…And Here’s Why!
by: Saleama A. Ruvalcaba
Sorry, but I will let you know right away that this article is not a negative attack bashing homeschool support groups. Instead, the title is an example of what a lot of homeschool support group leaders hear very often. Many homeschool families have negative associations with these types of groups, and thus, vow never to join them again.
However, I would like to shed a positive light on homeschool support groups.
First, as a homeschool support group leader, I would love for those on the outside looking in to know that many homeschool support group leaders put in long hours of behind-the-scenes work to put together fabulous activities and events for their homeschool community. The hours put in resemble that of a full-time job, (with NO pay), yet we work tirelessly for our community.
It is frustrating when we hear blanket statements from home educators as to why they refuse to join homeschool support groups. Some of what I hear reminds me of the excuses people make for not going back to church:
- No one spoke to me or greeted me. (No one at the support group function acknowledged me)
- The church is too big to meet people. (The support group has too many families to make good connections)
- The church is too small to make connections. (The support group is too small to make good connections)
- I am too busy to go to church. ( I am too busy to go to support group events)
- The church always wants people to pay for something. (The support group has too many fees)
- The church is always asking people to volunteer for something. (The support group is always asking for help with something and I’m too busy)
- I can have church at my house with my friends. (I have plenty of friends so we can go on our own field trips)
We tend to be people who, quite frankly, make a lot of excuses. I know there are some homeschool families who do not join support groups for very good reasons, but I also know there are many who have negative associations with homeschool support groups and my intention here is to hopefully turn those negative feelings into positive feelings.
If you’re on the fence about joining a homeschool support group, here are a few ideas I have for you once you join:
- Make the First Move
There’s a major misconception that when joining a homeschool support group, everyone else already knows each other. Those who join consider themselves the “newbie” and therefore, they expect people to greet them first when they show up to events. Yes, we should expect a greeting when we are new and attend events. But there is a high probability that a lot of the parents in support groups do not know each other. Speaking for the homeschool support group that I lead, 80% of the parents do not know each other. When we have events or field trips, the parents in our group are just meeting each other for the first time.
If you do not consider this as a possibility, you might automatically assume parents who are conversing are life-long friends – ignoring you, when in fact they probably just met. You then leave with the idea that cliques are the dominate factor in homeschool support groups.
Go into these settings with a positive attitude. It’s okay to say hello first. As someone who is a major introvert, I had to learn how to overcome this. It doesn’t mean I’m no longer an introvert.
But I do not go into social settings waiting for people to greet me. Sure, it’s nice to have a greeting. But why wait? I have met many friendly people when I’ve said hello first.
2. Make It A Priority To Attend As Many Events As Possible
If you never read your Bible, you’ll never understand it. If you and your spouse never spend time together, you’ll drift apart. If your children never do schoolwork, they’ll never understand what they are expected to learn. The same applies to making connections in homeschool support groups. If you only join a homeschool support group simply for the sake of joining one, yet you never attend any of the events, how do you expect to make connections for you and your children?
Certainly you cannot attend every field trip and event offered, but your goal should be to make it a top priority to attend events organized for your benefit. First, you and your children will learn together during field trips. But also, the more you attend field trips and events through your homeschool support group, the more you begin to see the same people. You then strike up conversations, and thus, you start to build relationships.
I have heard home educators make this argument; “My homeschooler has better connections at church than in a homeschool support group.”
That’s probably because their child is attending, church, Life Groups, and other youth activities on a regular basis, in which he or she is seeing the same faces and connecting. Church itself does not make this happen. There is an effort being put forth to attend youth events at the church, so connections are bound to be made.
If you want to make connections through your homeschool support group, you have to make the effort to attend events.
3. Plan or Suggests Events
“There’s never enough of the things me and my children like to do, so we left that support group.”
As a leader of two different homeschool support group, ideas and suggestions from parents was a high priority. Parents may not want to volunteer to organize events and that’s fine, but I am always asking parents to give me ideas, days, and times of field trips and events they will enjoy, and I will plan it. This goes back to making the first move. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Share your ideas. Share your thoughts. Let the leaders in your group know what types of activities you and your children want to participate in. Homeschool support groups cannot function without families, therefore, the majority of these groups are open to ideas and suggestions – from you!
Speaking for my homeschool support group, I never personally ask individuals to volunteer to organize events. If someone wants to help organize something, I am all for it. But I do not put pressure on parents or make parents feel obligated to volunteer. I am more than happy to organize events based on the ideas from our families. I am pretty sure a lot of homeschool support groups leaders feel the same way.
Homeschool support groups are not perfect. I know some aren’t very welcoming.
The very first year our family started to homeschool, eight years ago, we joined a support group and it was nothing more than a well-established “group” of friends. I tried to attend field trips but found myself drifting off with just me and my children.
So I get it.
Some homeschool support groups are not a good fit for you, but it doesn’t mean we spurn every other group out there. A good friend of mine said something to me years ago and I will never forget it. I was about to leave the church she and her husband were pastors of because I was having some issues in her church in a ministry I was serving in. She knew the issues I had at my previous church so she said this to me;
“You are walking around with a lot of package. You are not willing to forgive and let go. You are looking at our church through the same eyes of your previous church. If you leave our church and go to another church, you will look at that church with the same eyes as well. You will then leave your next church and never stop, because you will always expect something to go wrong.”
My friend was 100% correct in what she said. I didn’t leave her church. I stayed and worked through the issues I was having.
Last year I had one of the most horrible situations in a homeschool support group as a leader. The group eventually dissolved but I left that situation hurt and angry. I was so hurt and angry I wanted to go to my mother and cry on her lap. I’m 43-years-old and that’s how much I was hurting. I wanted my mother!
As painful as that situation was, it did not stop me from moving on. I did not develop a bad attitude toward homeschool support groups. I was just about to join another homeschool support group before I decided to start my own. That situation did not stop me from being a leader. It did not stop me from connecting with other homeschool parents.
The issue is not homeschool support groups. We are sinful people and we live in a fallen world. No one is perfect. We hurt people, and people hurt us. There are people in the world who cause trouble and there are many wonderful loving people. We will face highs and lows in all facets of life. Your children will face issues at church, at college and at work. We cannot run or hide. We have to learn how to deal with issues, communicate through problems, shake the dust off, and keep going.
I encourage you to look at your local homeschool support group through the eyes of God. Have a loving attitude and expect to have a wonderful experience for you and your children. Be excited to attend field trips and events. Be open to meeting new people. God has your family on a homeschool journey and you need support. Seek Him as He guides your path. Ask Him to help you find the right homeschool support group for your family. He will do it!
“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast, O God.” Psalm 139:9-10
-Saleama A. Ruvalcaba