When the idea first comes to a homeschooler that a support group might be really helpful, sometimes the person does not stop to think that not every support group may have exactly the focus that the homeschooler has in mind. The truth is, there are a number of different kinds of homeschool support groups, so the choice of which one to join can be really important. This article offers some things to think about as you choose a homeschool support group that will work for you.
Define Your Terms
Your best hope for finding exactly what you need when choosing a homeschool support group is being clear in your own mind about what you’re looking for. Here are some possibilities:
- help in providing good instruction in a particular subject area
- support in working for change in homeschooling laws in your community
- an opportunity to share about general issues involved in homeschooling
- support for homeschooling multiple children
- support for homeschooling in a particular way (for example, Christian, Bible-based, secular, Charlotte Mason, Trivuum, Great Books, Montessori, Waldorf, unschooling, etc.)
- someone to participate in homeschooling activities (such as sports, socializing, field trips, etc.) along with your family
- all of the above
Reading this list, you can probably imagine that a homeschool support group set up to fulfill one of these might not do much or anything towards fulfilling needs in other areas. An unschooler may feel him or herself to be worlds away from a Great Books adherent, and vice versa. The person who is intent on changing the world may not have patience for daily, mundane issues that, small as they may be comparatively, are important to the family involved. Hence the importance of clarifying your aims.
Location, Location, Location
Another element of homeschool support groups that it’s good to consider in making your choice is where they meet. Some possibilities are:
- in one member’s home
- in all members’ homes by rotation
- in a neutral community spot, like a recreation center
- in a location connected to an affiliation, like a church meeting room
The questions of what kind of meeting place you prefer and which you can easily get to, given your schedule, number of children, and transportation are important to consider, as well as whether you can, or want to, host.
For some people, a buddy system, just your family and one other family, is all you need to add to your homeschooling world to make it feel complete. Others may wish for the input of more voices. And of course, if you’re trying to lobby for changes in legislation, you’re likely to feel that more is better. Of course, a growing group can influence how comfortably meeting in individual’s living rooms or kitchen tables will be, and can growth in numbers can radically change the nature of a group by forcing it from homes into an impersonal meeting space. More elements to consider as you choose.
Another area in which the goose’s and the gander’s sauce has to match, so to speak, is the frequency of meetings. This is, of course, tied to size, location, and purpose. Cost comes into play as well, if you’re providing snacks or a meal for the group (and some people think that eating together is one of the most fundamental bonding experiences), as frequent meetings could strain a tight budget. Frequency can also raise the cost of transportation, take time away from other school activities, and make meetings a drain rather than a welcome relief.
You may also want to consider what part of the lifecycle of a homeschool support group you want to enter into. Some people are gungho to be founders and to help set the terms, bylaws (if there are any), and direction. Other people may be seeking an established group that can help a newcomer without making too many initial demands.
Taking the time to think through these considerations is likely to help you make a more satisfactory decision as you choose your homeschool support group.