Build a Homeschool Tribe You Will Love {Part 2}

This is part two of a three-part series on building a homeschool tribe you will love. You can read part one here.

Once I was a member of a few local organizations for homeschoolers, I was ready to start narrowing down the mass of people to those who were searching for the same support and community that I was.

I don’t want this to sound elitist. There was no a situation where I would pick and chose who I was going to hang out with. Instead, if I can continue my wide-net fishing analogy,  now I was looking for people who wanted to take the bait and form a community.

Not every homeschooler out there is jumping at the chance to be part of a group. Some already have packed schedules, older kids, or more rigorous courses of study that keep them busy. Others are helping run the family business or caring for elderly parents.

And still others may already be happily involved with a support group and co-op. While friendly to everyone, they are not really looking to switch communities.

If an existing community is a good fit for you, then by all means go join it. If not, you may have to take matters into your own hands to form the community you are looking for. It really isn’t that hard.

Build a Homeschool Tribe You Will Love Part 2 | Everyday Snapshots

Start Planning Events and Field Trips

My first step was to ask to be an admin for our local Facebook homeschool group. The group was largely an online chat space at the time, but from conversations I knew the opportunity was ripe for gatherings and meet ups. Once an admin, I began planning field trips, setting them up as events, and inviting the entire group to participate. Almost immediately I began to get takers.

Here’s the key to using this method to find your homeschooling tribe: only set up trips to please yourself, ones that are perfect for your family. Remember, your goal is to build a like-minded community.

You can only do this by planning trips and events that are perfect for your schedule and the interests and ages of your kids. If mornings are better for you then schedule your activities for mornings.

Plan activities that are age-appropriate for your crew. I never had it happen, but you want the trip to be one you would enjoy even if no one else shows up. Don’t visit a stuffy museum (let’s face it, some are) if you would be happier at the fire station.

Here are some trip and activity ideas which have been very successful for us:

  • Berry picking
  • Art and story time at a local craft store
  • Fire station
  • Post office
  • Police station
  • Grocery store
  • Home improvement store (This as one of our best field trips ever. This national chain home improvement store had aprons, a building activity, a scavenger hunt, and a snack ready for our kids. They were just as excited to have us as we were to be there!)
  • Nature class at a local nature park
  • Telling Time party (We set up an event with five or six fun activities to help kids practice time-telling skills.)
  • Christmas party
  • Pool party (public pool)

 

Build a Homeschool Tribe You Will Love Part 2 | Everyday Snapshots

Policy

You will want to have a written policy in place to address issues before they might arise. You will need to gauge the homeschoolers in your area and try to anticipate problems, but the most-likely ones are failure to show and arriving late.

A couple of ways to deal with these issues is to always require payment for activities in advance and have a date after which refunds are not available.

Group members used to pay me via Paypal or by mailing a check to my home address. I would then write a check to our venue for the entire group. This typically kept no-shows to a minimum — I had their money!

To combat lateness, I would always publicize the meeting time for the event at least fifteen minutes before it actually began. I also made sure we started all events on time and did not wait for late families. If you start holding up events to wait for late-comers your start times inevitably get later and later — no one will think you are serious about the start time after all!

I have been blessed to never have problems with bad behavior from the kids (or parents) at any of my activities. It is entirely possible, though, that this could happen. If you have concerns, having behavior expectations in place beforehand and reserving the right to ask someone to leave the group (this should be in writing) are handy to maintain order.

Park Days

A special word about park days. In order for them to really work, sometimes it just takes time. There may be some weeks that you sit in the park by yourself for an hour or more before someone shows up, if anyone comes at all.

There might be grumbling, though, if you leave early and someone arrives after you have gone. I always set up my park days by stating that I would be in the park for a set amount of time only, which I publicized in the announcement. If the day was going well, we would often stay longer, but I made it clear that I might not be there past the set hour.

In the early days I also issued park day invitations by mouth to some of my closer friends. This made sure that I wasn’t sitting in the park alone, my kids pestering me because no friends were showing up to play. Park days eventually became one of our most popular activities.

