One of the most important steps in homeschooling, once you get goal setting out of the way and settle into a homeschooling method, is finding support from others.
I believe too many of us think that we can brave the new world of homeschooling on our own. Whether or not you have the support of your family and friends, you cannot under estimate the need to be connected to other homeschooling families. (Now if you have family and friends who also homeschooling, count yourself among the blessed!!)
For those who live in small towns, it may be challenging to find another family that homeschools, let alone one that does things similar to your family. If you find yourself in this situation, I would encourage you to search online and find community and support there. Although it's virtual, you can find and create a good support system for yourself. Yahoo! Groups has lots of homeschooling networks based on location, homeschooling methods, curriculum used, number of children, etc. There are groups on Facebook and tons of homeschooling blogs where you can 'meet' and connect daily with other homeschooling families. If you're into videos, there are many homeschoolers on YouTube, too. Find a place where you can share, ask questions and get advice from seasoned homeschoolers. When things get tough, as they will, having this place will be greatly beneficial to your overall moral and emotional health.
For those of you who live in places that have homeschooling groups that meet in person, I strongly encourage you to join one, maybe two. There is something about being in a group of support families that can help you get through those rough spots during the year. Groups gather for lots of reasons—some are co-ops and offer classes; some gather for playdates and other outings; some are support groups and offer safe places to share and grow, still others may offer workshops for learning and developing your own understanding about educating your child/ren. Each of them has benefits and you should look at your family's goals, again, when looking into an 'in-person' group so that you can remain focused on what needs you have as a family and then what needs you have as a homeschooling parent.
Too often we let the day to day lesson planning and homeschool routine keep us from connecting regularly with others doing the same. On one hand, it may seem like just one more thing on our already full plates. But think of it this way, if you never take time to fill yourself up—whether it's through learning, taking a mental break, laughing and connecting with others who totally understand what you're going through—how are you able to continue to give to your family out of your abundance?
I have been blessed to be a part of a supportive homeschooling community that continues to grow each year. It's mainly a support group but we also gather to enjoy park days, field trips, learning & how-to workshops, classes and mom's night out. I have found that just hanging out and talking with the other moms in the group can be so uplifting. Days in which things just seem to be too much—I have someone I can call and they totally understand and offer their encouragement, as I do for them when they call.
The decision to homeschool can be an enormous one. Finding a community that can support this decision is paramount.
It does take time to find a group of families that match well with your own. I have to admit that it took going to several groups and not making real connections before I decided to start a group myself. (Starting a group is not for the faint of heart, mind you.) But connection is something I knew I needed and I continue to see how beneficial being connected is—for myself and for my children.
If you're having a hard time locating a group, do some searching online. Many state DOE sites often list the major homeschooling groups and associations where you can connect with them and possibly find other smaller, more local groups. Checking with your local librarians is also another option. They're good about knowing the people who patronize the library and can connect you to a group or share when other homeschooling families may visit the library.
Do you belong to a group, online or otherwise? How do you benefit from such connection? Is this connection important for you? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Happy Life Learning!
(Click here to read other posts in this series.)