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I'm so sick of flaky homeschoolers. There are so many things I think would be fun to do as a group: a young writers' group, doing our science curriculum together, etc... but every single time I organize or host something, a bunch of families commit to going and then don't show. Often, no one comes. At best, one or two other families RSVP after half a dozen other families have dropped out. I get so frustrated with spending time and money only for people to flake out. 

 

So, for all of you who organize homeschool groups, especially structured ones, how do you get people who say they'll come to actually come?

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For larger groups, I think some money commitment helps. Also, committing to a job within the group also helps weed out some of the folks who have trouble committing.

 

For smaller groups, I mostly start with my closest friend who has a number of children. Then I add other folks I know I can count on.

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So, for all of you who organize homeschool groups, especially structured ones, how do you get people who say they'll come to actually come?

 

Sadly, the only thing that works at all is making them pay up in advance.  If it doesn't actually cost anything, they can get their money back if they show up, otherwise it's forfeit.  $5-$10 is a good amount for a refundable deposit.  If the event costs money, you can just make them pay the real amount, but collect it in advance.

 

This doesn't solve the problem completely, but it can help a lot. 

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In my experience, homeschoolers here say they want more outside activities/opportunities and are eager to sign up.  BUT, many of them don't show up and don't call/email/text to let the organizer know.  OR they show up late.  OR they bring children that are too young for the activity, even though ages have been clearly expressed.  OR they show up and don't monitor their kids behavior.   I agree with charging a small amount of money upfront - that would probably help.  

 

Vent over.  I had better luck with just planning activities with another family or two.  

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I think there are two things that stop the flakiness. One is money, as mentioned.

 

The other is having an actually tight knit community. I mean, if people live nearby or see each other routinely several times a week then when you organize something, the people who said they would come mostly come. At least, that's been my experience. I've certainly experienced the flaky homeschoolers too many times. But when we were in our preK and K age homeschool group and everyone was getting together a couple of times a week for hanging out, if someone organized something, nearly everyone showed up. We did outings to museums, tickets to puppet shows, etc. etc. and people would actually come on time.

 

The other element that made that group run well was a meanie (said with great affection) leader who always made everyone fill out every online poll, responded to every message, was just generally a huge stickler for every rule. For her, that was just her personality and she didn't mind ticking people off. People who weren't suited to follow the rules left the group. Not every group has someone like that though or builds up a positive enough community to make it feel like a worthwhile trade off to deal with someone who won't be lax about stuff.

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Keep trying.  Eventually you may find some kindred spirits who enjoy the same things you do, and who have a sense of responsibility.  Eventually, you can call on those folks without needing to broadcast to a wider group.   (I'm shocked you couldn't get others to join your science class.  I know so many moms who feel incompetent to teach science, they would jump at the opportunity to have you do it for them.)

 

Also charge money.  

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I'm so sick of flaky homeschoolers. There are so many things I think would be fun to do as a group: a young writers' group, doing our science curriculum together, etc... but every single time I organize or host something, a bunch of families commit to going and then don't show. Often, no one comes. At best, one or two other families RSVP after half a dozen other families have dropped out. I get so frustrated with spending time and money only for people to flake out. 

 

So, for all of you who organize homeschool groups, especially structured ones, how do you get people who say they'll come to actually come?

 

I always, always, always charge for field trips, and I always, always, always require people to pay in advance, by a deadline. That some people might not want to commit in advance such that fewer people would attend is acceptable to me.

 

If something is going to cost me money, then I'm going to charge attendees. The end. If people have to sign up (and I say "sign up" instead of "RSVP" because a true RSVP means they're going to tell me if they're coming or if they are not, the way you RSVP to a wedding.), I charge them, and they have to pay in advance, by a deadline. The end.

 

However, I don't require people to tell me they're coming to a social event such as a Moms' Night Out or a park day. Whoever shows up is whoever shows up.

 

OTOH, your support group members might not really, in their heart of hearts, want to do things like a young writers' group or a co-op. It is what it is. :-)

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I think there are two things that stop the flakiness. One is money, as mentioned.

 

The other is having an actually tight knit community. I mean, if people live nearby or see each other routinely several times a week then when you organize something, the people who said they would come mostly come. At least, that's been my experience. I've certainly experienced the flaky homeschoolers too many times. But when we were in our preK and K age homeschool group and everyone was getting together a couple of times a week for hanging out, if someone organized something, nearly everyone showed up. We did outings to museums, tickets to puppet shows, etc. etc. and people would actually come on time.

 

The other element that made that group run well was a meanie (said with great affection) leader who always made everyone fill out every online poll, responded to every message, was just generally a huge stickler for every rule. For her, that was just her personality and she didn't mind ticking people off. People who weren't suited to follow the rules left the group. Not every group has someone like that though or builds up a positive enough community to make it feel like a worthwhile trade off to deal with someone who won't be lax about stuff.

Yep.

