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How to Start Your Own Homeschooling Support Group 101


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After serious contemplation I'm entertaining the idea of starting a homeschooling support group for the fall of 2011.

The group will be non sectarian, inclusive and respectful of all homeschooling styles.

Would anyone out there be willing to share your tips on starting a homeschooling group?

Thank you! :D

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Are you looking to create classes, or park-day type non-academic outings, or field trips, or mom support, or what? Defining your goals is a good place to start! One way to go about this is to call a meeting of people you have in mind, and have a conversation about what kinds of things they're seeking, to see what needs you have in common.

 

Does your area have a lot of homeschoolers (so you can specialize somewhat), or just a few (so you need to be somewhat general in your outlook)?

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After serious contemplation I'm entertaining the idea of starting a homeschooling support group for the fall of 2011.

The group will be non sectarian, inclusive and respectful of all homeschooling styles.

Would anyone out there be willing to share your tips on starting a homeschooling group?

Thank you! :D

 

Don't ever use the word "inclusive".

 

For some reason, people see the word "inclusive" and their brain reads "secular".

 

I never thought that would be a problem (the "inclusive" thing, I mean), until seemingly every. single. person. (including the Protestant pastor!) in our HUGE homeschooling community that WAS religious got their nose completely, utterly out of joint, saying they were being "excluded" by the new "secular" group.

 

BUH?

 

I finally settled on "a community of individuals committed to providing the best opportunities for their children, without ideological, political, or theological bias."

 

A bit wordy, but everyone is happy, and there are no misunderstandings regarding what the group is "about".

 

(The other option in our area is a fundie Christian group, where one must sign an extremely restrictive statement of faith...)

 

 

a

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My only advice is to make sure you have your armour on and a nice place to duck and run for cover should the need arise....sorry, just been my experience with homeschool groups whether religious, secular or all inclusive. People are people...

 

But good luck and I hope things work out for you. I certainly would be nice to have some IRL support.

 

Faithe

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I was the moderator of a local preschool homeschooling group and that has now grown into a separate group for elementary age homeschoolers (the preschool group still exists with different mods).

 

I agree that the first thing to figure out is what is the ultimate aim of the group. In our area, there are several county-wide big listservs for each area that allow people to connect and relay info, but are mostly impersonal. There are co-ops, which offer classes. There are small, family co-ops that are just a few families sharing teaching of a handful of kids a day or two a week. There are smaller, more personal support groups as well. Do you want your group to offer classes, organize field trips, have a book group, connect kids or connect parents, discuss issues, have a park day, hold a conference, or what?

 

The group I moderate is "small by design." As our description says, we aim to be a group of friends. We ask that people who just want an email list join a different group because we often meet for park days and other activities. We hold a Parents' Night Out regularly as well.

 

My group is also inclusive, though it doesn't say that particular word in the description. It says, "Families of all religions are also welcome, but should be aware that most of our members are homeschooling for secular reasons, not religious ones." Honestly, I feel like however you say it, it's important to put out there where the group stands on religion since there can be a lot of assumptions in the homeschooling community. We have many families who are religious in our group - several Catholic families, a few Episcopalian families, a Buddhist family, and a couple of Unitarian families. We also have atheist and agnostic families. However, I don't think there are any families in that group who would cite religion as one of their primary reasons for homeschooling. In the preschool group I moderated, which had a similar description, there were a few families homeschooling for religious reasons - a Mormon family, an Orthodox family, an a few others at various points. They had joined the group having read that description so there was never any real tension about religion, but I think there could have been if it had not been made clear that the group was for everyone, but most people were secular in their approach to homeschooling.

 

ETA: While I can't say I've only ever had positive experiences in moderating, I've not had the horror stories that I've heard from many others about dealing with homeschool groups. My homeschool group is a place from which I draw a lot of strength and find community. Obviously, you never know what minefields are waiting for you in life. But I think if you proceed with purpose, listen to others, work with consensus yet also lead and make decisions in a timely fashion, understanding that not everyone can be made to be happy, then you have a better chance at success.

Edited by farrarwilliams
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I LIKE the word inclusive and it would make me more likely to want to join a group, knowing that it would mean that the main focus of the group wouldn't be on religion and that I wouldn't be excluded from said group for not being a Christian.

 

Meetup.com is a good place to start a group, once you get enough members you could always charge a nominal amount per family for dues so that you don't have to cover the cost of meetup fees on your own, that's what our group does (basically charges $1.00 a month per family, payable in the form of $12.00 a year) (less at first if they join later in the year).

 

You can start with a couple of field trips, tours, park day type things, social get togethers/craft days, something like bowling, or whatever, and then as you get members, start trying to find out where their interests lie, what sort of meetups they are wanting, if anybody is willing to help you organize/assist, etc.

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ETA: While I can't say I've only ever had positive experiences in moderating, I've not had the horror stories that I've heard from many others about dealing with homeschool groups. My homeschool group is a place from which I draw a lot of strength and find community. Obviously, you never know what minefields are waiting for you in life. But I think if you proceed with purpose, listen to others, work with consensus yet also lead and make decisions in a timely fashion, understanding that not everyone can be made to be happy, then you have a better chance at success.

