Build a Homeschool Network
You are an overwhelmed homeschooling parent. Maybe you have just moved to a new place. Your kids are lonely for friends. You are lonely for friends, people who won’t look at you funny when you tell them you homeschool your kids. Where do you turn?
One of the most important steps you can take as a homeschooling parent is joining a homeschool network.
It can take a while, but the effort you put into finding and building a reliable homeschool network will pay off in a big way.
What is a Homeschool Network?
A homeschool network is basically a group of fellow homeschoolers who have a common goal in mind. That goal may be to organize group classes and field trips, or it may be something as simple as wanting a social group for yourself and your kids!
Why Join a Homeschool Network?
Before you try to build a homeschool network, you might wish to join an existing network first, There are several advantages to belonging to a network of other homeschoolers including:
- A group to organize field trips and other outings with. Often you can get a reduced rate on tours and at museums if you have a sizable group. We are often given the same discounts and incentives that public school tours get.
- Friendships with other like-minded parents. Many of the moms in my group choose to homeschool differently from each other. We all use different curricula and follow different schedules, but there is never that awkward pause that sometimes follows when I mention to others that we homeschool. As moms in the group we have done coffee, brunch, pedicures, and craft nights. Even the dads get together sometimes for a hike with the kids or a night at a local concert.
- Consistent friends for our kids. I really became committed to our homeschool network when we moved to the city and my kids found themselves without any friends nearby. At first, we just met the group for weekly park days. Now the friends my kids have in the homeschool group are the ones who invite them to birthdays, come over for playdates, and take classes together. We see many of them several times a week!
- Homeschool help. It is overwhelming to homeschool, especially at first! There are so many different options out there for curricula and so many philosophies floating around. It is so great to socialize with other moms who are more experienced homeschoolers than myself. They give me great advice on scheduling and curricula, not to mention encouragement when the going gets rough!
How to Join a Homeschool Network
Most people start on social media like Facebook and Meetup.com
If there are no existing networks in your area or if the networks aren’t very active, don’t despair! There are several ways you can still find or create your own network. Chances are if you are searching for a homeschool network, somebody else in your area is, too. Here are a few ideas for where to start building your own homeschool network:
- Start your own group on Facebook or Meetup! It’s really easy on both platforms. Facebook is free while Meetup charges a yearly fee. Most Meetup organizers I know charge each member of their group $2-$3 per year to join so that they don’t have to swallow the cost by themselves. Be sure to include keywords in the title of your group, typically the name of the city you are in and the word “homeschool”. That should be enough for other families to find you. (example: “Denver Homeschoolers” or “Homeschool Families of the Mile-High City”) Just start posting activities and you’ll be astonished at how fast your group grows.
- Ask around your existing networks for homeschoolers who may be interested in starting a group. I have a friend who called around to different parishes of her church and organized a weekly park play day with other homeschooling families that way. You can also go out of your way to chat with families you see at the zoo or the science museum who are homeschoolers to find out what kind of network they belong to or if they would be interested in starting a group with you. (You can always spot the homeschoolers: Families who are out and about together during the school day!)
- Join an online network. There are tons of great blogs and homeschooling forums out there that can help you with homeschooling. They won’t meet the social needs of your family since there is no face-to-face interaction, but there are tons of great information and resources available online.
What other ideas do you have about joining/creating/belonging to a homeschool network? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Five Steps to Build a Homeschool Network
For many families, homeschooling works better when one or more classes can be shared with a group. Parents and their children decide to regularly gather in each other’s homes or a rented facility to cooperatively teach academic subjects like math or science or extra-curricular courses like art, sports, or drama. Better known as homeschool co-ops, these groups generally have anywhere from five to 50 member families with homeschool parents volunteering to teach particular areas of skill or interest.
However, what do you do when your community doesn’t have a homeschool co-op available for parents? In this month’s “What’s on Your Mind,” we tackle this question and also offer creative ideas for group gatherings.
Q: What are the best ways a mom could start a small homeschool co-op that would be more age specific to meet her own child’s social needs? Plus, what are some good ideas a small homeschool co-op might do as a group?
– Alesia F., Oklahoma
A: Here are five helpful steps to build a homeschool Network
1. Get Help
To start a successful homeschool co-op for children close in age to yours, the first thing to do is recruit the support of a few, like-minded homeschool parents. Because every homeschooling family is busy and no single person can run a homeschool co-op, choose three or four organized homeschool parents who display great leadership skills and an enthusiastic desire to get things accomplished.
2. Pick a Purpose
With your group of leaders, decide on your homeschool co-op’s goals. Do you want to get children together to socialize, save money as a group when participating in field trips, serve the community in an event, or provide academic and instructional classes for your children? Whatever your overall purpose, your administrative group needs to establish a mission statement and a firm set of rules for both parents and children to avoid confusion and misunderstandings. For instance, how often will you meet and where, will membership fees be charged to cover expenses, will outside teachers be hired, and will every parent need to commit to teaching, supervising, and helping with clean up tasks?
3. Spread the Word
Get the information on your homeschool co-op out to the homeschooling community. Put up flyers and speak to church leaders, local librarians, youth agencies, and other places that cater to homeschooling families. Use the Internet to find local homeschool groups online and send emails with your mission statement to their leaders. You can even create a website for your homeschool co-op with pages for announcements, calendars, discussion boards, photo galleries, and more!
4. Host an Information Night
Send out a general email to the homeschoolers in your area to gauge interest and communicate your co-op’s purpose to potential members. Be sure to tell interested parents more about your goals at this time and have any guidelines or rules printed to hand out at the meeting. Offer a sign-up sheet for your first planned activity or class, as well as an expectation worksheet to clarify what each family desires from the homeschooling co-op.
5. Plan Activities
The activities planned for your homeschool co-op should support the goals previously established. However, like the flexibility in your own homeschool, there are many things a homeschool co-op can do collectively as a group. Pick a name, create team sports, design T-shirts, publish a monthly newsletter, and participate in field trips. The possibilities are endless! In fact, even the running of the homeschool co-op itself can be an excellent learning opportunity for children.
In addition, here are some other ideas and topics you may wish to do when you build a homeschool network.:
Auto maintenance (don’t forget “powder puff” mechanics for girls, too)
Community careers (get people from the local community to discuss their jobs)
Drawing (see AOP’s LIFEPAC Drawing Basics® with Thomas Kinkade)
Life skills(cooking, wilderness survival, first aid, etc.)
Robotics with construction toys
Science fair projects