 

I organize the field trips for my community, and all of this is true. I routinely have groups of 35-55 for my fiels trips, which I have every 2-3 weeks.

 

I make sure everyone knows the rules, knows about flakiness and why it's a problem, and if a person has 3 no shows- they are taken off my list.

 

Everyone is mostly on time, I very rarely have no shows now, and kids are properly supervised.

 

And yeah- tbe tight knit community who sees each other regularly has a lot to do with that. The few people who have been taken off my list are people not in my community, that I don't see regularly.

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Give them responsibility.  People are less likely to flake out if they know they are needed.

 

Have a planning meeting where everyone can give input and sign up for preferred responsibilities.  The mother of 4 kids ages 6 and under will not likely want to run the preschool, but might welcome a chance to discuss literature with older kids who can actually give and take in an intelligent conversation.  Likewise, the mother of 3 teenagers might welcome a couple of hours with the little cuties who want to play with playdoh and not ask serious questions all the time.  

 

Before the planning meeting, ask everyone to bring a list of things they want for their own children, things they can teach or do, things that would be better in a group setting.  Use that info to guide the planning meeting.  Change things up 2-3 times per year to keep interest.

 

 

$ - yes, but only ask for what will cover supplies and any overhead (like renting space, etc..).  A true co-op is an organization where all the families have vested interest.

 

 

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I tend to only commit to lead activities that I will be doing with my own kids anyway and that at least one other homeschool family within our group is also willing to commit to (that I know I can count on). If others want to come along for the ride, that was fine. If not, we were satisfied if it was just our few.

 

Erica in OR

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I organized play dates and hikes. I just stopped. Now all of those people that never showed up complain that I don't organize anything anymore.

 

I hear ya! 

 

They don't show up, they show up late and leave early on a regular basis, they complain about how it's done but don't show up for brainstorming/planning sessions, they don't come prepared, they think group activities should suit their individual preferences, they let their kids run wild.....No more! I'm tired of being the one willing to do all the work and I don't listen to whining anymore.  Someone comes along complaining about how they can't find a group that meets their criteria and the only thing I say anymore is, "If that's what you want, then start it yourself. That's what the rest of us do."  in a matter of fact voice. Then there there are a list of excuses about how how busy they are. I say, "So are all the people that start and run groups. " in that annoying matter of fact voice. Then they talk about how hard it is to juggle things with young kids and I say, "People who start and run groups have lots of kids too." with that same matter of fact voice. Then their feelings are often hurt and I. don't. care.

 

For the record I have no problem with the situations like when I had to fill in for someone who volunteered for that one day because her child broke his wrist hours before.  The fantastic group organizer had the forethought to make sure every volunteer had a backup for each day we met.  Her group was the best large group activity I have ever seen.  Debbie who ran the American Girls Club in AZ in the early 2000s, you're awesome!  It was truly a pleasure to work with you.

 

Now I take flowers to the hostess. When neighbor lady organized the neighborhood block party for Halloween afternoon, I made sure to have fresh cut flowers to hand her along with the appetizer I was asked to bring and thanked her for all the work she did coordinating it.  I know how much work it was because I've planned and hosted nursing mom get togethers, preschool homeschool playgroups, quilting classes for homeschoolers, filling in for the art teacher, planning the church's children's orchestra, (terrible, terrible, terrible) help with children's Christmas musicals, (sets, costumes, playing music, rehearsals, child discipline problems) chicken mummification, Valentine's Day parties, (never again) and other things I can't think of at the moment.

 

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I'm a flaky HSer who has also run a class/co-op.  Knowing how flaky people are, I charged a registration fee and a class fee (preferably paid all at once but would work with the parents) I also required 2 volunteer times per semester.  I spent more than I collected but having them pay a bit more and giving their time got 90% attendance. 

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When I organized a field trip last year, the event itself was free but to encourage attendance I charged $10 per family. If they didn't come they forfeited their money and I donated it to the park that hosted the event.  If they came they got their money back.  Although I didn't myself teach or lead the field trip, I was trying to avoid wasting the time of the naturalists who had slated time to do it.

 

As has been said before, charging money seems to be a key to getting people to commit. That said, even in our co-op we occasionally have people that bail a month in. I guess it has something to do with not knowing what you can handle and/or over-scheduling? I am not sure. I am very much a person who values dependability so it is hard to wrap my mind around when people just don't show and don't call or anything to tell you they aren't coming. 

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Maybe it will help to keep this attitude:  I organize events and classes and clubs solely for the benefit of my own kids.  If you, another homeschooler, would like to join us, then pay me $X and you're in.  If you aren't sure, and it's a year long class, you are allowed to "try before you buy," that is, you and your student can sit in on one class and see if it's a good fit.  

 

$X =  my costs and hassle minus the benefits my kids get from having them join us.

 

As the months and years pass, I get to know the other low maintenance families who share our interest and I can contact them directly instead of broadcasting to who knows in the wider community.  

