Sunday, April 27, 2014

Homeschool Truth: It DOES Take a Village

T-shirt from
Unless you live under a rock (please don't be THAT homeschooler; we have enough stereotypes to overcome), you've heard of this "I've seen the village" meme circling the homeschool community. And we laugh! Hahaha! It's funny because there's an element to truth to the statement.

My children were public schoolers. We've seen *that* village. After 4 years, we decide *that* village was wrong (for us) and we didn't want our children in it. We turned our back on it, which means I've earned the right to dash around town wearing this satirical T-shirt! While I'm at it, I can also bite my thumb at homeschool naysayers just to see if they'll get the Shakespearean reference, which I doubt because homeschoolers are soooo much smarter! Now let's all laugh together, hahaha!


From what I've seen in my 4 years of homeschooling, we weren't really turning our back on The Village. What we actually did was leave one village and join another. Of course, in my mind it's a village that's 1000X better, but still. It's a village.

The homeschool community is an important village. It provides advice to new homeschoolers, insights into curriculum choices and stumbling blocks, group field trips and classes, and numerous opportunities to make friends and form bonds. I honestly can not wrap my mind around how I would have 1) gotten started and 2) continued on homeschooling without the support of my local homeschool village.

I understand, though, that the sentiment behind the T-shirt is we have left the mainstream village, and that's tough to do. There is NO ONE ELSE TO BLAME if our kid grows up to be a 35-year-old male living in our basement, eating Cheetos and playing video games all day and night. Like, omg, I can't blame a crumbling public school system for that! It's all on us and it is a huge responsibility.

So we should applaud ourselves for taking that tremendous leap of faith.

And, sure, go ahead and laugh at the occasional snarky joke that pokes fun at the mainstream village.

But after the snark and laughs and thumb biting are done, ask yourself something.

What are you're doing for your homeschool village?

After all, you left the other village because you saw what was wrong with it and knew you couldn't fix it. So what are you doing to help create a village that is right for your child? Is that a part of the responsibility you took on when taking full-charge of your child's education?

These are important questions and each person will have their own answer. Some parents will continue in a hands-off, uninvolved way. I don't want to say that is wrong or right because each family has their own special way of quacking. For myself, providing a healthy village environment for my kids is part of the responsibility I feel I took on when homeschooling.

But how does one go about doing that? I'm too frickin' busy trying to figure out curriculum to take on anything else!

It's really not that hard. You don't have to be hyper-involved in the community. But it helps if you are involved in some way.

#1 Are you showing up?
Online communities serve a purpose, but they have limitations. You can't replace face-to-face interaction and that type is very important to the human experience. Some days you have to take the "home" out of homeschooling and just get out there. It's not important just for your kids, it's important for you too. And don't wait for the perfect day to go either. There will always be something...a math lesson not completed, a dirty kitchen to clean up, finances not quite right, two kids arguing with each other, someone who needs a nap. If you find you're making excuses more than you're going, you might need to question what's really going on.

Don't complain or worry your kids aren't making new friends if you aren't giving them the opportunity by showing up.

Show up and have some fun. Homeschooling will soon become a bore and burden if you stay cooped up in the same four walls too often.

#2 Do you help make good things happen? 
An army of one does not make a village. Wait, what army? Who said anything about needing an army? What the hell am I even talking about? Who knows?!

Here's a truth: It takes multiple worker bees to make a good homeschool village. I'm going to repeat that: It takes multiple worker bees to make a good homeschool village.

Are you doing anything to help make things happen? This doesn't mean you have to take on huge responsibilities. You can contribute to your homeschool village in small ways. Plan a field trip or meet up once in a while for the group. Welcome newcomers. Help answer questions someone may have about a curriculum. Even just showing enthusiasm can help because it adds to the overall energy of the group.

Don't be one who always waits around for someone else to make things happen, and certainly don't be the one who complains about wanting some particular event or trip and not be willing to do the work to make it happen.

