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Homeschool Support Groups...What do you love?


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What are some of the favorite things your homeschool support group offers? I'm referring to groups that offer field trips, mom's events, sports, clubs, etc. 

 

I'd love to hear about things which are out of the ordinary, too. 

 

 

 

 

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We have a large group (150-175 families) that has been in existence for over 20 years. Over the years, what is offered has ebbed and flowed, depending on who has a passion or expertise for leading a particular aspect. From the website, here are the many activities and supports our group offers:

 

Social Events:

• weekly = Fellowship – family fellowship at the park, simultaneous with PE

• weekly = PE (fee) – pre-K - gr. 12 at the park; sport of the month, parent volunteer coaches

• 1-2x/month: Field Trips -- some years = all ages, sometimes 2 groups, to give gr. 6-12 students special experiences

• 2x/month = gr. K-2 Playgroup – free play and fellowship for families with young children

• 1x/month = gr. 3-5 Grade Service Club — combine services projects with fun socializing

• 2x/year = K-5th Holiday Parties (fee) – Valentine’s Day & Christmas

• 1x/month = Middle School Girls (gr. 6-8) – social activities

• 1x/month = Middle School Boys (gr. 6-8) – social activities

• 1-2x/month = Youth (gr.  6-12) — social activities and group service opportunities class 

• 1x/month = Student Council (gr.  6-12) — plan and execute the Youth Activities for all youth

 

Annual Social Events:

• Family Picnic (all ages) -- bring your own food; jumping castle + activities provided

• Old Fashioned Family Social (all ages) -- dress up ball

• Talent Show (gr. 1-12 students)

• Renew & Refresh Tea (fee) = moms' half day retreat: tea, fellowship, encouragement

• End of Year Water Day -- last PE/Fellowship of the year

 

Academic Events:

• Annual City-Wide Homeschool Spelling Bee (gr. 1-6) - funnels into county, state, nat'l competition

• Annual Geography Bee (gr. K-8) = 

• Annual Geography Fair (families) = each family presents/displays on one country

• Annual Careers Day Plus (gr. 6-12 + parents) = guest speakers, demos, hands-on, teen organizations, college prep, etc.

• Yearbook (gr. 6-12 students + parent coordinators) = individual head shots of students; 3x5 family photos, and photos of events all year; graduating seniors each get a full page

• Annual Graduation Ceremony (Kindergarten, 8th grade, High School)

 

Member Support:

• Member Care = prayer and bringing meals/help to family with a need

• Secret Sister = throughout the year, encourage by  notes or gifts (limit: $15 for entire year)

• Mom’s Night Out = monthly

• Mentoring = newer homeschoolers who would like mentoring matched with experienced ones

• Blessing Table = on PE/Fellowship day: donate curriculum/clothes/yard sale items you don't need, or take what you do need

 

Homeschool Resources:

• website for posting event/activity info and rsvp; threads for info; and a "classifieds" section

• collection of "Box Tops for Education" -- supports Youth Events

• money from members registering/using local grocery store card -- buys PE equipment

• Annual Standardized Testing

• Annual Used Curriculum Sale – open to all homeschoolers

• Library = can check out the group's books, CDs, DVDs PE/Fellowship days

• God’s World News Magazine = group purchase/monthly distribution of the magazine

• Enchanted Learning = group membership includes access to this website

 

 

Not directly through our homeschool support group, but other activities that tend to be made up of "sub-groups" of the homeschool support group members:

- local Parks & Rec offers educational science and nature classes, and our group signs up as a class

- co-op classes

- 4-H groups

- Speech & Debate team

- Youth & Government delegation

 

While my husband was on the Fire Dept. (retired now), for years his station hosted our annual Egg Drop event (the week before, kids of all ages would build a contraption for holding an egg, and the firemen took the contraptions up to the top of their 75-foot ladder truck and dropped them one by one to see which survived). DH's crew also hosted an annual Fire Station tour, and several years they were able to bring in the educational "Smoke House" which was an RV set up like a home and the kids toured it to see the fire hazards, and then "smoke" (dry ice) pumped in and the kids practiced the safe ways to escape. It also had a "how to call 9-1-1" unit and they got to practice with a phone linked to one of the fire fighters acting as dispatch. :)

Edited by Lori D.
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What are some of the favorite things your homeschool support group offers? I'm referring to groups that offer field trips, mom's events, sports, clubs, etc. 

 

I'd love to hear about things which are out of the ordinary, too. 

 

When I started hsing in 1982, there was no support group in my area. People sort of came together a year or so later. The first support groups in the San Diego area focused on a monthly park day. Eventually they did field trips and whatnot, but park day was the backbone.

