By Sandy Norlin
“Our group’s prayer time has been such a blessing to me this year. We are new to home schooling, and I had so many questions getting started. I don’t know what we would have done without the wisdom and help of other moms in this group.” she said, tears of gratitude in her eyes.
Is this the type of support you need? Is this the type of support your home school support 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: listening to our six-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 our seven-year-old explain to Grandma and Grandpa that our family chooses to home school because public schools won’t let him say much about Jesus. These are victories and blessings worth cherishing.
But there are also hard times when you think of yourself as a failure: when your eight-year-old is still not reading properly or when you feel 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 support? A local support group may be exactly what you need. One word of caution: Home school support groups 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 in which your family wants to participate by finding a group that complements your family’s values. Some groups have a Christian statement of faith that members must 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. Still others are definitely secular and have no faith focus at all. 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. 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.
Group purpose – Consider the emphasis and focus of the potential group and how it is organized. The primary focus of home school support groups will be to encourage families, specifically moms who teach. 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, and large group activities occur in co-op situations. As the name implies co-ops are cooperatives with responsibilities shared by the group members themselves.
Another type of group combines elements of support for moms and 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. 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 – Don’t forget to consider scheduling when determining which group will work for you. Are monthly meetings enough? Are weekly meetings too often? This is a topic your family must consider. Don’t forget the “home” in “home school”! It is difficult to home educate when more time is spent on the road than 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 from the group 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 also important that home educating families stay informed of the pressing events and legislation that can impact our parental 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 home school years can often make the difference between enjoying this calling and season of life and 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, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2007 MACHE. Permission is granted to print this article in its entirety.
By: Sandy Norlin