After about seven months of planning homeschool activities in my area, I noticed that a core group of people were usually the ones attending my events. We always had a few extra people, but many of the same ones kept coming back for more. Our kids were similar in ages and liked playing together. We had developed a camaraderie and enjoyed each other’s company.
I could have stopped my tribe-building right there and been very happy with the results. Some of the other moms were also starting to plan some trips and events, so I was not having to do all of them. I wanted more though.
Narrowing the Focus
I wanted, no needed, support in my chosen method of homeschooling. Homeschoolers are great people, but I wanted brains to pick, people to share resources with, someone to bounce ideas off of.
Through conversations over sack lunches and the park bench, I was beginning to realize there were people in my area who were classically homeschooling or who were interested in it. This is when I decided to take things one step farther. I started a book club for classically homeschooling moms.
This is where I note that while my passion and method of choice is classical education the same approach can work for any homeschooling method — just change the name of your book club.
If your choice is Charlotte Mason, unschooling, or unit studies there are more than enough books to keep your club busy about any of those topics. Or instead call yourself a support group and get together to eat chocolate and dish about your problems.
I think the books do give us focus, though. In fact, the book club gives us quite a bit of focus. We started by reading The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education, a specifically classical homeschooling manual. I was going for the die-hards here. I set up a separate, private Facebook group for our correspondence and issued an invitation on the our regular homeschooling board.
Seven moms attended the first meeting — and every one of them had read the book! We had a fascinating conversation, and I went home knowing that I had found my tribe. Many books (and audio lectures), many meetings, many restaurants later we are still going strong. We bounce ideas off of each other, come to each other for support, share resources, and discuss philosophies.
Running a successful group
A few times each year we advertise on the regular homeschooling group to see if anyone is interested in joining us. We want to be sure to catch any newbies to the area or see if someone else has finally gotten curious enough to check us out. We usually have a few takers at that time, who I add to our private group.
I do keep the private group pretty tight. Members who join who are not known to me are removed from the group if they do not attend a meeting. I always preface a purge with a reminder that the group is for real-life and not just online interaction.
We also cut each other slack. Many times members have attended who have not finished or even read very much of the book (I have done this myself.)
I would much rather have someone there who wants to attend than exclude someone because life got in the way of their reading. We find that we are typically able to add to the conversation no matter what.
Sometimes we ease the reading burden by choosing a work of fiction or listening to and discussing an audio lecture instead. There are many fabulous homeschool lectures online that make for great discussion. Sarah has a wonderful list of audio organized neatly on her blog.
Sometimes we just take a break altogether. For Christmas we had no book — we simply went out to dinner and played Dirty Santa with white elephant gifts from our homeschool rooms. It was the perfect way to come together without the pressure of finishing a book during the busy holiday times.
Build your tribe
It really is just that easy. With a little time and a little effort before long you will have a group of homeschoolers who you feel like you just can’t homeschool without. And with this tough job we do, people who can share the highs and lows of our day are a necessity to our success and sanity.
If you decide to give it a try, I would love to hear how it is going for you. Feel free to comment or drop me an email at pkbarnhill (at) gmail (dot) com.
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