 

:iagree:

 

I started my group specifically because there was no group in my community other than the fundie group. Atheists, Buddhists, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Agnostics, Wiccans, Mainline Protestants - ANYONE who didn't subscribe to their narrow view (who wasn't lying to themselves or someone else, that is) had nowhere else to go for support. It was sad.

 

Still, it has been an uphill climb. The other group has been around a very long time. People are comfortable there. Sadly (again), many people are accustomed to lying about their beliefs "so the children will have ______ ". I find this disingenuous, but that is how it is. People are afraid of change - again, that is just how it is. Not everyone is comfortable with stepping out to something new (and small!) for the promise of "something better down the road".

 

On the flip side, the people who are involved are grateful, generous souls who are accepting of all types of people. It is a LOT of work, but I think it is worth it.

 

 

a

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After serious contemplation I'm entertaining the idea of starting a homeschooling support group for the fall of 2011.

The group will be non sectarian, inclusive and respectful of all homeschooling styles.

Would anyone out there be willing to share your tips on starting a homeschooling group?

Thank you! :D

There's no need to use the word "inclusive." It should be obvious from your description there are no restrictions on membership.

 

It would be good for you to have some idea already in your head on what kind of leadership and leadership qualifications there will be.

 

What kinds of activities will your group do? Park days? field trips? parent meetings? purely social? academic?

 

You might check into getting a DBA (doing business as) for your group, as well as a taxpayer identification number (you don't have to be incorporated to get one), so that you can open a bank account in your group's name (this will probably vary from state to state). If there will be any monies collected for any reason (field trips, venue rental, etc.) no one's pesonal bank accounts should be involved. Ever. A taxpayer I.D. can be acquired on-line from the IRS in just a few minutes.

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I started a group 3 years ago that is doing very well today. I started by assembling a team of people I knew I could work well with and writing up bylaws. We also made it a group that welcomed the whole family to every meeting. It takes a bit more work, but that has been huge for a lot of people. At first the husbands didn't come as much but now they do. In fact our steering co. has husbands as well and one husband is very active.

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Don't ever use the word "inclusive".

 

For some reason, people see the word "inclusive" and their brain reads "secular".

 

I never thought that would be a problem (the "inclusive" thing, I mean), until seemingly every. single. person. (including the Protestant pastor!) in our HUGE homeschooling community that WAS religious got their nose completely, utterly out of joint, saying they were being "excluded" by the new "secular" group.

 

BUH?

 

I finally settled on "a community of individuals committed to providing the best opportunities for their children, without ideological, political, or theological bias."

 

A bit wordy, but everyone is happy, and there are no misunderstandings regarding what the group is "about".

 

(The other option in our area is a fundie Christian group, where one must sign an extremely restrictive statement of faith...)

 

 

a

Well, back in the mid-80s, it was *secular* groups that came up with the word "inclusive," instead of just saying they were secular. There's nothing wrong with being secular. It doesn't mean "no religion." It just means "religion isn't our emphasis."

 

FTR, even though I could probably sign most SOFs, I wouldn't join a group that required members to sign one. I find them very offensive. :-p

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Well, back in the mid-80s, it was *secular* groups that came up with the word "inclusive," instead of just saying they were secular. There's nothing wrong with being secular. It doesn't mean "no religion." It just means "religion isn't our emphasis."

 

FTR, even though I could probably sign most SOFs, I wouldn't join a group that required members to sign one. I find them very offensive. :-p

 

I know that. You know that. I think everyone here at WTM knows that. I was amazed how many people didn't know that. To be honest, I was appalled how many people didn't know that.

 

 

a

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:iagree:

 

I started my group specifically because there was no group in my community other than the fundie group. Atheists, Buddhists, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Agnostics, Wiccans, Mainline Protestants - ANYONE who didn't subscribe to their narrow view (who wasn't lying to themselves or someone else, that is) had nowhere else to go for support. It was sad.

a

:iagree:

This has been the situation in our geographical area.

There are two major hs groups both with a fundie emphasis.

(Am I correct in understanding you mean fundamentalist when you say fundie?)

We have belonged to both groups over a period of 8 years.

This fall the facilitators of the group we presently belong to changed the mission statement/guidelines of the group to fit the fundamentalist mindset.

The group as a whole was not consulted in regard to the change, nor was it put up for a group vote.

I've been coming across mothers at the public library who are hsing but don't belong to a support group.

Dh has been coming across people in his company with the same situation.

The reasons they don't belong to a hsing group is for the very reason you listed in your post Asta.

Edited by kalphs
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:iagree:

This has been the situation in our geographical area.

There are two major hs groups both with a fundie emphasis.

(Am I correct in understanding you mean fundamentalist when you say fundie?)

 

Yes

 

We have belonged to both groups over a period of 8 years.

This fall the facilitators of the group we presently belong to changed the mission statement/guidelines of the group to fit the fundamentalist mindset.