 

As Ann Landers used to say, "No one can take advantage of you without your permission."

 

ETA:

 

$X can be negative, that is, I have been willing to pay others to join my group because I needed them more than they needed me, lol!  

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$X can be negative, that is, I have been willing to pay others to join my group because I needed them more than they needed me, lol!  

 

LOL - I taught free Spanish classes for years, because my kids were in the class, but it's more fun in a group, and it also made sure it got done every week...

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This is tangential, but here goes...

 

A lot of these replies are disheartening to me. I may appear flaky because our home/life schedule is very odd. DH's job keeps him out of state 3-5 days a week, every week, with no regularity to his schedule--it changes week to week, month to month. To make matters more complicated, we typically don't know his monthly schedule until about 1 week before the first of the month, if he even gets a firm schedule. There is also a strong chance he might be on call, and then we don't even know his schedule from one day to the next.

 

Early in our homeschooling days a group we belonged to scheduled a tour (it's a free tour but we had to pay to keep our spot as many here have suggested). DH got called to work about 2 hours before the tour and I had to take him to the airport, so we had to miss the tour. I called to notify the leaders, and even after explaining was told I wouldn't get a refund and if it happened again would no longer be able to sign up for events for the rest of the school year. So I learned quickly not to sign up for anything because I rarely know our schedule far enough in advance with 100% accuracy. There have been many times I have wanted to do an activity but can't because I end up having to choose between ditching precious time with DH to keep the commitment (aka being "responsible") vs. skipping the activity (aka being "flaky") in favor of seeing DH for the couple days he's randomly home.

 

I so, so, so wish I could make connections, but people are very harsh about judging when they don't know the whole situation. Usually the only people who understand are others who are in the same line of work as DH, but unfortunately we don't know any other homeschoolers with kids our age who have a parent in DH's field. I imagine there are others who may not have our job situation but are maybe in a similar boat because of medical, mental health, financial, family caregiving issues, etc. It's not always irresponsibility or lack of executive functioning but rather a complicated, non-traditional life (which can be a huge contribution to the decision to homeschool for such families in the first place). In such cases grace and understanding go a long way.

 

How this relates to OP: I have found that the more gracious and understanding a group/leader is, the more I will continue to try. I may miss one or two events, but I will make it to all the others and while I'm there I'll pitch in to help/volunteer/clean up/socialize and just basically be the best member EVER! :) If the group/leader is super-strict and constantly leaves me feeling like I'm a pain, I'll just drop the group entirely because who wants to feel like that because of circumstances out of their control? I've found the groups/events that work best are the ones that get to know their members and have lots of people invited so that if even a small percentage shows up there are still enough people. Also, I have run a class before and looked at it like, even if no one shows I would be doing it with my kids anyway. So if we have zero people show up, that's fine and if we have everyone show up that's fine too. But for all the planners out there, this type of flexibility might be heart attack-inducing.

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To add on to my already long post, I understand that some events have minimum attendance requirements that must be met or classes have materials that must be ordered in advance. I know to steer clear of those types of things because I know the limits of my reliability. So despite being what most would consider flaky, I really do try to be cognizant of how our attendance (or lack thereof) can impact others. But I don't see why it's necessary for people try to be strict about events or classes where it doesn't matter how many people do or don't show.

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This is tangential, but here goes...

 

A lot of these replies are disheartening to me. I may appear flaky because our home/life schedule is very odd. DH's job keeps him out of state 3-5 days a week, every week, with no regularity to his schedule--it changes week to week, month to month. To make matters more complicated, we typically don't know his monthly schedule until about 1 week before the first of the month, if he even gets a firm schedule. There is also a strong chance he might be on call, and then we don't even know his schedule from one day to the next.

 

Early in our homeschooling days a group we belonged to scheduled a tour (it's a free tour but we had to pay to keep our spot as many here have suggested). DH got called to work about 2 hours before the tour and I had to take him to the airport, so we had to miss the tour. I called to notify the leaders, and even after explaining was told I wouldn't get a refund and if it happened again would no longer be able to sign up for events for the rest of the school year. So I learned quickly not to sign up for anything because I rarely know our schedule far enough in advance with 100% accuracy. There have been many times I have wanted to do an activity but can't because I end up having to choose between ditching precious time with DH to keep the commitment (aka being "responsible") vs. skipping the activity (aka being "flaky") in favor of seeing DH for the couple days he's randomly home.

 

I so, so, so wish I could make connections, but people are very harsh about judging when they don't know the whole situation. Usually the only people who understand are others who are in the same line of work as DH, but unfortunately we don't know any other homeschoolers with kids our age who have a parent in DH's field. I imagine there are others who may not have our job situation but are maybe in a similar boat because of medical, mental health, financial, family caregiving issues, etc. It's not always irresponsibility or lack of executive functioning but rather a complicated, non-traditional life (which can be a huge contribution to the decision to homeschool for such families in the first place). In such cases grace and understanding go a long way.

