Homeschool Support Groups: Do You Need One?
- Friday, March 22, 2013
“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). The Bible clearly encourages employing the counsel of others in our endeavors, and homeschooling is no exception. With the myriad of choices and decisions regarding curriculum alone, the support of other like-minded individuals is vital. I could not imagine venturing through this journey alone.
When I was invited to join our support group, my 3-year-old and I were singing rhyming songs and playing Candy Land and identifying colors and shapes in library books. I was so new to homeschooling I didn’t know support was something I needed. Nearly ten years of homeschooling later, I think of my support group as more of a life support group.
While homeschool cooperatives share the task of teaching each other’s children, the main purpose of support groups is to bring homeschool families together for encouragement. Homeschool support groups around the country meet in private homes, libraries, coffee shops, bookstores, and churches. The size and dynamics of each group are as diverse as the families involved. If a support group does not exist in your area, you might be the person to get one started. Allow me to share how being part of a support group will enrich every facet of your homeschool journey.
Initially, I encountered a roomful of new friends who shared a common purpose. I had instant access to a network of people for help with curriculum choices, learning styles, information on co-ops, seminars and conventions, the best homeschool books, and more. The friendships I developed provided a place of safety to share the daily challenges and triumphs of homeschooling.
The support group also offered a social outlet for our daughter. As an only child, the group activities we took part in provided her opportunities to develop social skills and make friends. Occasional play dates and field trips led to meaningful, long-term friendships. I am reminded of this well-known verse: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17).
Surprisingly, the most valuable benefit I experienced was personal growth, which occurred in several ways. First, fellowship with other Christians in any setting inspires me to grow closer to God. While we’ve discussed all things homeschooling at our support meetings, interaction about walking daily with God led to deeper spiritual growth. Last year we designated time in our meetings for book discussion, which encouraged accountability to one another and enriched our personal libraries with inspiring books on parenting, home management, and building faith in our children.
Personal growth also occurred as I stepped into a leadership capacity. In the midst of a challenging transitional time, I was able to infuse peace and to truly seek God’s truth when both sides appeared to be right. Our group originated with six families who attended the same church. No defined leadership existed. However, as membership increased through word of mouth promotion, the need for leadership led us to elect our first president, and, shortly thereafter, a vice-president to help share the load.
Eventually, issues arose regarding differing personal and religious views between some families. During that tumultuous period, our group nearly broke apart. Using every interpersonal skill we knew and relying heavily on God’s Word to guide us, we came through the discord stronger and more dedicated to one another.
I share this story to encourage you with the knowledge that if conflict arises, such challenges can draw out strengths you may not know you possess. Whatever the reason for conflict, God uses it to further His will and purposes in our lives and causes us to grow as a result.
We learned from our mistakes. We established a five-member board, the same governmental form we use today. Also, to avoid further confusion, we developed a set of documents that defined our beliefs.
The following guidelines can help you get a support group started on the right foot:
1. Establish some form of leadership, such as a board or offices, to provide for division of labor. Write out your vision in a mission statement. Create a Statement of Faith to define your beliefs, and decide if members must abide by it or simply acknowledge it.
2. Devise a plan so that your meeting times will be effective. Our board members take a survey each year to determine the topics the group would like to cover. The board members then take turns planning and running our meetings, based on those topics. We keep minutes during each meeting to send to members who are unable to attend.
3. Choose a structure that works for the majority of families. Our group meets one evening a month. We leave the kids at home so that we are free to share openly. Both parents are welcome to attend, though for babysitting purposes, often only one parent comes. We cover essential topics such as understanding the law or testing and curriculum choices, and we revisit those periodically for the benefit of new members. More importantly, we spend time on the heart issues: building character, balancing homeschooling with a move or a new baby or an illness, and overcoming self-doubt. We share homemaking tips, articles, photos, laughter, and sometimes tears.
4. Bring God into every meeting and event through prayer and worship. As you honor Him and encourage your fellow homeschoolers, His mighty hand will guide and prosper your plans.
Since becoming part of a support group, I have been encouraged in countless ways. If I experienced discouragement or burnout, help was a phone call or an email away. Our monthly meetings recharge me for the task ahead.
My prayer is that my experience will encourage you to seek the support I believe is vital to make the most of your years at home with your children. Find a group or create one. I am ever grateful to my life support group for the encouragement to press on through the challenges and to pass on the blessing of support to others coming behind me.
Pamela Greer lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband and teenage daughter. She has been part of the TEACH Homeschool Group for ten years, acting as president for two years. She edits the Washington Homeschool Organization’s bi-monthly newsletter. She spends her free time hiking, reading, writing, and encouraging new homeschoolers.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Publication date: March 22, 2013
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