Getting the most out of your support group

What about socialization? is a question often heard by homeschooling parents. Experienced homeschoolers know it’s a non-issue. Social opportunities for homeschoolers abound. One of the best ways to take advantage of the wealth of available resources is to join a support group.

Some groups are loosely organized networks, while others are structured in a more hierachical fashion. Some are open and inclusive, while others cater to particular educational philosophies or beliefs. Families often join more than one. For those wondering how to make the most of a homeschool support group, a few suggestions follow.

Don’t forget the face to face Virtual support groups and e-lists abound, but there’s no replacement for getting together with others on a face-to-face basis. Look for groups with less e-list chatter and more opportunities for real time activities.

Participate! Those group activities and classes you’re enjoying were likely organized by a volunteer. Most groups depend on members to keep things vital and rolling. Think about what you have to offer and put it out there. Whether it’s hosting a group meeting or potluck, teaching a class, organizing a science fair, or planning a field trip, becoming an active member of the group is a great way to make the programs you want happen, meet new friends, and help others.

Don’t be shy Breaking into a new group can be tough for anyone. Do your best to introduce yourself and feel free to ask questions about homeschooling, and about how things work in the group you’ve joined. Even a virtual introduction on a list serve can help you connect with others who may share your interests and goals.

It takes time You finally make it to the playground with your kid, and it seems that no one is paying any attention to him. Worse yet, it feels like the parents are chatting happily with each other and completely ignoring you. First, take a deep breath. These parents and kids are at a group event enjoying each other, as you would be — and probably will be — once you get to know everyone. Introducing yourself, sharing your interests, and contributing to the group will all help speed up the process.

Practice Tolerance Homeschooling parents tend to be an opinionated lot. Views on parenting and education are bound to differ among families in any support group. If conflicts arise, do your best to stay true to your own principles while acknowledging that others may have different views.

Whenever possible, let kids handle their own social struggles As homeschooling parents, we’re often well acquainted with the families of our kids’ friends. This doesn’t mean we should butt in when our kids are experiencing issues with them. Growing up is a thorny business. Our children are learning how to communicate effectively in relationships. While it’s easy to jump right in and get involved, sometimes the best way to help is to just listen. This is especially true when we’re parenting teenagers.

Where are those groups? For more info on local groups in your area, ask your state homeschooling organization. Here’s mine.


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