 

How this relates to OP: I have found that the more gracious and understanding a group/leader is, the more I will continue to try. I may miss one or two events, but I will make it to all the others and while I'm there I'll pitch in to help/volunteer/clean up/socialize and just basically be the best member EVER! :) If the group/leader is super-strict and constantly leaves me feeling like I'm a pain, I'll just drop the group entirely because who wants to feel like that because of circumstances out of their control? I've found the groups/events that work best are the ones that get to know their members and have lots of people invited so that if even a small percentage shows up there are still enough people. Also, I have run a class before and looked at it like, even if no one shows I would be doing it with my kids anyway. So if we have zero people show up, that's fine and if we have everyone show up that's fine too. But for all the planners out there, this type of flexibility might be heart attack-inducing.

 

I have planned a ton of events over the years.  If someone in your situation 1) lets me know the deal up-front so I can plan accordingly, 2) pays in advance and understands there will be no refunds, 3) lets me know if something comes up last-minute and they can't make it (so I don't have to worry they won't find our group in the museum or they've had a car crash or something), 4) understands the work involved in organizing something and a) is demonstrably grateful/appreciative of my efforts and b) doesn't need a lot of hand-holding and doesn't make extra work for me (e.g. looks at the website for directions before asking me to provide them in a personal email at the last minute), and 5) actively parents their kids if/when necessary with an eye towards others' experience of the event and the rules/expectations of the venue, then they are welcomed cheerfully.  In your scenario, for example, if I know up-front, I can warn the venue that we have someone with special circumstances, so that they can plan accordingly, or I can offer you last-minute tickets from someone else who can't show (so you don't have to commit in advance), etc.  It's people who don't fill out my simple form or send an email with the info I ask for*, don't show up, don't notify me, don't pay, who aren't likely to be invited again.  

 

(Such as, please put your name, address, phone number, and email on this form, so if the venue cancels or something else comes up, I can go through the forms and quickly contact everyone, send refund checks, and so on, without having to look up all the info for each person in a million different places.  Or, yes, I need your kids' weight and shoe size for the ski rentals, and can't move forward with our group booking without them, so an email with just "We want to go!" does not give me what I need.  Trust me, I won't be sharing the info with government officials or selling it to marketing firms.  I just need the info so I can book the event.)

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This is tangential, but here goes...

 

A lot of these replies are disheartening to me. I may appear flaky because our home/life schedule is very odd. DH's job keeps him out of state 3-5 days a week, every week, with no regularity to his schedule--it changes week to week, month to month. To make matters more complicated, we typically don't know his monthly schedule until about 1 week before the first of the month, if he even gets a firm schedule. There is also a strong chance he might be on call, and then we don't even know his schedule from one day to the next.

 

Early in our homeschooling days a group we belonged to scheduled a tour (it's a free tour but we had to pay to keep our spot as many here have suggested). DH got called to work about 2 hours before the tour and I had to take him to the airport, so we had to miss the tour. I called to notify the leaders, and even after explaining was told I wouldn't get a refund and if it happened again would no longer be able to sign up for events for the rest of the school year. So I learned quickly not to sign up for anything because I rarely know our schedule far enough in advance with 100% accuracy. There have been many times I have wanted to do an activity but can't because I end up having to choose between ditching precious time with DH to keep the commitment (aka being "responsible") vs. skipping the activity (aka being "flaky") in favor of seeing DH for the couple days he's randomly home.

 

I so, so, so wish I could make connections, but people are very harsh about judging when they don't know the whole situation. Usually the only people who understand are others who are in the same line of work as DH, but unfortunately we don't know any other homeschoolers with kids our age who have a parent in DH's field. I imagine there are others who may not have our job situation but are maybe in a similar boat because of medical, mental health, financial, family caregiving issues, etc. It's not always irresponsibility or lack of executive functioning but rather a complicated, non-traditional life (which can be a huge contribution to the decision to homeschool for such families in the first place). In such cases grace and understanding go a long way.

 

How this relates to OP: I have found that the more gracious and understanding a group/leader is, the more I will continue to try. I may miss one or two events, but I will make it to all the others and while I'm there I'll pitch in to help/volunteer/clean up/socialize and just basically be the best member EVER! :) If the group/leader is super-strict and constantly leaves me feeling like I'm a pain, I'll just drop the group entirely because who wants to feel like that because of circumstances out of their control? I've found the groups/events that work best are the ones that get to know their members and have lots of people invited so that if even a small percentage shows up there are still enough people. Also, I have run a class before and looked at it like, even if no one shows I would be doing it with my kids anyway. So if we have zero people show up, that's fine and if we have everyone show up that's fine too. But for all the planners out there, this type of flexibility might be heart attack-inducing.

