible opportunity for R to expand her social skills from dealing with her peers to interacting with people of various ages. When people tell me that my homeschooled kids need school because they need socialization, this is the counter-example I’ll be sharing with them.