I first heard about homeschooling from parenting coach (and unschooler) Scott Noelle, who at the time lived Seattle. I loved how technology enabled me, in England, to get coaching from someone on the other side of the US – but when I thought about taking my children out of school, five thousand miles seemed a long way from the nearest homeschoolers I knew!
Our local homeschool group – Community on our doorstep
In search of kindred spirits closer to home, I turned to technology again. I was excited when Google told me there was a homeschool group just fifteen minutes from our house, and within weeks I was enjoying tea and cake with some of the kindest, most welcoming ladies I had ever met, while my five-year-old happily played with their children.
Here were real life families thriving without school (their children looked just like normal children – shock!) – I’d had no idea these people were right on our doorstep!
In those first few months after we took the leap, homeschool group was the highlight of my week. I would look forward to it for days, and by the time I got there I was in a state of such high excitement the other ladies must’ve thought I was completely bonkers. I wanted to hear everything about these women’s experiences of homeschooling, and I also had an urgent need to talk, to these wonderful people who understood what was going on with us. I had a million questions, which my dear new friends answered patiently, and they lovingly supported me through some difficult times while my husband and extended family questioned my desire to homeschool.
When my extroverted six-year-old daughter met our new homeschooling friends in the summer school holidays, she decided she wanted to leave school too. “I used to think it was just J(5) sitting at home all day. Now I can see you have fun!” she said.
That was three years ago, and although because of my children’s particular needs we no longer attend that first homeschool group, we count several of the people we met there as very good friends. We would have missed out on so much if we had never been a part of it.
Something for everyone
If your local homeschool group isn’t a good match – or even if it is – I recommend trying several different groups. In the three years we’ve been homeschooling, we’ve been to four different homeschooling groups.
We attended our most local group for the first year we homeschooled. During that time we also went to another group for two terms. It was more structured than our main group, and my daughter enjoyed the variety of activities offered – they did fencing and drama, for example. A third group we enjoyed very much – it began with a wonderful art class and the rest of the time the children played with sticks in a tall hedge (my two were in heaven!) – but we decided it was too far away. With the fourth group we hit the jackpot. It’s also further afield, but it’s a perfect match for my intense, freedom-loving children – we’ve been there almost every term-time Tuesday for the last two years.
The value of network
We made real friends at our first (most local) homeschooling group. Friends we’ve been on holiday with, friends we go for long walks in the woods with, friends who’ve joined me in a (parents only) Homeschool Inspiration Group. And that first group also gave us access to a rich local network who generously invite us to everything they organise.
Thanks to our participation in that group we’ve enjoyed field trips to galleries, botanical gardens and a space centre, we’ve taken part in homeschool sports and swimming sessions, and we often meet up for ice skating. We’ve also done French lessons and trampolining classes together – and that’s all since we stopped going to the regular group meetings!
Looking to the future
I think I will continue to appreciate our local homeschool network as my children get older. Although at the moment all our academic work is done within the family, in future I anticipate setting up learning workshops to meet my children’s maturing educational needs.
Friends will also become increasingly important as C(9) and J(8) grow older. Having a wide local network to draw on will, I hope, allow my children to find the friends with shared interests and values who will be an important part of their development into adults.
More on homeschool groups
For more info and other opinions about homeschool groups, head over to the other Homeschool Help blogs:
Homeschool Support at Every Bed of Roses – Where do you get your homeschool support?
Home Ed and Otherwise at The Tiger Chronicle – Our successes with different groups.
Unable to Commit at Barefoot Hippie Girl – A sad story of how the inability to commit sunk a home school group.
Local Homeschool Group at Highhill Homeschool – I will always be a member of a homeschool group.
It Takes a Community at Seven Little Australians – Erin has been involved in home education support groups for three decades. She shares an overview of that journey and the importance the groups have played for her family.
Homeschool Groups– This mom’s Lifeline! at One Magnificent Obsession – Why our homeschool group is pivotal to our homeschool experience!
Local Homeschool Support Group – A Breath of Fresh Air at Hammock Tracks – No blog, forum or online group recharges or equips me to be a better home educating mother, like my local support group.
14 thoughts on “Why I’m Glad I Joined Our Local Homeschool Group (Even Though We No Longer Go)”
Another really interesting and supportive piece here about the magic of homeschool groups. They can become such a lynchpin in the homeschool journey. As always these posts from Navigating By Joy remind me that I am in good company home schooling.They demonstrate the mature and generous approach many h/e parents have to sharing their journey and their tools. Wonderful!!
Thanks Loraine, you are so sweet! I didn’t talk much in this post about the amazing friends we’ve made at our current home ed group but you guys are a real find! 😉
It’s interesting that there are so many different groups to choose from. When we lived in Colorado there were several, but here in Germany there are only two. I had many questions like you when I first began homeschooling. I think that’s normal.:)
It’s wonderful how this is growing, isn’t it? Thanks for the reassurance it wasn’t just me with the crazy questions when we started 😀
Great post! Our experiences are similar! A high school friend of mine homeschooled in another state and told me to check yahoo groups 6 years ago for a homeschool group. I did and meeting those kids, seeing they were normal was what convinced us we could do this! We, too, have tried several and finally come around to one that we really feel fits us well. We do co-op and meet for playdates with that group.
Thanks Theresa! Your group sounds brilliant. I’m just so pleased to have found a group with a big enough space to accommodate my (wonderfully) crazy kids – there really is a group for everyone! It has alpacas too 🙂
Your homeschool group experiences sound very positive! I think it’s very important to have a strong support network, especially at the beginning when the whole idea of homeschooling is so new to everyone around you. It’s also great to read about the different ways that your children have benefited from the different exposures. It’s all good. 🙂
It IS all good 🙂 I loved writing this post, it really got me present to the kindness of those people we met at the start of our journey. And also of my appreciation of those who host our current, free-range group!
Always love your insight, Lucinda. I am also thankful for the couple different homeschool groups we are associated with, though like you, we don’t really go to their formal weekly gatherings~it’s so nice to be “in the loop” for all that they offer. I am always amazed at the wealth of resources that can be found once you begin networking with other MOMS.
Hi Joanna and thank you! It sounds like you have some lovely homeschool groups around too. One thing I love about ours – and I imagine this is true about most homeschoolers generally – is how inclusive and welcoming people are. Everyone goes out of their way to help eachother. (This contrasts with my experience when my children were at school, when I found the people much more cliquey.)
We’re not really in a homeschool group, we get together with a friend every Friday for history lessons, but aside from that, not really.
That sounds nice. I’d quite like to have five days to fit everything in instead of four!
We’ve been through a couple of homeschool groups and I think we’ve found our fit… this was a great post. Thank you! AND, thanks for linking with Collage Friday!
It’s nice to fit, isn’t it? 🙂 Thanks for hosting Collage Friday!