 

In my support group, we were careful to plan a variety of activities so that everyone could attend something. Park day was always the first Friday of the month at the same park; people came or they didn't. Moms' Night Out was always the first Monday night of the month; people came or they didn't. We never expected our members to attend everything; we didn't penalize people who didn't show up for an event they had paid for (that they didn't get refunds was penalty enough);

 

There were many reasons that we began charging for all field trips, even the free ones: There was the time that we planned a four-hour, behind-the-scenes tour at the San Diego Zoo; we were newbies at organizing field trips and took people at their word that they would show up. They didn't. And the woman who had actually organized the event had not realized that we had to pay for 15 people whether we had 15 or not. Because of the ones who said they were coming and didn't, those of us who did show up had to chip in to make up the difference. Another time a friend learned about a free, docent-led "tour" of a wild-life refuge, and told everyone about it at Moms' Night Out; she left the meeting with a list of 40 people (parents and children) who said they were coming. The wild-life people brought on extra docents because of the expected number of people; imagine my friend's embarrassment when only she and her son and one other family actually came.

 

I have had to look someone in the face and tell her that she could not attend the field trip she had paid for because she arrived *an hour late* and I had already paid for the group. She wrote me a nasty, nasty letter afterwards. I'm sure she felt very much as you do, that I was ungracious and super-strict, but she had obviously never organized a field trip for 100 people, where it mattered how many adults and children and some are free and you have to give an exact count of everyone and oh-my-goodness-it's-crazy.

 

You may have perfectly good, valid reasons for not showing up at an activity for which you had paid, the leaders also have good reason to be strict regarding payment and whatnot. They have learned the hard way that if they want people to be committed and actually show up, they have to charge and not give refunds.

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This is tangential, but here goes...

 

A lot of these replies are disheartening to me. I may appear flaky because our home/life schedule is very odd. DH's job keeps him out of state 3-5 days a week, every week, with no regularity to his schedule--it changes week to week, month to month.  <big snip>

 

Unfortunately, in the practical sense, it really doesn't matter why people don't show up, the effects are the same either way. 

 

I don't think you can expect people to give you your money back bc your dh was called into work, because you know that might happen so you're basically taking your chances when you sign up ahead for things. So, I wouldn't give your money back for the tour, (tangentially, why couldn't dh just take a cab to the airport?), but I wouldn't be harsh about not signing up for future events until a strong pattern was established. 

 

People often have valid reasons for not showing up: their car won't start, they have the flu, and so on. But they can't expect other people to take the hit for that; it's just an unfortunate incident that we all have to deal with, like when my dd got sick and missed an entire day of our Disney World trip. 

 

 

To add on to my already long post, I understand that some events have minimum attendance requirements that must be met or classes have materials that must be ordered in advance. I know to steer clear of those types of things because I know the limits of my reliability. So despite being what most would consider flaky, I really do try to be cognizant of how our attendance (or lack thereof) can impact others. But I don't see why it's necessary for people try to be strict about events or classes where it doesn't matter how many people do or don't show.

 

Honestly, I have organized a lot of classes and events, and I can't think of too many where the number of people who show up doesn't matter. Park day, sure. 

 

Ellie said it really well: You may have perfectly good, valid reasons for not showing up at an activity for which you had paid, the leaders also have good reason to be strict regarding payment and whatnot.

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...Early in our homeschooling days a group we belonged to scheduled a tour (it's a free tour but we had to pay to keep our spot as many here have suggested). DH got called to work about 2 hours before the tour and I had to take him to the airport, so we had to miss the tour. I called to notify the leaders, and even after explaining was told I wouldn't get a refund and if it happened again would no longer be able to sign up for events for the rest of the school year. So I learned quickly not to sign up for anything because I rarely know our schedule far enough in advance with 100% accuracy. There have been many times I have wanted to do an activity but can't because I end up having to choose between ditching precious time with DH to keep the commitment (aka being "responsible") vs. skipping the activity (aka being "flaky") in favor of seeing DH for the couple days he's randomly home.

I so, so, so wish I could make connections, but people are very harsh about judging when they don't know the whole situation. Usually the only people who understand are others who are in the same line of work as DH, but unfortunately we don't know any other homeschoolers with kids our age who have a parent in DH's field. I imagine there are others who may not have our job situation but are maybe in a similar boat because of medical, mental health, financial, family caregiving issues, etc. It's not always irresponsibility or lack of executive functioning but rather a complicated, non-traditional life (which can be a huge contribution to the decision to homeschool for such families in the first place). In such cases grace and understanding go a long way.

 

How this relates to OP: I have found that the more gracious and understanding a group/leader is, the more I will continue to try. I may miss one or two events, but I will make it to all the others and while I'm there I'll pitch in to help/volunteer/clean up/socialize and just basically be the best member EVER! :) If the group/leader is super-strict and constantly leaves me feeling like I'm a pain, I'll just drop the group entirely because who wants to feel like that because of circumstances out of their control? I've found the groups/events that work best are the ones that get to know their members and have lots of people invited so that if even a small percentage shows up there are still enough people. Also, I have run a class before and looked at it like, even if no one shows I would be doing it with my kids anyway. So if we have zero people show up, that's fine and if we have everyone show up that's fine too. But for all the planners out there, this type of flexibility might be heart attack-inducing.

