Homeschooling in community

Recently I spent some time going through copies of my old Growing Without Schooling magazines, and rediscovered this article I wrote for Issue #141, in which I describe one of my favorite things about homeschooling.

Four years ago, when my third child was born, our family was given a great gift from our homeschooling community. For two whole weeks, a home-cooked meal showed up on our doorstep each and every night. The smiling, friendly faces of the people that brought us food shared our happiness, eased our transition to becoming a family of five, and helped make our lives smoother during a very busy time. I still recall many of those meals vividly, and I collected a number of new recipes, some that have become our family’s favorites.

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Less than two years later, we had another child, and again this incredible luxury was ours. As pleasurable as it was being on the receiving end, we’ve also enjoyed being able to give. New babies haven’t been the only occasion for which our homeschooling community has pulled together to provide the basic necessity of food. When families have experienced illness, or overwhelming stress, we have tried to be there. For example, the director of our homeschooling theater group gets meals brought to her each night during tech week, so she doesn’t have to worry about feeding her family of six while she’s busy putting up sets and finalizing details for opening night.

One of the things I’ve loved about lending these helping hands is not just the example it sets for the children, but how they are able to get involved. I remember the chocolate chip cookies, prepared by a young girl, that came as dessert in one of our meals. When a mother had to be admitted into the hospital for surgery it was a 16-year-old who organized meals on wheels for her family.

Modern life has turned the idea of “community” upside down. So many of the discussions I have with other homeschoolers revolve around this. What is a community? Are we a community? The fact that we live in many different towns and cities and have to travel distances just to come together works against us. Yet we respond to each other in times of need, and not just with food, and not just for big events like babies and sickness. We take care of each other’s children, by offering transportation or care when it’s needed. These things happen so regularly that they’re just part of the flow of our lives.

We also help each other just by spending time together doing things we love and want to share. One mother runs a literature group twice a week. Because of her, my two older children have read many classics, and they have enjoyed it tremendously. A dad whose family is into ultimate frisbee started a group a while back, and now every Wednesday morning during the spring and fall we flock to the park. The older kids love the game, and the younger siblings play at the playground. Another mother does art, another is doing history through film. I have had the good fortune of being part of a writers group with a dozen or so homeschoolers. And there has been more.

Everything I’ve described has been freely given, an interchange of learning, fun and goodwill that has enriched the lives of everyone in our homeschooling world. Through all these activities there has been exhilaration, excitement, and even discord. But that is a good sign, because I think it means we really are a community. We know each other well, adults and children alike. We have worked through issues together and come out on the other side. We have been there for each other as best we can. I don’t think we could know each other as well as we do if we didn’t spend so much time working and playing together, and that time has been a gift of homeschooling. Helping each other naturally arises when people share their lives.

Recently, in response to the large number of inquiries we get about homeschooling, a group of us organized a series of public panels. I had the privilege of sitting on one, and someone asked me what I like best about homeschooling. The first thing that came to my mind was the community. I love the community, and I feel so blessed to be a part of it and thankful for the benefits our family reaps from it every day.


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