 

I moved to San Jose in 1987; the support group of which I eventually became a co-leader did a monthly park day (always the first Friday of the month, at the same park, year-round); a monthly Moms' Night Out (first Monday of each month, at a different home; the hostess chose the theme/topic/whatnot); field trips on the second and fourth Fridays. And that was it. We always planned field trips for those Fridays so that people didn't have to rearrange their schedules for the sake of the field trips. We also didn't plan lots of other activities because we wanted to be sure that people had time to be home with their children and actually, you know, homeschool. :-)

 

The support groups which maintained similar schedules seemed to have the most longevity in that area. The ones which were more formal, or had more activities, or had complex bylaws and elected officers and so on, seemed to fizzle out after a few years. Some of them had extreme membership requirements (there was one that required prospective members to go through a phone interview, then an interview with at least two board members, then to be voted on by the support group members. That group didn't last long at all.)

 

Co-ops and organized sports didn't happen until the early 90s. They were almost always separate from support groups. They are still separate entities in my mind. :-)

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Thanks, Ladies! I'd love to hear more ideas from more people. Our homeschool group had a mom's night out, and one of the board members said they had been discussing what things to offer next year. I knew I'd find a wealth of ideas here. 

 

Lori D., what an amazing area you must live in!  I have a question about all the age specific social activities, though. We have families with children spread out in ages, so are other aged children allowed to attend? When you have something like the 3rd-5th service club, what do the younger or older siblings do? 

 

 

 

 

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Our group offers some similar things to Lori D's group.

 

We have:

 

Quarterly chapter meetings which focus on topics to support members (paperwork, testing, planning high school, teaching methods...)

 

Mom's Night Out

 

Care Share Nights (similar to a MNO but at a Mom's house and focus on homeschool support)

 

Field Trips

 

Co-op (preschool-12th grade) 2 ten week sessions a year, high school classes go longer

 

Occasional Dad's nights

 

Fellowship events: annual picnic, square dance, ice cream social

 

Talent Night

 

Project Night

 

Spelling Bee

 

Used Curriculum Sale

 

Testing

 

High School Prom

 

Teen activities

 

In the past we have also done Christmas parties, Harvest Festivals, tween activities, and park days.  It all depends on who steps up to coordinate them.

 

 

We also collect Box Tops to support the group and have a free table at our co-op.

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Our group mainly does a weekly play group. It is every Thursday always at noon, locations vary - park in nice weather, skating/pool/rec center in bad weather. It is great that this is a standing date - whoever can make it goes, and you always know there will be somebody.

 

Group also tried a small coop which was more glorified socializing and did not meet our academic needs.

But playgroup was great!

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We are a smaller group. We have a mom's night out once a month. A kids' day once a month. A field trip once a month. And we have a co-op once a week. You don't have to be in co-op to enjoy the support side of our group. 

 

The mom's night usually involved a book study, but we also have done craft nights. We have a dinner out at Christmas and for the last meeting of the year. We do some planning of the co-op or group activities at these mom nights too.  We have had an artist come and teach us a small painting one time. We did card making with a member who makes beautiful cards one time. We have done some of the art activities that the kids did in their art class at co-op just because at co-op we are busy helping the kids, and we want to do art too. 

 

The kids' days have a theme each year. Once a month we do an hour and a half on the theme. We have a 15-30 minute teaching time with an educational activity or demonstration, 15 min or so on a related craft, an active game, and a snack time.  We try to carry the theme into the co-op with classes, art, and field trips that are related. 

 

We have had a teen night kind of like mom's night where the teens get together for a Bible study and service project and fun. It is more social than the co-op activities, so they all enjoyed that. 

 

 

 

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Honestly, the best thing about the group we belonged to years ago was simply the park day. Eventually too many things were offered, and the group became too spread out among all the activities. Then park day just stopped because no one was coming. It was disappointing because I didn't want classes and co-ops for my kids. I just wanted them to have some free time playing at the park with others.

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Just park day is all I want from my group, although I might attend a monthly MNO if there was one.

 

We have already done pretty much all the field trips I think are worthwhile from here. We don't need or want an academic co-op. We already do enrichment; I especially do not want to be part of contriving something different 35 times a year to please and enlighten fifty kids ages 5-18.

 

Let the kids move/play/hang out without an agenda. That's all I've needed so far and all I expect to need for at least a few more years.

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Lori D., what an amazing area you must live in!

 

Yes, after hearing from other WTMers how sparse the offerings are in so their areas, I do realize how very very blessed we have been! Having so much support and opportunities to choose from made the very critical social aspect of high school a snap for us. So very grateful, and wish it could be like that for everyone.

 

 

I have a question about all the age specific social activities, though. We have families with children spread out in ages, so are other aged children allowed to attend? When you have something like the 3rd-5th service club, what do the younger or older siblings do? 

