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Why and How to Get Connected

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself…"-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In this day and age, homeschoolers represent a market. There are many businesses catering to homeschoolers' needs -- or perceived needs. When first starting out it can be especially tempting to sign up for a multitude of classes or experiences that are being sold to you, rather than putting your energy into a grassroots network such as a local homeschool support group. Before you know it, your days are filled with activity and you don't look back.

The intangibles you'd be missing out on -- real connection with other homeschoolers and personal empowerment -- might be some of the best kept secrets of homeschooling, as well as what would sustain you on this path in the end. It's worth putting some time and effort in, and yes, if shy getting your courage up, to figure out how to insinuate yourself into a group of homeschoolers, rather than falling for prepackaged deals that leave you with a busy day void of meaningful relationships and a depleted wallet.

Steps to take in building connection with other homeschoolers:

  • Acts create connection: give of yourself.
  • Make spending time with other adults a priority; schedule it in.
  • Be patient. Connections are built one relationship at a time.
How support groups work

Support groups range in their level of organization, from loose groups of people who get together from time to time, to highly organized groups with missions and boards. Some are inclusive and welcome everyone; others cater to a certain educational philosophy or religion. It is fine to try out a few and see where you feel comfortable, or to start your own.

Homeschooling support groups can act as frameworks for networking, communication and support. It is important to realize that subscribing to a newsletter or email list does not magically make you part of some deeper pre-existing community. Ready-made communities don't exist; they are an illusion. You must put time and effort in to forge friendships. You get from the experience what you put into it.

Group activities, such as field trips, get-togethers, or classes, often depend on the unique energies and interests individuals bring to the group. Events and activities can be planned by individuals, or in collaboration with others. It is empowering to realize that you, children included, can create the opportunities and experiences you want for yourselves.

When attending a meeting or event, be sure to introduce yourself as a homeschooler. A good way to meet people is to extend yourself: organize a field trip or other event, edit a newsletter, host a support meeting.

Examples of rituals and social events you can organize:

  • Not-Back-to-School Picnic
  • Valentine Exchange
  • Presentation Night
  • Camping trips
  • History and science fairs
  • Monthly support meetings
  • Weekly field games
  • Meeting at ponds, parks, playground hopping
  • Indoor gym play and skating
  • Potluck suppers
  • Book, game and puzzle swaps
  • Talent shows
  • Field trips
Swapping expertise

Another level of interaction is the swapping of expertise and interest between homeschooling parents and others' children. People have been known to organize homeschooler-led groups in literature, writing, including historical fiction and child-published newspapers, history, classic films, math, including logic and set theory, Math Counts, Destination Imagination, art, knitting/sewing clubs, pet clubs, singing, storytelling, theatre groups, and more. Some people charge a nominal fee for leading a class. Others feel that as they give, so will they receive, and gladly put their energies into the "pot." In addition to the obvious "educational" benefits of all these interactions, whole families get to know one another, lives intersect, and interdependence develops.

Recommended Reading

Creating Community Anywhere Creating Community Anywhere: Finding Support and Connection in a Fragmented World by Carolyn R. Shaffer & Kristin Anundsen
Dumbimg Us Down Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
Healing Wisdom of Africa The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community by Malidoma Patrice Somé
The Shelter of Each Other The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families by Mary Pipher