The ABCs of Homeschooling - Letter C

   Today's topic for the ABCs of homeschooling concerns community.  Community equals support, ideas, mentoring, a sense of belonging, and pooled resources.
During your first few years of homeschooling, community is vital.  Though you may have family, friends, or neighbors who wholeheartedly believe in what you are doing, I would be very surprised if you don't have some naysayers, or, at the very least, skeptical spectators. 
  A homeschool support group will cheer you on in times of doubt, fear, and uncertainty.  When you discuss concerns about your child's progress or behavior, you will find you most definitely are not alone.  Someone may be able to share how she overcame the hurdle, or at the very least confess to the same problem.
  When you get together as a group, ideas are shared.  It may be about a field trip that could be taken.  It may be about a project.  It may be about a collective interest, such as choir, that can only be done as a group. Perhaps, someone will give you a creative idea for your portfolio. Another may suggest addressing a need in the community.
  One important area that can be addressed through a support group is mentoring. Surely, any meeting is going to have homeschool moms who have some experience under their belts.  Usually, you will recognize them by their more relaxed demeanor.  They've come to understand that homeschooling is a lifestyle.  Perhaps, they've already graduated some children and they can help you through the maze of high school at home, or at least point you to the right person or resource.  
  Belonging to a homeschool group is like getting together with other mothers of preschoolers if you have a preschooler, or other pregnant ladies, if you are pregnant.  You will "compare notes", laugh, complain a little, and hopefully, go home feeling more confident, relaxed, and "normal".  Your kids will also have the opportunity to play, learn, and interact with other homeschool kids, thus normalizing their experience, too. During the times between meetings, you will know just who to call when you have a question or dilemma.  You will probably find yourself gravitating towards one or more other women with whom you may end up forming a strong bond that may last the rest of your homeschool days and beyond.
   Lastly, pooled resources are an important benefit of finding a local group.  We actually bought some of the best books on homeschooling out there, and created a small lending library.  We also prepared an informational packet which included, among other things, an explanation of the homeschool law in Pennsylvania.
  Over 25 years ago, I began my homeschooling venture. At first, I did not know a single other homeschool family.  Shortly thereafter, though, I met my first homeschool mom. We hit it off instantly.  She had been involved with support groups in the past, and created one in our area.  She also took me to my first homeschool convention. 
  Within a few years, my friend moved.  I started a support group at that point. Later, I became the liason between the group and new/interested parties.  We had a co-op for a short while.  A Red Cross group was started. The kids helped at blood drives and we had an occasional visit by our local chairman who had some educational meetings for us.  We also made a trip to visit the Clara Barton National Historic Site in Maryland.  We had end of the year achievement fairs.  The kids showed art work, science experiments, or performed musically. We set things up so the kids could do the Presidential Physical Fitness challenge.  We had some really great learning times; too many to mention or remember, honestly.
  In time, the group changed.  Some started doing things online and no longer needed the things we offered.  Although my kids had been involved in organized sports, most had not. Some wanted to start doing more active things, like bowling.  My kids would have loved that, but we were already spending quite a bit on sports and certainly didn't need anything more in that department.   Also, the push for social activities came to the forefront.  We have a large family.  My kids had homeschool friends at church, as well.  Once again, we were veering from educational activities.  Eventually, I just left the group because it no longer met my needs. At first, I felt very much like an orphan.
   Soon, however, my kids played on a homeschool volleyball team.  Although one of the women of the group started this, it wasn't officially part of what the group offered.  In fact, only her family and our's participated, as I recall.  We picked up kids from another county so we would have enough players for a team.  There was a tournament with other teams from around the state in the spring and fall.
  The same woman also started a homeschool choir in which my kids participated.  In time, there was a yearly choir festival that required staying in other people's homes. Although my older kids saw this as an opportunity, my younger kids disliked it and never joined in on the choir festival.
   Other than being toted along as tiny ones to their older siblings homeschool meetings, my youngest three have been pretty much devoid of the same opportunities.  They don't feel they missed anything.  Somehow other things took its place - 4 H, youth group, and jobs.  Their  siblings were now marrying, moving away, and having kids.  Weddings, graduations, and baby showers seemingly took the place of our former way of life.  We began making trips to other states.  They helped sisters move.  Enjoyed being aunts. One son helped his older brother build his house and then joined his construction company after graduating.
  We outgrew the need for a support group.  No longer did I spend every spare moment reading about homeschooling.  We were no longer in the learning phase.  We had moved to the doing phase.  Our younger children grew up in the homeschool atmosphere their whole lives.  They knew what was expected of them. School and life became interchangeable. I can no longer imagine it any other way.
  Presently, I am part of a private Christian Homeschool Families facebook group.  Primarily, I joined with the idea of being a mentor to the inexperienced mothers. So, I guess you could say I am still in community.  Many of the other homeschool families with whom I have associated are finished.  It doesn't take as many years to raise a smaller family, obviously.  Homeschooling would have never been the rich experience that it has been had I not been a part of a homeschool support group.  I highly recommend them.


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