The group as a whole was not consulted in regard to the change, nor was it put up for a group vote.

 

Are you sure we don't live in the same community?

 

I've been coming across mothers at the public library who are hsing but don't belong to a support group.

Dh has been coming across people in his company with the same situation.

The reasons they don't belong to a hsing group is for the very reason you listed in your post Asta.

 

I'm sorry they have no where to go. :( (unless we do live together...)

 

 

a

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I know that. You know that. I think everyone here at WTM knows that. I was amazed how many people didn't know that. To be honest, I was appalled how many people didn't know that.

 

 

And it's people on both sides too - religious and "secular" people have misconceptions about what secular means.

 

I think the word "inclusive" can be a better word because it implies that families whose approach is religious and families whose approach is secular are both welcome whereas the word secular might be read as your approach to homeschooling must be secular to join the group. But it's all semantics and I agree that the word "inclusive" has been co-opted by secular groups.

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And it's people on both sides too - religious and "secular" people have misconceptions about what secular means.

 

I think the word "inclusive" can be a better word because it implies that families whose approach is religious and families whose approach is secular are both welcome whereas the word secular might be read as your approach to homeschooling must be secular to join the group. But it's all semantics and I agree that the word "inclusive" has been co-opted by secular groups.

Semantics is everything. :)

 

I think it's better to just describe the group ("We welcome all homeschoolers regardless of religious beliefs or philosophy of education") than to use a word which no one really understands (many Christian groups would consider themselves "inclusive" because everyone is welcome to join, whereas hsers who aren't looking for anything religious would be offended to find out that this "inclusive" group actually has **gasp** Christians!).

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My friends started a homeschool group a couple years back. It started as just a yahoo group that had key search words for the area. Mainly we did park days and holiday party or two. She had some business cards printed up with a website and yahoo group address. She gave everyone in the group lots of cards. We started handing them out when we ran across homeschoolers at the library, zoo, etc. I think we are up to about 100 families in a very short time. We still do Thursday park days or field trip days. We try to do holiday parties. I have started a yearbook and am looking to start a co-op next fall. We do not have any religious rules other than to respect people. Overall it has been an amazing experience watching a group grow from nothing to many. I was originally from Tampa Bay FL where we had a LOT of homeschool options. When I moved here it was like hearing crickets. Not a whole lot of anything. There is one large Christian group that I did join, but they just did not have enough for younger kids. My kids need at least a weekly park day to stay sane. So, I searched and found this group through google. Thank God for Google! Anyway, I say GO FOR IT! Oh and be prepared - as my good friend Sam says - some people are just plain weird. Yep - that is true. We have found a few people that just are sorta way off the normal scale and I say that in the most nicest way possible! Good luck!

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Semantics is everything. :)

 

I think it's better to just describe the group ("We welcome all homeschoolers regardless of religious beliefs or philosophy of education") than to use a word which no one really understands (many Christian groups would consider themselves "inclusive" because everyone is welcome to join, whereas hsers who aren't looking for anything religious would be offended to find out that this "inclusive" group actually has **gasp** Christians!).

 

Oh, semantics is important. I just try not to get to caught up in it.

 

A lot of secular homeschoolers complain that "inclusive" has meant "all sects of Christianity" or even "all sects of Protestantism" when it comes to Christian homeschool groups. I heard a story from one secular homeschooler who was very surprised to discover that the "inclusive" group she was interested in had a statement of faith.

 

So it's probably just too muddled a term that's been used in too many ways. We don't use it in our group description because I thought it was somewhat unclear if it was just standing by itself.

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Semantics is everything. :)

 

I think it's better to just describe the group ("We welcome all homeschoolers regardless of religious beliefs or philosophy of education") than to use a word which no one really understands (many Christian groups would consider themselves "inclusive" because everyone is welcome to join, whereas hsers who aren't looking for anything religious would be offended to find out that this "inclusive" group actually has **gasp** Christians!).

 

:iagree:

I am too Christian for one group, and not Christian enough for the other...and the fact that I actually teach my kids with...<gasp>....a CM/ Classical bent, well, neither group wants me. ;)

 

Faithe

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My advice? Create a board and write by-laws. Write a mission statement; define your purpose.

 

More headaches are caused by misunderstood expectations or conflicting goals than anything else. Better to clear it up in writing as early as possible.

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  • 3 weeks later...
I finally settled on "a community of individuals committed to providing the best opportunities for their children, without ideological, political, or theological bias."

 

A bit wordy, but everyone is happy, and there are no misunderstandings regarding what the group is "about".

a

This is so well articulated Asta may I borrow your verbage?

Thank you! :)

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Semantics is everything. :)

 

I think it's better to just describe the group ("We welcome all homeschoolers regardless of religious beliefs or philosophy of education") than to use a word which no one really understands (many Christian groups would consider themselves "inclusive" because everyone is welcome to join, whereas hsers who aren't looking for anything religious would be offended to find out that this "inclusive" group actually has **gasp** Christians!).

Can I borrow your statement Ellie?

Thank you! :)

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