-- Not picking on you, just using your situation as an example --

 

If the organizers were up front about their policy (no refunds for no-shows), then that was a risk you took when signing up for the event.  If they were hard-line about blackballing you from future trips if it happened again, I if perhaps you (as a newbie) pushed a little  too hard for a refund, they might have mentally put you in the "difficult to deal with" category.  

 

If there was harsh judgement, it may indeed have been because they did not understand your situation.  If you'd explained up-front that there was a chance you could not attend, and asked them if that would be ok or if it was important to them to have close to 100% attendance for this particular trip, you would have given them a chance to help you figure out which outings might be a good fit for your situation.  For example, I have organized trips to theater, dance, and music performances where there are paid tickets in a large theater.  In these cases, it really doesn't affect me or the group if you don't show up (though of course I appreciate a heads-up so that I know when I can stop being "greeter" in the lobby and take my seat to enjoy the performance).  If you don't show up, you forfeit your ticket price, but that's on you, and a few empty seats usually isn't an issue.  On the other hand, in the case of some kind of tour or workshop, there's a often staffing issue for the venue and sometimes materials that need to be purchased based on the number attending.  There may be a minimum number of participants, or issues around age-grouping the students.  The venue may be relying on matching funds to underwrite the cost of the participants, which in turn may rely on the number of actual students served.  Or there may be a limited number of tickets available, with no-shows taking seats away from other students who would gladly have attended.  In these cases, a no-show can reflect badly on the organizer and jeopardize their relationship with the venue (and the relationship of homeschoolers in general to the venue).  Three kids doesn't sound like a lot, but if the group is trying to meet a ten or fifteen kid minimum, it can be a problem.

 

It sounds like you've figured it out over the years, so I'm not picking on you - just using your situation as an example of why organizers might have the policies they have, and how participants can help by understanding what the organizers may be dealing with.  You've learned that being "the best member ever" can really help open possibilities for your kids to participate in various events organized by others - an important lesson for newbies to reflect upon!

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-- Not picking on you, just using your situation as an example --

 

If the organizers were up front about their policy (no refunds for no-shows), then that was a risk you took when signing up for the event. If they were hard-line about blackballing you from future trips if it happened again, I if perhaps you (as a newbie) pushed a little too hard for a refund, they might have mentally put you in the "difficult to deal with" category.

 

I definitely didn't push hard for a refund. I don't recall the exact conversation, but I'm pretty laid-back so I probably said something like "Is it possible to get a refund?" I was more embarrassed than anything, so I know I wasn't being difficult. My DH wanted to call the group's president to see if that would change anything, and I said No Way! I knew that would be the homeschool group kiss of death for our family if he did that, lol.

 

If there was harsh judgement, it may indeed have been because they did not understand your situation. If you'd explained up-front that there was a chance you could not attend, and asked them if that would be ok or if it was important to them to have close to 100% attendance for this particular trip, you would have given them a chance to help you figure out which outings might be a good fit for your situation. For example, I have organized trips to theater, dance, and music performances where there are paid tickets in a large theater. In these cases, it really doesn't affect me or the group if you don't show up (though of course I appreciate a heads-up so that I know when I can stop being "greeter" in the lobby and take my seat to enjoy the performance). If you don't show up, you forfeit your ticket price, but that's on you, and a few empty seats usually isn't an issue. On the other hand, in the case of some kind of tour or workshop, there's a often staffing issue for the venue and sometimes materials that need to be purchased based on the number attending. There may be a minimum number of participants, or issues around age-grouping the students. The venue may be relying on matching funds to underwrite the cost of the participants, which in turn may rely on the number of actual students served. Or there may be a limited number of tickets available, with no-shows taking seats away from other students who would gladly have attended. In these cases, a no-show can reflect badly on the organizer and jeopardize their relationship with the venue (and the relationship of homeschoolers in general to the venue). Three kids doesn't sound like a lot, but if the group is trying to meet a ten or fifteen kid minimum, it can be a problem.

I absolutely understand the need for tight attendance control for events where minimum or maximum participants matter. But in this group (and others in my area), every event requires sign up on the calendar on their website, whether it's something where attendance is important like a docent-led tour or not important like open play at the free city park sprayground. If you miss either one, you get "dinged" even though attendance only matters for the former and not the latter. And there's no way to explain upfront for every event what our family's life situation is like and how it may or may not affect our attendance. Well, I guess I could do that, but I'm sure I'd quickly become everyone's least favorite member with all of the TMI I'd have to share every time we signed up for something.

 

It sounds like you've figured it out over the years, so I'm not picking on you - just using your situation as an example of why organizers might have the policies they have, and how participants can help by understanding what the organizers may be dealing with. You've learned that being "the best member ever" can really help open possibilities for your kids to participate in various events organized by others - an important lesson for newbies to reflect upon!

