Why Joining a Homeschool Group Is the Best Thing Ever
When I first started homeschooling 4 years ago, I made so many mistakes. Well, they didn’t seem like mistakes at the time but looking back now, I can see so many things I should have done differently.
I will probably write posts about each one of those mistakes eventually, but today, I want to talk about the mistake of thinking you have to do this homeschool thing all by yourself.
It’s easy to fall into this trap, right? After all, you chose to homeschool to get away from doing things as a group, didn’t you?
Well, of course you did.
You wanted to separate your kids from the forced socialization that comes with public school education. Or perhaps you wanted to get away from a bullying situation. Or perhaps you wanted to get your child out from under the one-size-fits-all mainstream learning approach. There are so many reasons to homeschool.
But homeschooling isn’t always the popular choice.
It isn’t always the most understood choice. And even those closest to you might not get why you’ve gone off the beaten path.
You’ve probably already had to field lots of the most common objections about socialization, curriculum, schedules, grade-level, and more.
But what I’m here to tell you is that just because you’ve chosen the road less traveled, doesn’t mean you have to travel it alone.
And asking for, or accepting help, doesn’t mean that you are somehow less than. Or that you have somehow let your kids (or ideals or philosophies) down.
I honestly used to think that. After all, I chose to homeschool because I wanted to be in charge of my child’s education.
I wanted to create an optimal learning environment, completely customized to their learning style to help them get the most out of life.
But one day, I finally realized that there is a whole community of other families doing exactly what I’m doing. And we could all work together to share ideas, swap stories, and benefit from each other’s experiences (both good and bad). All the while creating opportunities to enrich our children’s learning and foster new relationships.
And being part of a community like that doesn’t take anything away from our homeschool and/or educational philosophies. In fact, the right group only adds to it!
So last year, I took the leap. I decided that I wanted to find a group in my area that hosted educational events (anything from field trips to museums to parent-led classes.) I was finally ready to reach out and make new friends.
I wanted to stop homeschooling in a vacuum.
And, honestly, it was the best decision I ever made.
Not only have I made some wonderful friendships, but Ace has too! (Dash is still a bit young…but there are plenty of potential friends for him among the families.)
We have gone on so many field trips, attended so many classes, and experienced so many wonderful things.
I can’t imagine our homeschool without our homeschool group.
So if you’re on the fence about whether or not joining a homeschool group is for you, I want to encourage you to take the plunge.
Tips for Joining a Homeschool Group
1. First, know what kind of group/co-op you’re looking for.
There are so many different types of groups out there. Of course there are pros and cons to each type of group but it all really depends on what is best for you and your homeschool. You could join:
- Casual play-date/social groups
- Field-trip based groups with more educational-focused opportunities
- Highly structured class-based groups
- Drop-off groups
- And more
These groups can be completely free, charge fees per event, and/or have membership dues.
Knowing what you want is key to having a successful experience. After all, joining a more educationally-focused group when you’re looking for a playdate/social group won’t be a good fit for anyone.
2. Once you know what you want (even if it’s just a rough idea), start looking up groups in your area.
If you follow a specific homeschool style (e.g., Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Unschooling, Classical, etc.), be sure you include that in your search.
Check on Facebook.
Do a Google search.
Ask your librarian.
Check with your church (or other churches in your area.)
I even heard about a homeschool group through a local baby supply store. Start asking around and you will be surprised what you can learn.
3. Don’t expect to find immediate success with the first group you join.
You will probably have to look into more than one group before you find the one that’s right for you.
I joined a bunch of general homeschool groups/forums in my area before I found what was right for us. I even had to attend a few events before I could decide.
Keep in mind that there’s more to this than just having homeschooling in common. You need to feel as though you connect with the other parents and that your child connects with the other kids. I have had to walk away from groups that had wonderful events and very nice people because the connection just wasn’t there.
4. Once you find a group to join, make sure you’re clear about the group’s rules and expectations.
Some groups are very casual and don’t have many guidelines. Other groups have more structure to help ensure a better experience for all involved. Knowing these details might be enough for you to decide whether the group is worth pursuing.
As a word of caution, make sure you understand the financial commitment of whatever group you’re getting involved in and that you’re comfortable with it. Beware of any group that requires you to pay money before giving you information about the group or what your money is being used for.
5. Ask if the group hosts a new member orientation or meet and greet.
Let’s face it. More often than not, it’s just plain awkward meeting new people or being the “newbie” in a group. A good ol’ fashioned meet and greet might be just what you need to break the ice. It can also be a great way to get to know the group and how they do things.
6. Jump in!
You’ll never really know if something is going to work until you give it a try. Be upfront with the group administrators if you’re just trying the group out to see if it’s a good fit.
And if you find that it’s not, most will (and should) be understanding. Life is too short to waste your time on something that ultimately isn’t going to work for you.
Be honest with yourself and those in the group! If it’s not working, say so (politely, of course) and work with the leaders if you need to decrease your commitment or leave entirely.
7. Finally, if you can’t find a group in your area that does what you want to do, start your own!
There are probably more people than you think who have the same interest as you.
Being a part of our homeschool group has been an incredible experience. We have learned so much, not only from the events, but also from the other members. And having a supportive place filled with others who are on this homeschool journey too is invaluable.
Are you a part of a group or thinking of joining one? What do you like best about it? If you haven’t joined a group yet, what is holding you back? Let’s talk about it in the comments!