10 Tips for Starting the Perfect Homeschool Group
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You’re searching for that perfect homeschool group. That co-op that will fit perfectly like your favorite pair of shoes. That class that will be just right for your child. The perfect book club. A group build around your child’s passion for art, Minecraft, sports or– I don’t know– basket weaving. But you just can’t seem to find it.
Can’t find it? Then start it!
If you build it, they will come. And it doesn’t have to be time consuming.
How to Start the Perfect Homeschool Group
1. Figure out what your child wants to learn about and how they want to learn it. This is very different from what you want them to learn and how you want them to learn it. Your group or event will be a zillion times more successful if it speaks to what and how your child learns (see below for examples of how this has worked for our family).
2. Sketch out what you want to happen, what will work for your family. If you offer too many choices, it will be very hard to come to a decision. So say something like: “I want a science group for early elementary aged kids that meets once a week on either a Monday or a Wednesday afternoon.” That way you can give people a choice of two days (I’m a big fan of majority rules for planning days and times).
3. Decide ahead of time the parameters of the group: Ages of kids, tasks and activities that will happen in the group, where you’ll meet. There will always be requests to work outside those parameters, like a child who is much younger than the ages you specified. Decide now if that will work with your group so you’re ready to respond to these requests. Consider safety issues, for example an adventurous hiking group or a science lab that works with chemicals might not be safe for a homeschooled preschooler, even if they are a nature enthusiast or a science genius.
4. Assign roles. Are you doing all the planning or working together with others? Keep it simple. If it’s too much work for you, as the organizer, it will seem like an overwhelming task. Ask specifically for what you need: “I need someone to host every other meeting.” or “I need someone to call the following places to arrange field trips.”
5. Use social media and mailing lists to get the word out and recruit members. Choose already existing homeschool groups on Facebook, email lists, etc. to publicize your group and get members to join. Cap it at a number that is comfortable for you. If you’re hosting something at your house, you may want to keep the number lower than if you’re meeting at a park.
6. Have a place where the group can communicate and receive information on when and where to meet. Private Facebook groups are my favorite for this because most people are on Facebook (use the secret group feature so you can add members but others can’t see the group or what is posted). Yahoo groups and email lists work, too.
7. Have a trial period, then re-evaluate. Is it working for you and your child? You don’t want to keep putting in the work of planning if it isn’t a good fit for your family.
8. Take breaks when needed. Have an end date or a big break date. Will this activity run for 6 weeks? 8 weeks? Half the year? Will you break for holidays? Summer?
9. Listen to the members and adjust/tweak as necessary. In the nature group I created for my 5-year-old, my son looked forward to every single one of those groups. The other kids and parents were really enjoying it, too, so when the group asked to meet more often, we had a match. Another two dates were added to the calendar each month. We also slightly changed the time because everyone wanted to meet a bit later. By “everyone” I mean the core group of members. There are some families who can’t participate as much. I recommend using your core group of members, the ones who show up for everything or almost everything, as the pulse of your group.
10. Grow with your group. If your group is running successfully, keep it going as the kids grow. Get their input on future meetings. You may be surprised where the group goes. It might be in a different direction than you thought.
More on how I started creating homeschool groups…
My 5-year-old son was crazy about nature and animals but he could not sit in a class and just listen to a grown up talk about animals. He wanted hands on and he expressed this to me by wiggling, fussing, whining and asking repeatedly to leave.
Splashing around in a creek with a bucket capturing water bugs, on the other hand, made his eyes sparkle with delight. He asked questions. We googled stuff when we got home. We went to the library the next day. He was learning.
So I created a group where kids could splash in creeks and climb on rocks and get muddy and make friends. We called it Nature Explorers. The kids went out with buckets to the creek and paint and paper to make art in the woods and cameras to capture wildlife and sometimes just their own eyes and hands and curious spirit to discover nature their way. They learned some amazing things. The group is entering it’s third year.
One year my kids attended a series of fairs: Science Fair, Geography Fair, History Fair. They enjoyed learning this way. It was tremendously productive. They got so excited about their projects. The next year our schedule changed and we couldn’t participate in the fairs so we created some of our own. That turned into a whole community, called Dulles Area Homeschoolers, that is also now entering the third year. If you live in Northern Virginia, you can join us!
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