A common request from new homeschoolers is, “Are there any homeschooling groups that get together regularly?” My answer is “Most definitely”. There are all sorts of different groups around the place…not as many as you might find in a more homeschooled-established place like the U.S. though but still a whole lot of options. The larger groups generally advertise their memberships online or by word of mouth but there are also many smaller groups that prefer to keep their membership to friendship groups.
Generally new homeschoolers feel that they need a big homeschool group to fill the void that withdrawing from school left in their children’s lives. They have heard about the benefits of homeschool groups:
* You can meet a variety of homeschooling families all at once
* There are plenty of children for your children to play with on a fairly regular basis
* Your children will be exposed to lots of different children and learn how to interact with them
* You can discuss homeschooling and swap ideas
* You can support other homeschoolers as they begin their journeys and help each other along the way
* It gives you an opportunity to get out of the house during the week
* Groups often gain access to (specifically school focused) events that individuals can’t
* Your children can participate in activities that require groups
* Someone else can teach the messy, tricky subjects you’d rather avoid
* You will participate in activities you might never have initiated for yourself
I do recommend that new homeschoolers find other homeschoolers who can support them in their journey. That is a must for all of us. But I always feel a twang of worry as I don’t believe the benefits they are hoping to enjoy extend as fully to larger homeschool groups.
I have tried both ends of the group life spectrum – fully involved in numerous large busy groups to participation in casual intimate gatherings and regular playdates. Yep! Been there, done that, and much wiser for it. With experience (unfortunately I had to jump into the fire to find out it was hot), I discovered that larger groups were incompatible with my goals for group life and my homeschool journey.
I learned these things about larger homeschool groups:
* You will meet a lot of people all at once but they won’t necessarily be like-minded people from whom you can build long-term relationships. Larger groups inhibit rather than build relationships.
* Quantity doesn’t equal quality in regards to socialising. Friendships develop more easily and deeply in a small group.
* You will have little say over who your children keep company with. Some of the children may be lovely, but some may not. You children will undoubtedly come home with new habits, many of which will not be nice.
* It can be difficult to share homeschooling ideas if there aren’t like minded educators in the group. Families can very vocal about their alternate choices and not always respectful of those who choose different paths. Like-minded homeschoolers are essential for support.
* You have to sacrifice a lot time to participate in active groups. This time comes from your children’s education as you then have to squeeze schoolwork into what’s left of the day or week.
* Children can struggle to focus during group activities and excursions. The small group benefits of homeschooling are eliminated in large group activities.
* There is the temptation and frequent opportunity to hand over the responsibility for your child’s education in various subjects to the control of others. Isn’t that what school is all about?
* Group classes bring the usual downfalls – the content can not be catered to the individual children’s needs, strengths, interests, pace or curriculum. The nature of a group means that activities and expectations must be aimed at the average participant.
* Frequent extracurricular activities and social gatherings can be given more importance in the week than staying home educating your children. Too much fluff and not enough substance.
* Group participation can become quite costly when you consider activity fees and the petrol consumed driving to and from events
Of course not all groups are guilty of all of these downfalls and smaller groups can fall into the same traps. The point I want to make is that you need to be aware of the pitfalls and consider what your expectations are and whether the group you have chosen meets these.
Larger homeschool groups are easy places for new homeschoolers to start. There you can meet a lot of people who you could form friendships with. It is the friendships for both mother and children that are important in your homeschool journey and not the environment in which you choose to find them. But, if you start out in a bigger group, in time you may find that you need to consider carefully if your group choice is meeting your expectations or hindering your journey.