With just a little bit of work on my part I had created two things — a bunch of fun trips and events for my family to participate in — and a core group of homeschoolers who kept coming back to all my planned events, trips, and park days. Our group was slowly starting to form.

Tomorrow we will take a look at how you can locate those other moms who are ready to provide each other deeper support in homeschooling. Read part three here.

Previous

Next

  • Heather says:

    What fabulous tips. As one who has travelled this road too, I can whole-heartedly agree with your advice. Where I did something similar, we usually had good results, Where I didn't set proper boundaries, I ended up feeling frustrated and it didn't work out.

    • edsnapshots says:

      I agree Heather. Keeping your own sanity through this process, and above all, making it work for you is the most important aspect to feeling successful and not frustrated.

  • Patty says:

    When I relocated to Texas, it was so hard finding a “playground” in our own backyard since the size of the Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex is third largest in the country? I believe. Having play dates, going to co-ops, meeting moms was very hard on the gas tank and the budget.

    The parish I joined had a homeschool group that went dormant years before since the veteran moms' had families grow up and out. When I was talking to another mom about needing an active Catholic social group closer in vicinity, she agreed. We decided to bring the old group back to life 🙂

    One very important step was to make a curtesy call to the moms/administrators of the other homeschool groups/ co-ops that had worked terribly hard starting and successfully running their current groups. I did not want to step on toes because I would not want that to happen to myself.

    The conversations were well received and completely appreciated. Once they were able to digest what our thoughts were, they understood how difficult it can be to have to drive such distances for anything that had to do with home school groups.

    With that, I sent out evites to the moms who lived in our surrounding suburbs, letting them know that the old group was starting up and outlined what our goals were. (More moms had email than other forms of social networking.) It was welcomed and there was never any feeling that one mom had to join and leave the other group or co op.

    We charge a yearly family rate of $10…non refundable and keep it in our petty cash fun. Two people track the money throughout the year. Also, when we have holiday parties, we too, charge a non refundable amount up front. The no shows are almost nil.

    We took a straw poll of what one night a month would be the best for our moms night outs and went with it, always being open to flexibility. (There is never one night that ALL can fit into their schedule. Impossible.) In the beginning of the school year, we have moms volunteer to sign up for a month that they will host. These can be in the homes or outside of the home, i.e., bowling, coffee and tea, ceramic painting, etc.

    We have an annual back-to-school meeting where all of the upcoming year's activities are planned out. It certainly takes almost everyone to volunteer to get it to work. These activities are feast day parties, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, May crownings, back-to-school mass, and even a graduation mass for 8th graders and 12th graders.

    One of the key things we found was getting our parish priests involved as much as possible. (Since this is a Catholic homeschool group.) Many priests had not “met” homeschoolers until we introduced ourselves and by living the example, they became great support systems to our group.

    We, too, try to work out many kinks beforehand. Some are unsuspecting until a situation arrises.

    As far as administrative roles in our group, I am the moderator. I have two moms who help with new families. (BTW, we send out a family application that requires three referrals due to one of those unseen curve balls that came our way once.) From the family forms, one mom does a family directory every quarter. (There are new families joining all the time, and some leave the group when they move out of the area or stop homeschooling.) There are two who wok on the petty cash. One collects money and then sends an informal copy of the registry with any receipts to the second person. (Just so two pairs of eyes are looking over it.) The homeschool group is now 6 years old and I have to say, took off flying almost immediately. It is now a well-oiled machine.

    We make it comfortable for anyone in the group to set up field trips throughout the year. I don't think we have had all 27 families meet at the same time, it is impossible with all the different schedules as you have mentioned above.

    I am so happy that you have the gumption to get out there and make it happen. Groups are made up of all kinds of personalities and they need ones like your own to kick it into gear. Wishing you all the blessings in this second semester and always.

    My recent post Daybook Post – Scoliosis – Jan 19, 2014

    • edsnapshots says:

      Patty – Thank you for the wealth of information. I love people coming to share how they did it. I know so many people are longing for community. I am hoping stories like ours will give them the nudge they need to make something happen!

  • >