Just those two steps alone will make a big difference in your local homeschool village. Start small if you feel intimidated or unsure of how to contribute. Big things are accomplished by small steps. You have to take the first step, though.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What to Look for in a Homeschool Group

As much as some people continue to insist homeschoolers are unsocialized, the reality is most homeschoolers have a plethora of opportunities to interact and socialize with all sorts of people. We're active people who enjoy getting involved in numerous community activities. From 4H clubs to community classes to karate to prom planning committees, it feels like we're always on the go.

As homeschooling continues to grow as an education option, we'll see more and more homeschool groups crop up. Finding a good fit with your homeschool group is important. These groups offer advice on curriculums, experiences overcoming challenges, and support on the days you feel like you're screwing up. You also want to have some fun too, right?

So how does one go about finding a good fit in a group, other than by playing eenie meenie miney mo? You can start by asking a few questions...

1. How active is the group? 
Find out what kind of events the group offers. Some groups sound like they offer a lot in their description, but once you see their schedule you find it's more like random park days that often get cancelled. Look for regularly scheduled field trips, parties, park days and social opportunities. Look for a Facebook page or website where you can easily get information on events and opportunities.

2. Is the group organized?
Look for some structure and organization within the group. Now, you don't want some militant structure with little flexibility over who is allowed to plan what (sadly, they exist), but neither do you want a group that acts willy-nilly. You want stability, but not totalitarianism. Just use your common sense on this one.

3. Are the members friendly?
When you post a question on their page, do you get a response? A good group will have veteran homeschoolers willing to answer a newbie's questions. There should be a solid network of support and guidance. Not everyone is an extrovert, but look for one or two people who try to make newbies feel welcomed and included at their first event.

4. How religious and political are you?
This one is a biggie and where I've seen the most fall outs within groups. If you are pretty laid back and tolerant in your religious views, don't try to fit in with a group that is strict and fundamental in their views. In the end, it often doesn't work out. Likewise, if you are vocal and fundamental in your views, don't try to fit in with a group that is laid back on the subject. Speaking for our local secular group here, we really don't mind what people's personal religious and political beliefs are. These topics are off the table and we focus on homeschooling. We have conservative Christians rubbing shoulders with liberal Buddhists. The key to how we do this is we just don't talk about religion and politics. However, other groups may not be like that and there are both subtle and not-so-sublte ways they discourage anyone who doesn't align with their exact biblical beliefs. This is why it's important to assess your own views and the views of the group you're thinking to join. A close match can minimize conflict down the road.

5. Have you heard good things about the group?
If you know any homeschoolers in your area, ask them about local groups. Each group has their own personality and asking other homeschoolers their real-world experience in a group is helpful. If one person had a bad experience, it might be worth keeping an open mind and try it for yourself. But if you hear of repeated problems from multiple people, you'll probably save yourself time and frustration by skipping that group. Warning signs would include social cliques (both with the kids and moms) and group drama.

6. How am I willing to contribute?
The best homeschool groups have many "worker bee" members. These are people willing to contribute their ideas, time, and energy into creating fun and exciting opportunities. It's about community, after all. Bring some fun energy to the group.

If all else fails and you can't find a group in your area, start one up yourself! You may be surprised who's lurking in the unsocialized woods (ha!), waiting for a group to come along. With Facebook and a few flyers around town (the local library is always a popular place for homeschoolers!), it's easier than you think to get one started.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Homeschool 101 Seminar - Introduction to Homeschooling

We will be hosting a Homeschool 101 seminar in May for anyone in the Mobile area who is interested in homeschooling in their child. 

Veteran homeschoolers will be on hand to cover the state laws and requirements for homeschoolers and different homeschooling methods. We will have some favorite curriculums on display, along with catalogs from various homeschooling companies. There will be handouts covering the benefits and myths of homeschooling, deschooling, local support groups, and online resources.

The meeting is May 18th, 9:30-11:30 am at West Regional Library's cafe room. 

*We will not have a sitter or activities planned to keep young children occupied. Keep in mind this is an adult business type meeting. It's up to you to decide whether your child can sit quietly for two hours while adults talk or to leave them home with a spouse/sitter.