“Our group’s prayer time has been such a blessing to me this year. We are new to homeschooling and I had so many questions getting started. I don’t know what we would have done without the wisdom and help of other mom’s in this group.” she said, with tears of gratitude in her eyes.
Is this the type of support you need? Is this the type of support your group can provide to new families and not so new families that have lost their original vision for home educating?
Home educating is a wonderful adventure but it is not an easy venture by any means. At times we can be filled with the overwhelming pleasure of seeing evidence of our hard work such as: listening to your 6 year-old read a new library book all by herself, seeing two, quibbling siblings apologize to each other without having to be coaxed into it, or hearing your 7-year-old explain to Grandma and Grandpa that your family chooses to homeschool because public schools won’t let him say much about Jesus. These are victories and blessings worth cherishing.
But there are those other times: thinking yourself a failure when your 8-year-old is still not reading properly in spite of everything you have tried to do, you are certain it is a vision problem -- the optometrist says no, yet your mother’s heart questions? Or feeling fearful that your oldest child, soon to be high school age, won’t learn enough at home to prepare him for college entrance.
If you have been home educating for any length of time you understand. Where can you turn for the support you need? A local support group may be exactly what you need. One word of caution, there are many groups which are as varied as the members within them. In order to find the group that works for your family you will need to do some research.
Values? Determine the type of group your family wants to participate in by finding a group that compliments your family values. Some groups have a Christian statement of faith that they want members to adhere to in order to belong to that group. Other groups require no specific statement of faith either for members or those in leadership positions of that support group. Still others are definitely secular and have no faith focus. Make sure you ask where the group stands before you make a decision to participate.
Participation requirements? You should also determine how much participation on your part is involved with membership in the group. Each person is gifted in unique ways and groups run best when gifts are shared. Also, as a home educating parent, you are accountable for the education of your children and are their primary teacher. Clarify at the outset how much sharing and participation is required to be part of this group.
Purpose of group? Consider too the emphasis and focus of the potential group and how it is organized. The primary focus of support groups will be to encourage families and specifically teaching moms. Often these groups will provide regular times of fellowship and/or discussion forums for families. The emphasis for co-op groups will weigh in favor of group activities and supplemental classes in which children can participate. Events like field trips, classes, large group activities would occur in co-op situations. As the name implies co-ops are cooperatives with responsibilities shared by the group members themselves.
To make the distinction less clear yet, another type of group combines both elements of support for moms and additionally classes for students in a type of hybrid support group. Other mega-groups may even hire teachers and administrators that create pseudo-school situations that provide classes and activities for children.
Again, research your support group choices thoroughly before deciding what will work best for your family and still hold true to the purpose you have in choosing to educate and disciple your children at home.
Scheduling? Another item to consider when determining which group will work for you is scheduling. Are monthly meetings adequate? Are weekly meetings too often? This is something your family must consider. Don’t forget the home in homeschool. It is difficult to home educate when more time is spent on the road then in the home. This of course is the constant balancing act we do in the age in which we live. Ask yourself if the benefit received is worth the investment of time, money, energy and effort on your part.
Because our teaching at home is closely tied to the rights and responsibilities we have as citizens of this country and state it is important that home educating families stay informed of the pressing events and legislation that can impact our parenting rights. A support group that stays informed and attentive to current issues is a necessary resource for the individual home educating family. When choosing a support group keep this in mind as well.
Finding adequate support during your homeschool years can often make a difference in enjoying this calling and season of life, or simply enduring it. If you are certain the Lord has called your family to this lifestyle but feel burdened, alone, or unsure of how to proceed next, there are groups waiting to mentor and encourage you on this adventure. As this new school year begins, do yourself a favor and connect with others to walk along the same path together.
This article first appeared in the August/September 2007 issue of "The Paper MACHE", the official bimonthly newsletter of Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators (MACHE). MACHE may be contacted at P.O. Box 32308, Fridley, MN 55432, by phone 763/717-9070, or at email@example.com.
(c) 2007 MACHE. Permission is granted to print this article in its entirety.