It's been a long road in figuring things out. My oldest is almost in high school and we're just now finding our groove. It makes me sad that some people never gave us a chance because we live outside of the traditional 9-5, Monday-Friday paradigm. I have been so grateful for those I have met who understand that even when I'm at my best, I'm still very, very far from perfect (situational flakiness and all that) and still want me around anyway.

 

I'm not trying to make this AAM. I get the OP's frustration and there have been some great suggestions. I just wanted to suggest that alternately it's possible to build community/hold events/classes without having to pull the reins tight. Get to know why people are flaking out. Is it because they are selfish and simply found something better to do? Then yes, charging a fee or having no-show penalties will help keep them accountable. Is it because they are bad with dates/times? Then focus on drop-in activities with open-ended start times a few times a month. Is it because they have a DH that has a crazy work schedule that impacts the whole family? Or a parent who has to be taken to a random dr appointment whenever there's an opening? Or they had a sudden unexpected large expense and can't afford the museum tickets? Then be a good listener and consider taking those case by case rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water.

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The OP mentioned a writing group. That is one where I feel it could be manageable no matter the attendance. Even moreso if you had some type of online interaction (private message board, blog, FB group, or something along those lines) to communicate what is needed to bring for the upcoming class. There are writing workshops for adults that are run this way, and I think that model could be modified to work well for children.

 

The OP also mentioned a science class. In this case, I think it would be helpful to meet a few times with the other potential families before you begin. You can use those times as prep and planning sessions for scheduling and dividing the workload. If a family doesn't show for those pre-sessions then they can't participate. This will possibly help separate the wheat from the chaff before the class even begins. And those who do show up will be more likely to be invested because they will have planned responsibilities to fulfill throughout the year. Have one of your pre-sessions be to have each family bring/prepare the supplies for the lessons for which they are responsible, so even if they drop out you are still prepped and have adequate materials for those lessons.

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I've tried a few times to respond to this but I get aggravated every time. (I was responsible for the bulk of our group's planning in the midst of Hashimotos not yet diagnosed, a very rough pregnancy and an even tougher baby- so if I sound bitter or callous that is why- I was drowning) Flaky, yes. It is hurtful as well when you are putting everything into planning things and there is a lack of consideration for your time and effort, especially when you yourself are often busier than the people complaining as it usually goes. We figured out with most of our group that it isn't worth it for them to expend effort and if they do have to work at it then they will just do nothing, we as leaders have decided that is ok. The rest of the people are generally new and want something super strict and like school and are loving the far-away co-op with a list of rules a mile long(I shudder to think that new people are getting the impression that all hs'ers are that fanatical) but whatever. It doesn't matter to solicit help, you end up with people that flake out anyway. Our group is now a group where anyone can plan whatever they want and whomever plans makes the rules. I'm having a year of planning nothing, except my robotics team- which is quite enough and I know our members for this. We could have opened up the team this year to a few new members but didn't, I have no patience or time for flakiness, which I well established at the onset. I've been kind but firm, attendance and homework isn't optional(barring something really important) and if you can't do either than don't expect to stay on the team.

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I absolutely understand the need for tight attendance control for events where minimum or maximum participants matter. But in this group (and others in my area), every event requires sign up on the calendar on their website, whether it's something where attendance is important like a docent-led tour or not important like open play at the free city park sprayground. If you miss either one, you get "dinged" even though attendance only matters for the former and not the latter.  

<snip>

I'm not trying to make this AAM. I get the OP's frustration and there have been some great suggestions. I just wanted to suggest that alternately it's possible to build community/hold events/classes without having to pull the reins tight. Get to know why people are flaking out. Is it because they are selfish and simply found something better to do? Then yes, charging a fee or having no-show penalties will help keep them accountable. Is it because they are bad with dates/times? Then focus on drop-in activities with open-ended start times a few times a month. Is it because they have a DH that has a crazy work schedule that impacts the whole family? Or a parent who has to be taken to a random dr appointment whenever there's an opening? Or they had a sudden unexpected large expense and can't afford the museum tickets? Then be a good listener and consider taking those case by case rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water.

 

Dinging people for missing park days is pretty excessive - I've never heard of that, and I would check with the other groups directly to make sure they do it (as opposed to taking the word of someone in your group who says, oh, that's how everyone does it). 

 

But for other events? Again, it doesn't matter to me if you are being selfish or if you have a valid reason; either scenario results in the same headaches and costs. And I simply don't have the time or mental energy to take things case by case - I think you might be underestimating the time and work that people put into organizing events! The fairest thing to do, imo, is to have guidelines and stick to them. 

 

That's not to say that there's anything wrong with drop-in events, but remember, the most effective way to get things done the way you want them is to do them yourself. I like organized, timed events, so that's what I plan. If you like open-ended, drop-in events, then plan and publicize some open-ended, drop-in events!

