. . .But Were Afraid to Ask. . .
Part 4: Am I Out Here on My Own?
As I said a few articles back, when we began our homeschooling journey, by and large we were on our own. We knew of a few other families who were educating their kids at home or who had done so in the past. But there really wasn’t anyone to show us the way or give advice. For quite a while, I felt as though we were out on our own.
I had read one older, somewhat dated book about a homeschooling family. It made me feel a little better, but it didn’t give me any ideas about how to begin, how to explain what we were doing to others or how to deal with hard days.
The Internet was around at that time, but we weren’t using it the way we do now. It took me a few years to find our nearest homechool support group, and even then, it covered such a large geographical area that frequently their activities were too far away for us. Our area also suffered from a frequent homeschool group malaise: we had one very conservative Christian group, and we had one strictly secular group. The former was exclusive to believers; the other billed itself as inclusive, but actually was not very tolerant of anyone who disagreed with its fairly liberal view.
Fortunately for us, homeschooling can sometimes be like the chicken pox: it tends to spread between families. Before too long, several families whom we knew had decided to begin homeschooling, too, and we had an informal homeschool social group.
Beyond that, I discovered that most larger curriculums were developing online support groups. When I begin to post on those boards, I met incredible homeschooling moms from around the world. . .some of whom became my closest friends.
Since moving to Florida, we’ve become part of several local homeschooling groups. Some of them are more socially oriented, while others exist to organize field trips and learning co-ops.
So what’s the benefit of being involved in a homeschooling support group? First of all, there’s the dreaded “s” word: socialization—not only for the child but for the parents. It’s good for kids to spend time around other children who are being homeschooled, who understand the unique benefits and keep roughly the same hours. And it’s a relief for moms and dads to be able to talk with other parents who share the passion for home education.
It’s also helpful to have a group that can act as a sounding board. Everyone is going to have questions or decisions to make at one point or another, and getting some input from parents who have already been through that process is enormously important. Homeschool groups are wonderful places to get curriculum ideas, as well as links to valuable Internet sites. Of course, most groups also have all the local legal requirements and can give heads-ups on upcoming legislation that pertains to homeschoolers.
And on those days when we’re ready to toss in the towel and send the kids back to public school, or when we’ve heard one too many snide comment from the cashier at the grocery store (“Oh, you homeschool? I think children who aren’t in school turn out weird.”), or when our husband has come home, looked at the messy house and asked archly, “What do you do all day?”, homeschool groups are a precious resource. Sometimes just venting about what has happened to other people who understand is a relief.
I love homeschooling. I don’t know that I’ve found anything about it I don’t like. But by its very nature, it can be a lonely adventure. Why should we be out here on our own when we don’t have to be? Find a homeschool group. If you can’t find any local groups with whom you are comfortable, try some of the national or international groups.
You don’t have to go it alone!