‘Unschoolers’ launch day

Dear Readers,

My co-author Sophia Sayigh and I have been working on Unschoolers for a while and I’m delighted to announce that it’s available now.

unschoolers-front

Visit our website for various ways you can purchase the book in e-book and paperback formats. I hope you’ll consider spreading the word among your friends in conversation, on e-lists, or via social media.  Perhaps you’ll even feel moved to rate the book or write a review.

I welcome direct communication, too. Drop me a line and let me know what you think! Thanks, as always!

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.

Peace + park day

What is it about park day?

The other night a homeschooling mom was telling me about her first time attending a local park day for young children. Several older kids came, and the play turned rough.

As the new kid on the block, she thought staying quiet was best. But as a mom, she decided to broach the subject. She told me that her questions were met with lectures and dismissal. She left feeling judged, and she hasn’t gone back.

As she related her experience, I nodded my head in recognition. Over more than two decades of homeschooling, I’ve seen way too many rifts over park days. Seriously? Fights over going to the playground?

It may sound ridiculous, but park day can be sacred. For many support groups, it serves as the glue that holds the community together. It’s the place where families go regularly to gather, play, socialize, and forge connections. It’s also where new homeschoolers go, often enthusiastically, but sometimes tentatively, as an entry point to the brave new world they’ve decided to inhabit.

I don’t mean to imply that park days create more problems than they’re worth. They don’t. Park days are a beautiful thing, and many of my fondest memories involve sunny days laughing around picnic tables, dipping toes in the brook, watching games of ultimate frisbee and kickball, and engaging in spirited discussion with other adults.

But like every situation where people gather in groups, agreement is not always a given. I wasn’t present at the above scenario, but maybe the parents whose kids were playing so rambunctiously felt they had to defend their choices, or their certainty about the value of their children’s play obscured their ability to hear another’s concerns. One thing I’m pretty sure of is that they didn’t intend to make anyone feel unheard or unsafe, but unfortunately, that is what happened. “All I wanted was to talk about it,” the mom who shared her story said.

Simple, and yet so, so difficult.

The story put me in mind of something I heard at a neighborhood event I recently attended. “Community,” someone said, “is where the person you least want to be there, is.”

We like to think about community through rose-colored glasses, as some idyllic, utopian existence where everyone gets along every minute of every day. The truth is, being in relationship with others is messy. When we venture into groups, it’s inevitable that we’ll encounter people we don’t agree with. Maybe we don’t like their views, or their parenting styles, or the clothes they wear, or the way they talk. When this happens, learning to peacefully coexist can be a challenge, especially in homeschooling support groups where there’s often no clear leader or defined decision-making process. Throw in the fact that homeschoolers, by nature, tend to be strong-willed folk with strong opinions, and it can make navigating a support group feel a bit like stepping into the wild west.

This makes it even more important to listen to each other as best we can, and be open to compromise and change. Sometimes, we’ll reach agreement. Other times, we’ll agree to disagree. Still other times, we’ll part ways. If we’re really lucky, we may see each other clearly, and the person that was the one we least wanted to be there, becomes one we couldn’t imagine living without.

Resources:

Why and How to Get Connected

I Sought, I Found, I Joined; Now What?

Getting the most out of your support group