Why We Need Homeschool Support Groups

Fourteen years ago, we joined our first homeschool support group. In those intervening years, I’ve seen many groups come and go. I’ve seen a few moms go a bit crazy and try to wreck groups; sometimes they are successful, while other times they aren’t completely successful but their drama still chases a number of families away. I’ve heard a number of moms say they’d rather avoid homeschool support groups because of such drama. And I’ve seen a lot of newer homeschool moms who feel they don’t need a homeschool support group because

they can find so many businesses offering classes that they don’t need a group for educational opportunities. Over the years, I’ve belonged to a few homeschool support groups and I still do, and though I’ve put up with occasional flares of drama through them, I’m not only glad I belong but feel sorry for those who don’t belong.


Of course, homeschool support groups aren’t required. Not in Florida anyway. It’s quite possible to homeschool successfully without them. But they can make homeschooling so much richer. And there is so much more to them than homeschool classes–especially if you commit to one group. (It’s possible to belong to multiple groups but having one as the main focus makes the experience more, I think.)
While there are dance studios that offer dance classes, businesses that specialize in offering P.E. classes to homeschoolers, museums that offer classes in science or other subjects, etc., those classes can’t offer all that a homeschool support group can. The main differences? Community, history, and support.

Homeschool groups often offer classes or clubs. Many are led by volunteers who’ll charge little or even nothing for their services because they want opportunities for their children, too. They want to share what they know and their services are invaluable to those on tight budgets or with lots of kids and they aren’t trying to make a living from the classes they offer. But more than the inexpensive classes are the fact that the group offers a variety of options rather than just dance classes (or some other single type of classes) and kids will take classes with kids in the group that they’ll likely see in other activities that the group offers. They’ll find them hanging out on park days or attending field trips together or showing up to the Talent Show or Field Day or other activities. Because they see these kids in various settings and see some of them year after year in activities, they build a community with friends in a way that classes at a business can’t duplicate.

That feeling of community is there for the adults, too. As they encounter some of the same parents over and over again in various activities or events hosted by the homeschool support group, they begin to make friends. They grow to know each other and share and get help in a way that isn’t likely with someone met only in one class. the parents become friends and may socialize and such in a way that wouldn’t be possible if they’d just met while dropping their kids off at a class. This is invaluable especially for homeschooling parents who tend to spend so much time with their kids that they crave time with other adults. I especially appreciated this when my husband was in an accident and we weren’t sure if he’d ever walk again; other parents in our homeschool support group watched my kids and took them to events while I was at the hospital with my husband and some sat with me, waiting, as he was in surgery. They brought food (and when to a lot of trouble to meet our complicated dietary restrictions) and sent cards and made calls to see how we were doing in a way that people I’d only met in a class would never have done. For those who have a well-developed community elsewhere, it’s still good to have a community where educational struggles and decisions and methods can be discussed with others who are likely to understand and not criticize your educational choices.
Homeschool support groups–the good ones anyway–have members and leaders who are experienced and who have older kids. They can share tips learned over the years. They can share about local homeschooling law (and why it’s better, for instance, to avoid the use of district forms, or a variety of ways to meet the local requirements for documentation, or how likely the district is to do an audit of records, etc.). They can relate homeschooling history and how it affects what’s going on today (and thus stop some new homeschooling parent who thinks pushing for a change in the law would be good and doesn’t know that she’d be undoing what local homeschoolers worked years to get). They can share options for methods and materials to parents struggling with homeschooling. They can share about stages kids go through and when waiting might be all that’s needed and when to get help. They are usually passionate about homeschooling and love to help those who are just beginning and/or want help.

Good homeschool support groups also offer support in a variety of ways. They may publish facts and tips, share ideas, show off favorite curricula or activities or local places. They may join forces and work to create events that several want–whether a soccer team, a cheerleading team, a Talent Show, a prom, etc. Sometimes the support is incredibly hands-on as one family watches another’s child when a mom has a doctor’s appointment or when one family has activities for two different children in two different places at the same time. Or when one needs a babysitter for a young child and another has a teenager who would love to earn a bit of cash for babysitting. Or when one has curriculum that’s no longer needed and passes it on to a needy family. Or when someone finds that they can tour a venue at a much cheaper price if a group comes along. They may encourage the mom who feels she’s not doing the job well enough or is struggling with a sick child.

The more you get involved in a homeschool support group (attending more activities, volunteering to help at times, even organizing some activities), the more benefits you are likely to reap from belonging to a group. If you can’t do a lot because of transportation issues or babies or family work schedules or whatever, do as much as you can, participate as much as you can, and it will pay off.

When I first joined PBC Homeschoolers fourteen years ago, my kids were so young and I spent so much time chasing after them at park meetings and didn’t have the money to participate in many of the activities, but I slowly got to know people and volunteered where I could. The list of fabulous experiences my children have gotten from our homeschool group is too long to list, but I’ll throw out a few. They’ve learned soccer, tennis, golf, archery, swimming, kickball, martial arts, and more. They’ve taken classes with other students in chemistry, biology, physics, and more. They’ve been in Debate Club, Knitting Club, Sewing, 4-H, Art Club, Drama Club, and more. They’ve been in theatre-quality plays, mock trials, a prom, field days, science fairs, geography fairs, craft fairs, and more. They’ve made yearbooks, socks, bags, rockets, tie-dyed t-shirts, cardboard boats to race, and more. They’ve gone to an Indian Reservation, lots of nature centers, trampoline parks, Lego Land, camping, escape rooms, beaches, re-created ships, community service events, parades, and more.

Sure, we could have done a lot of those things alone. Or with random strangers. But we made friends along the way. Many friends that we still have years later. And I’m so glad we found a group to join that was a good fit. (And the parts that didn’t fit, we stuck with and were sometimes successful in changing them to make them fit.)

Cheryl Trzasko
Chair of PBC Homeschoolers, Inc.–a homeschool support group that will soon celebrate its 25th anniversary

chavivah@yahoo.com
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