 

You don't need to start a new group or even work within your current group, just start a Facebook group "Metro Homeschool Casual Events" that is open to all hs'ers. Set it up so that any member can post about events and get-togethers. And there you go! 

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Again, it doesn't matter to me if you are being selfish or if you have a valid reason; either scenario results in the same headaches and costs. And I simply don't have the time or mental energy to take things case by case - I think you might be underestimating the time and work that people put into organizing events! The fairest thing to do, imo, is to have guidelines and stick to them. 

 

That's not to say that there's anything wrong with drop-in events, but remember, the most effective way to get things done the way you want them is to do them yourself. I like organized, timed events, so that's what I plan. If you like open-ended, drop-in events, then plan and publicize some open-ended, drop-in events!

 

That's right! 

 

I think some homeschoolers have a hard time adjusting to a group mindset. Everything is group first, not individual first, at group events.  The rules are the same for everyone.  If you can't meet the group rules/standards/expectations/criteria/guidelines, then you can't participate in the group.  I think there's a void in homeschooling blogs, books and conventions where this should be explicitly addressed but it isn't.  Many people start homeschooling so they can customize and individualize things personally, but then they forget or it never occurs to them to leave that at home for the group event.

 

Personality is a big factor here too.  I think some personality types struggle with generalization/standards and  rules/structure.  Many group events simply cannot accommodate individual situations, needs and preferences.   They tend to have a very hard time shifting out of an individualist mindset-some can't at all. These are people who take things very personally in general where other people don't.

 

There are flaky homeschoolers who just don't schedule anything well and are averse to routine.  I have a friend I adore, but I would never schedule anything with her because she forgets events she wants to attend  all the time.  When she asked me for help I explained my calendar and times when I have a schedule, when start and end times are not variable, and a routine when the time matters less than getting one set of things done before another set, but the start and end times are variable.  It was almost like were speaking different languages to each other.  She said things like, "But I get bored with a schedule."  I only schedule when I absolutely have to, but in my mind, if I have to to get it done, then I have to, and my feelings about it play not role at all.  So I gave her a few different suggestions of how I might do things in her situation and she ignored them but complains about all the things she'd like to do but forgets about them. OK.  Life is full of natural consequences. I answered her question and it's up to her to decide if she wants to try my answers.  She's under no obligation to. I feel bad for the people she told would be there but then have to deal with her no show.

 

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LOL - I taught free Spanish classes for years, because my kids were in the class, but it's more fun in a group, and it also made sure it got done every week...

 

I really wanted a 4th person on our MathCounts team, and I couldn't get anyone to join us.  So I offered free math tutoring to a girl (who really doesn't like math) in return for having her on my team.  Win-win.  (I think?)

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Creating community is important.  If parents don't know the host, or have just a passing acquaintance with the host, then it is easier to just cancel last minute without explanation, or not to show up at all.  

 

I'm part of a homeschool group that schedules regular field trips, and also has some seemingly strict rules about attendance.  The rules seem strict, but they are really only common courtesy.  And since we have all become friends, the rules are really easy to enforce.  If we can't make something, we let each other know ahead of time.  People who don't show that common courtesy are dropped from the group.  It seems harsh, but the rules are laid out for a reason.  Low attendance at free events wastes the time of the tour guides.  No shows at a paid event could cost the organizer money (although we pay ahead of time for things like that).

 

We do have a yearly fee of $10, but I really think that the friendships are what encourage attendance.  Sure, we still have events where everyone is out for one reason or another (sick kids, broken cars, emergencies all aligning on the same day), but mostly we have events where everyone shows up.  

 

 

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  It's people who don't fill out my simple form or send an email with the info I ask for*, don't show up, don't notify me, don't pay, who aren't likely to be invited again.  

 

 

Yes, this.  "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...you don't fool me twice!"

 

I organize a lot of math events.  I had one parent complain about the seating arrangement.  I had another email me repeatedly asking about dates and times, when they have already been sent out.  (This sends me into a panic, thinking I've made an error, and I waste my time tracking down sent emails to make sure everything was correct.)  

 

But most other parents are very, very nice, show their appreciation to me in a quick thank you email (or sometimes chocolate!), or at the very least, do not cost me additional work.  These are the folks that get more invitations from me.  

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As someone upthread mentioned, this is a people problem, not just a homeschooler problem.  

 

In scouts, I can guarantee that people will forget to register in advance for events or decide not to show up.  I have had scouts show up the day of a campout that I had no idea were attending.  I've had scouts announce the night before or day of that they were not going on a campout (especially irksome when it was the scout who had committed to buying food for his patrol).  I have set a deadline for paying for the new recharter year.  I know that I will be chasing some people down.  This summer, we had 4 different scouts who pulled out of summer camp on less than two weeks notice.  We had to grovel with council to get refunds.  Had we been attending an out of council camp, we wouldn't have gotten that money back.  I had another parent who wanted the troop to float her over $300 for camp and registration fees.  None of these are homeschoolers.  

 

 

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