Homeschool Groups: To Join or Not to Join

TheHomeSchoolMom: Homeschool SupportFall back-to-school often brings many homeschoolers to a choice: Do I join a homeschooling support group or co-op? There are many different types of homeschool groups, including intimate family groups with shared teaching, nationally-based tutor-led groups such as Classical Conversations, local extra-curricular-based support groups, state-based associations (such as Home Educators Association of Virginia), and local co-ops with parent-rotated teaching. The goals, purposes, cost, and time commitment varies with each different group, so it’s almost impossible to speak in generality about the myriad options homeschoolers have for joining with other home educators. But if you’re going to consider it, fall is one of the best times to think about whether joining a homeschooling group is the right choice for your family.

Some of the major reasons for joining a co-op or homeschool support group include:

  • Academic advice, support, diversity or expertise in teaching
  • Socialization opportunities with same-age peers
  • Exposure to curricula, resources, and ideas from other homeschoolers
  • Structure and direction for the homeschool
  • Extra-curricular activity options
  • Emotional support from other homeschoolers
  • Social networking
  • “Traditional” schooling benefits such as experiencing a classroom setting, diplomas, dances such as prom, and graduation ceremonies

My own experience has been that some type of homeschooling support group can be helpful for almost every family. Whether you join together with some homeschooling friends and simply get together to share ideas, or pay tuition to be part of a structured state-level group, homeschool groups can provide a tremendous amount of emotional and academic support. Bottom line: Homeschooling can be very lonely (and daunting) by yourself. My opinion? The question is not really “Should I join a homeschool group?” but “Which homeschool group should I join?”.

When we began homeschooling, I knew I wanted to be part of a group that could help provide some structure for me as a new homeschooling mom, would allow me to get support and ideas from other homeschoolers, and would give my children the opportunity to spend time with peers of similar values and educational goals. I also knew that I wanted to be primarily in charge of my kids’ academics, and didn’t want to be too overly encumbered with classes or teaching dictated by others. We joined the nationally-based homeschool group Classical Conversations, which has local chapters in our area. For about $400 a year, the group offers once-a-week, 3-hour-long sessions with classes taught by trained tutors (all of whom are homeschoolers themselves), in the Classical model of education. Homeschooled kids are in classes of no more than 8 students, and they learn memory work in Latin, History, Math, English, Science, and Geography, most of which is put to fun, kid-friendly songs. This option has worked perfectly for our family, because it has provided a structured base of memory work that supplements the primary curricula we use in a variety of subjects. My children get the benefit of having to sit in a traditional classroom and learn the discipline of listening to a teacher once a week, while enjoying the flexibility of schooling at home with Mom the rest of the week. They get to be a part of a peer group that learns the way they do, and I get the support, friendship, and inspiration that comes from spending time with parents who are doing what I do. Even more? We don’t miss out on many of the advantages of traditional schooling options, such as field trips, Christmas parties, classroom presentations, or even saying the “pledge of allegiance”. It has been a win-win option for this homeschooling family.

What all have we gained from being a part of a homeschool group? Here are just a few of the things that come to mind:

