The modern definition of a tribe is a group of like-minded people who are all working towards the same goal. This group provides support for one another, shares resources, and offers advice and feedback.
I am a member of a few different tribes. As a blogger, I have a blogging tribe. As a Catholic, I have a tribe of support online and here in town.
One of the things I have done over the past couple of years is deliberately and systematically build a local homeschooling tribe. At this point, I am not sure I could homeschool without this bunch. The amount of support we provide for each other is truly a gift — we even started our own co-op.
I know from conversations with friends that finding homeschoolers you can really click with is a common problem across the country. I hope to help with that in this three-part series on how to build a homeschool tribe you will love.
When my kids were six, four, and one, we moved to a new town. It was near our old town, and we were able to keep in touch with homeschooling friends. But the homeschooling group we had been a part of for the past two years had disbanded — largely due to families becoming busy with other activities and leadership fatigue.
I found myself in the position of not having a regular homeschool group right at the time we were beginning to formally homeschool. While my former group had always been supportive, I was also aware that my homeschooling methods and philosophies were different than the mainstream methods used in my area.
Many families in our area use school-in-a-box or school-at-home methods of homeschooling. I was beginning to go a totally new direction and was hungry for like-minded individuals who were interested in the same philosophy, willing to share ideas and resources, and who wanted to be part of a support community.
What I was looking for was my own homeschooling tribe, and at times I despaired that I was absolutely the only classical homeschooler in our area. Not sure I would find anyone with the same educational mindset, I simply began by looking for homeschooling families with children about the same age as my own.
Cast a Wide Net
The first step in finding a homeschooling tribe, is to begin by finding homeschool families in general. I have found that reaching out to a large number of homeschoolers is the best way to seek out others who are searching for community. For me, the easiest way to do this was through social media.
There are a number of social media outlets that make it easy to find other homeschoolers. Here are a few options:
The largest social media network in the world, most people are on Facebook and use it to make connections. Search for homeschooling groups for your geographical area (don’t forget area nicknames like “panhandle” or “tri-state area”) and request an invitation to join. From there you can begin engaging in conversation or participating in any events that are currently available.
I have had good success finding local homeschool groups operating on Yahoo Groups. You can search groups based on your geographical area, see if any are available, and ask to join.
There is a vibrant and active Yahoo group in the next town over from ours. They have mom’s nights, field trips, and even a monthly geography fair. All of the planning is done online via the group, and they are open and welcoming to new members at any time. It is one of the most impressive, organic (without set leadership) homeschooling groups I have ever seen.
Another site which caters to people looking to make connections is Meetup.com. There just might be a local-to-you group on this site as well. While our town did not have a Meetup specifically for homeschoolers, there was a large, active group for moms in general which did offer some homeschool activities. Once I found the group, it was easy to connect with the moms who homeschooled.
Other options for finding homeschoolers
Besides social media there are a number of other options for finding local homeschoolers.
I found my first group through a flyer at the local library. Look for one of those (or post one of your own!) In fact, the library is a great place for rubbing shoulders with other homeschoolers, so be sure to attend story time or hang out there during the school day.
Ask around at church. Usually the head of your religious education department knows families with children and who might be homeschooling.
Seek out classes specifically for homeschoolers. My kids take a homeschool karate class one day a week at 1:00PM. Places that offer classes in gymnastics, bowling, ice skating, or dance sometimes offer classes during the day for homeschool families. While the kids learn, you can sit and chat with other moms.
What do you do if you don’t find a group?
I am a believer that if you build it they will come. If there is not group for your area simply start your own online group. It is free and easy to do on Facebook. (I recommend Facebook, because it is the largest and has the widest reach.)
Homeschoolers are a chatty bunch who like to pool their resources. Before long you should see an influx of homeschoolers looking for local or general homeschooling information and community. Admin duties on such a group are small.
Once your group has grown to a reasonable size, you might consider adding additional admins to spread the work. I am an admin on our local group, and find I rarely have to do anything beyond approving new members for the group.
At this point your group can be completely online. Spend time chatting. Ask questions, share resources, and begin to get to know one another.
Remember at this point the idea is to simply find homeschoolers period. We are casting a wide net, looking for homeschoolers in general. Mostly because people are fun to be around, but also so we can start looking for those homeschoolers who are similar to ourselves in philosophy, methods and goals — our tribe.
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