Mothers tell me all the time that they wish they had a homeschooling group that met their needs.Sometimes what forms as a loose group in the beginning really doesn’t hold as the years progress because I often find around the age of five or six, families get really antsy if this child is their oldest. They may to decide to put their children in school or they may change homeschooling methods, and then you have to start all over again!
It is worth it though to have this structure in place. A homeschooling group of friends is so important to the grades child. They may have other friends who go to public or private school, but to have a group of friends who are being schooled in the same way, and even in the same method can be invaluable.
Our homeschool group started very small. Jodie Mesler of Homemusic Making (http://www.homemusicmaking.blogspot.com/), and Lovey of the former Loveyland blog and I all discovered we lived in the same metro area but very far apart. We set up a Yahoo!Group and figured it would be just us. I mean, really, who would ever find it and join us? We would just encourage each other from afar and maybe meet up here and there.
People did find us and join. The Waldorf School in our area also referred families to us; families who lived too far away to drive to the school.
We started out by only getting together several times a year to celebrate festivals and this year we have seasonal celebrations, family fun days, adult classes with Waldorf-trained teachers, co-op classes for the children with Waldorf-trained teachers, field trips. mother’s nights out and father’s nights out, round tables to discuss the practicalities of homeschooling in general – how do you get housework done? How do you cook during the week? How do you live on one income? We have brought speakers in such as Melisa Nielsen and Donna Simmons. Every year we hold a Curriculum Fair where all the mothers bring in all their homeschooling resources so one can sit and really look through things that look interesting to order over the Internet. This year our Curriculum Fair drew in mothers from the surrounding areas and surrounding states and we even had a few vendors! That was new!
In the beginning, we had to find our groove. We start all of our festivals and Early Years playgroups with an opening circle. The playgroups, unless it is a swim date or a hike, is well-structured to really hold the small ones. It took time to get to that place.
We went through a period where we ended up writing group guidelines. We initially received inquiries from parents who wanted to join us because they were looking for other mothers who knit, or families with children who didn’t watch TV, but were teaching lots of academic facts to their small children. That didn’t work well for our children. We started charging a small membership fee, required a small application and an agreement with our group guidelines.
We have parents who use Live Ed!, Christopherus, A Little Garden Flower, Enki, Oak Meadow, or any other Waldorf-inspired method, including “create your own but I follow the general scope of Waldorf”. Some folks may quibble at the addition of Enki or Oak Meadow users to a Waldorf-inspired group. However, we find that many of our families use Oak Meadow in the upper grades and high school, and we wanted a homeschool group that could be about homeschooling the child all the way through high school. We wanted there to be support for that.
Many of the families have read some of Rudolf Steiner’s works, and many have a varying relationship to his work, do not believe in or follow anthroposophy, but they believe in Waldorf Education. We have different religions (Christianity, Judaism, etc) represented within our group, but this has never become a source of contention or upset. All the families are gentle parenting families and it just sort of worked out that way.
It is a lovely community for although we are all spread out geographically, many of us make this group a priority. It is a loving community; we have gone in and cleaned mother’s homes when they were sick, taken care of each other’s children, brought food after the birth of babies. It is a real community of love and respect. We don’t always all agree, but we still love each other.
Maybe you have something like this through your place of worship (and you all know how important I think that is), but maybe you need to create something specific to homeschooling. Your children truly are worth the time, the effort, and yes, the growing pains!
I am involved in my group by helping those new to homeschooling or fielding questions regarding the Early Years and Early Grades. We all have small ways to contribute that make our group vital and active. It can take effort to get such a group going, but once it is going, it can turn into truly mother-sized jobs.
I hope this helps some of you on the road toward creating your own group.