 

Yes, we have a lot of big families with wide age ranges too. So many of the activities are for all-ages. But part of the point of having some age-limited activities is to provide kids with their own special activities apart from all their siblings. Because homeschool siblings so very often already *are* doing absolutely everything together, it's a chance to help children develop as individuals and make friends apart from their siblings.

 

The special age activities for under grade 6 tend to only happen once a month during the school year, so parents don't have to come up with a plan for the other siblings more than 8-9 times in a year -- and not all families attend all events, so they may only end up having to come up with a plan 2-3 times per semester.

 

There are usually twice as many youth (gr. 6-12) events in a year, BUT, they are all drop-off/pick-up, with a few moms who signed up in advance staying to help the overall coordinator mom, so that's not really a problem for figuring out what to do with youngers -- they usually go home with mom after older sibling gets dropped off.

 

Also, events tend to last no more than 2 hours, so it's not usually a hardship to find some solution:

 

- often, teens are fine staying at home and having a quiet house to get school work done -- and many have online classes or dual enrollment, so they wouldn't be able to go to younger sibling events anyways

 

- youth (gr. 6-12) activities, and middle school boys/girls activities are all drop-off/pick-up

 

- usually for the gr. 3-5 ages, there's enough space at the park or an extra room at the building, and so a few moms (usually moms who have mostly all younger kids) oversee all the youngers, while other moms (usually moms who have mostly at age or older kids), oversee the the scheduled activity; if tweens/young teens come to these events, they help with the childcare of the youngers

 

- usually for the gr. K-2 play day, that meets at a park, and if there are older siblings, they hang out together doing their own thing while the gr. K-2 kids hang out together

 

- some families drop off other siblings at grandma's or other relative for the 1-2 hours of the activity

 

- many families carpool, or swap driving/childcare with one another -- for example: one mom drives and stays at the event for both her kids and the kids of another mom, while the other mom stays home and watches her kids and the driver mom's kids who are not attending the activity -- then the next month, the original driving mom stays at home and is the childcare while the original childcare mom is the driver and chaperone for both families -- sometimes the moms are happy to stick with one role all year

 

- for some events, there is planned older teens babysitting the little ones in a separate room  at the location

 

- for special mom events (like Mom's Night Out), moms arrange for their own childcare (usually dad or older teen child babysits for the rest of the siblings)

Edited by Lori D.
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I like social opportunities (park days, Xtreme Air, public pool meet ups) and field trip opportunities. 

A mix of all ages and narrower age range options are both important to me.  Having a wide age spread it really helps when the people running the show remember that not everyone has 2 kids the same gender, 2 years apart, so a drop off situation is necessary. Also, some parents need to understand that siblings can do things separately.  Just because there isn't something specific for the older or younger sibling doesn't mean they're being treated unkindly or unjustly.  When they're older, or when they were younger, they had age specific opportunities. Or the upset parent can offer to run an activity for the kids who don't fit the age range of the first activity. I've seen a handful of situations where the mommies were outraged when not all of their children were invited to every single thing. 

Field trip opportunities need to be well thought out.  We recently toured an olive mill where we heard detailed discussion of the differences in types of olives, tasted olive oils for various subtle differences, heard what olive oil can be substituted for in baking,  and heard detailed discussions of the pressing process, but didn't see the equipment operating.  It was billed as appropriate for kids as young as 4.  No.  Preschoolers were not getting anything out of that.  They ran and squirmed and wiggled and whined because it was boring.  It was boring for adults.  Now the high school kids at the technical school being trained as chefs were the perfect candidates for that field trip. 

Another field trip that was age appropriate but a hot mess was the Riparian Preserve.  The mommies didn't seem to understand that you go on a guided filed trip to listen to the guide speak and to do what the guide leads in you to do (what to look at, what to listen to.) If you want to walk by the water and follow whatever spirit moves you, don't go on the guided tour.  Some no-nonsense, straight talk about expectations were in order. Quite a few families of littles showed up and the parents chatted with each other while the guide was speaking, they didn't follow along the tour in a timely way making it frustrating for the guide to get started at each new highlight of the guided tour, and when the guide dared roll her eyes once and say something about it (not professional, but very understandable) the mommies wanted to lodge a formal complaint about the guide!??!?  I wanted to send her roses myself.  Anyway, you can't assume all homeschoolers take homeschooler PR seriously, that they model appropriate behavior, or that they teach appropriate behavior. I suggest someone be assigned the job of telling the parents what the group expects of their behavior and their children's behavior or to not bother at all.

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My favorite thing is just park days. That's where we've made our best friends because no one has any responsibilities (aside, of course, from watching your own kids) you just get to sit and chat. We always bring snacks and camp chairs and we can be there for hours!

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