We have just wrapped up our first year as homeschoolers.Our daughter had been in daycare and preschool since she was 6 months old. When we relocated last Spring and we made the decision for me to stay home to homeschool Kyri and take care of our now year old son, I knew I wanted to get involved with other homeschoolers in the area and participate in homeschool groups. Because Kyri had always been in a classroom setting, I felt that it was important for her to have frequent interactions with other children. I also knew that, even though I consider myself a smart person and have taught college-age people, educating a young person and my own child at that, was going to be a new (and perhaps a little daunting) experience.
I immediate got involved in a wonderful homeschool group in the area, and from this early involvement I have become involved in both the small weekly Science and Social Studies co-op we participated in during the school year (and will continue in the fall), as well as the monthly Growing Up Wild co-op that we are involved in.
We are also involved in a second local homeschool group and have gotten to know several other homeschoolers in our area.
We participate frequently in both homeschool groups weekly park days. The socialization and friendships are important to Kyri as well as Mom.
Just this week I spent the day with several moms from one of the homeschool groups. One mom hosted a wonderful Curriculum Chat at her house and we had a chance to showcase curriculum choices we were using and liked, check out what others were using and that we might be curious about, and honestly just chat about being homeschoolers. The kids had a wonderful time playing together and the moms had a recharge – social time and brainstorming about what works for others and themselves in homeschooling. It was great!There was a range of experience – a couple moms were just starting this summer or about to start in the fall, a couple like myself who had just finished the first year, and one who had a couple years under her belt. We all came with different teaching styles and homeschool experiences and it was great to share what our experience has been. I left feeling more confident in my abilities and my role as a homeschooler. Sometimes it just takes sharing your story to feel like, Hey maybe I am getting the hang of this thing!
We choose to participate in inclusive homeschool groups, because even though we are Christians, we are secular homeschoolers and choose not to use religous-based curriculum. We participate with plenty of Christian homeschoolers – some who use religious-based curriculum and some who do not – but I prefer being in homeschool groups that do not require a statement of faith. I know that in some smaller communities this might not be available for secular homeschoolers or those looking for a more inclusive group, but in a larger city like San Antonio, we are lucky to have so many groups to choose to participate in.
I’ve been thinking about the importance of being involved in the local homeschooling community, either through a homeschool co-op or homeschool group that has regular social get-togethers. Here are some of my thoughts:
1. Kids and parents need to socialize. I know “socialization” leaves a bad taste in the mouth of homeschoolers because often people with poor opinions of homeschooling trying to pull the socialization card, but I do think its important for us as adults and for our kids to have peers. It doesn’t have to be a homeschool group – it can be our church community, neighbors, etc. – but we still are social beings and need to have friends to interact with. A homeschooling group is a great place to meet other parents, and kids in similar age groups as our kids.
2. I’m not an expert and neither are other homeschoolers. We know what works well for our family. What works (or doesn’t work) for us may not be the same for another family. But it sure helps to bounce ideas off of fellow homeschoolers, commiserate if we are going through a rough patch in our homeschool, and celebrate each others’ successes.
3. Being active in a local homeschool group is great for keeping up with learning opportunities in the community. Museum homeschool days, summer reading clubs, co-ops that are available, educator discounts, etc. It can be tough to keep up with everything that is going on in our community, so getting together regularly with fellow homeschoolers is an excellent way to be aware of what opportunities are available to us.
4. Sometimes its helpful to see other families who are homeschooling and how they have up days and down days just like us. We don’t even have to discuss it, just seeing a normal homeschooling family being, well…. normal, is encouraging enough. I’m not the only momma who needs to call a “Home Ec” day when things get a little behind at home. I’m not the only momma who spins her wheels for a week when the 5 year old sprouts a ‘tude. Seeing other families in the trenches reassures me that we are doing just fine, even on our worst days!
Are you active in a local homeschool group? What do you get out of it (or put in)?