  • I have a guideline to follow for academics, with plenty of flexibility to do what I feel is best. Rather than always having to ask myself the question, “Am I providing what my kids should be getting educationally?”, our homeschool group helps me fill in any potential academic holes that might exist if I were trying to do it by myself. It is reassuring to have some educational goal posts and structure, so that I don’t have to bear the entire responsibility for the scope and sequence of my kids’ education.
  • I’ve learned about some awesome resources! There is just so much out there to use with your kids. It has been incredibly helpful to cull through the overwhelming amount of options by hearing what works from homeschooling moms in my group whose children have similar educational needs and interests to those of my own. It’s like having a bunch of built-in curriculum guides!
  • My kids have a peer group of friends with like-minded values, who learn the way they learn. They get the benefit of being immersed primarily in the values of our home, while not feeling like they are deprived of same-age friend relationships. And because they are all “in it together”, homeschooling feels, to my children, as mainstream or “normal” as any traditional school option (or maybe even more so!)
  • My kids get to learn from somebody besides me! I know, I know, I homeschool partly so that my children can learn from me, but it is really nice to not have to do it all. It is wonderful for my children to experience another teacher’s strengths, and for them to be exposed to different teaching styles. Let me just say, it makes this Mom’s heart happy to know my kids are doing some exceptionally messy (albeit creative and informative) project for art, or some supply-and-material-laden science project, and I didn’t have to do anything to make it happen (or clean it up)!
  • Field trips and special projects! We’ve done everything from visiting a pumpkin patch (with a special farm classroom on how pumpkins grow) to seeing a play (in which some of our homeschool friends were involved) to visiting Thomas Jefferson’s home together. We’ve given a mini-concert at a nursing home, visited the D-Day Memorial, learned about flora, fauna, and geographical water features from a camp in the mountains, and hosted a Medieval feast. Learning is so much more fun when done together as a group in some creative way; I would never have known how many special events and options are available for homeschool groups if I weren’t a part of our group!
  • I don’t feel alone in this homeschooling journey. When I think I’m the only one experiencing the challenges I’m facing, or feel inadequate, frustrated, or just exhausted, I just have to talk to some of the homeschooling moms in my group to discover that they all feel (or have felt) exactly the same way. And that’s enough to keep me going.

So, fall is here and the question about homeschool groups begs: To join or not to join? Once you figure out which one is right for you, I think the answer is easy: Join!

Rebecca Capuano

Rebecca Capuano is the stay-at-home mom of three children (one of whom is in heaven) who also makes attempts at being a homeschooler, writer, photographer, scrapbooker, and truth-seeker. She earned her Master of Social Work degree from East Carolina University, and has worked in a variety of capacities (including group homes, day treatment centers, and public schools) with at-risk children and staff, including developing a therapeutic and educational day treatment center for delinquent youth in Wilmington, North Carolina. She currently resides in Virginia, and has written on a variety of topics for both Examiner.com and Home Educators Association of Virginia. Rebecca believes that family is created by God as the most fundamental institution in society, and she is dedicated to helping families nurture their children to become responsible persons of character and integrity. In addition to reading her posts at TheHomeSchoolMom, you can follow her search for truth (and blunders along the way) in family, faith and culture by visiting her blog, seeluminosity.com.

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Comments

  1. Rana

    I whole-heartedly agree with your article, esp the part “it’s not a question of whether to join, but which support group to join” :-) Thanks for sharing some of the many positive aspects of homeschool support groups.

  2. Great time to consider these things. I tend to over schedule us for fear my children will miss out on something. Great advice to sit down and consider what activities are fulfilling our goals! Thanks

  3. Francene Lumpkin

    I totally agree with you all as well. It’s great to know which home school support group to join as this is valuable information. Thanks for sharing and so many positive aspects of a true support group finally!

    Additionally I do think extra curricular activities are important as well. I’m in Atlanta and depending on where you live there are sports teams formed but you have to drive so far. I wanted to share some great information as well. My child loves baseball and as a teen it’s difficult to find someone who will allow him to play on a team since he’s home schooled. I know have a solution. He’s currently training with a private trainer and the cost didn’t break my bank. His private baseball trainer works with children ages 12+ and not only baseball but softball as well and he’s a retired MLB player. His name is Jamil Phillips and if you are interested I can provide his contact information. Contact his General Manager Dwayne Robinson at 404.246.2161 if you are in the Atlanta area. This is not fake it is actually a real post and Jamil’s brothers are non other than Cincinnati Reds great Brandon Phillips and PJ Phillips. Mr. Phillips is trying to help our home schoolers with their game improvement and extra curricular activities. This site is great and I hope you find this information helpful for your athletic son or daughter I did! Great resolution and happy kid who now plays for a Travel Team! Thanks to Mr. Phillips!! I now only have to drive to the Phillips Training Center located in Stone Mountain, GA. You can actually Google Search the Phillips Siblings for further clarification.

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