Whether you’re looking for a hub of information, practical support, social opportunities, or homeschool encouragement, homeschool support groups (in all shapes and sizes) can meet these needs and more — especially as you move into homeschooling middle school and beyond.
Although homeschoolers are characteristically an independent bunch who enjoy the freedom to make individual decisions about curriculum and methods, we can all be strengthened in our unique journey when we have the support of others to inform, encourage and assist us.
In today’s homeschooling world, that homeschooling support ranges from traditional and structured to a casual coffee group. There are support groups organized more like a traditional school (with shared curriculum, co-op teaching, and sometimes even public funding), umbrella groups that simply keeps your paperwork on file for state legal requirements, and a lot of variety in between.
What do these groups provide?
Again, the variety of benefits are vast. You can find legal registration support, curriculum assistance, testing and placement options, co-op teaching, lab opportunities, electives, field trips, social activities, promotion and graduation ceremonies, Web resources and support, and more.
Here are a few examples of homeschool support groups you might find in your area:
- Publicly funded homeschool co-op or charter schools provided by your school district
- Independent schools or state homeschooling organizations
- Nationally organized homeschool co-ops (such as Classical Conversations)
- Privately organized homeschool co-op schools (such as Artios Academies)
- Regional and local homeschool support groups
- Faith-based homeschool support groups
However, beyond filling the practical needs of curriculum or legal paperwork, a homeschool support group can provide a more important benefit: plugging you in with your local homeschooling community. Within your support group, you may develop a few close friendships with women you can open up to in times of need and vice versa. You have the opportunity to learn from mentors who’ve been in your shoes and can help you stay on course as you approach the more daunting middle school and high school years. You can also meet families with children of similar ages and build social connections for your kids.
I’ve been a part of a local homeschool support group for the past four years — and I can’t imagine homeschooling without it. Not because our group provides co-ops or anything formal in the way of education, but because of the support I’ve received from other homeschooling moms and the friendships that we’ve made for our entire family.
I’ve made practical connections that allowed us to start our own girls book club co-op, as well as spiritual prayer partners who’ve been able to lift each other up during our times of need. I learned early on that it’s important not to homeschool in isolation: Your personal homeschool support network is vital to helping you stay on course.
As to be expected in any group of people working together, there are pros and cons to opening yourself up to a group. I believe the key to maintaining positive relationships is to make sure you don’t fall into the comparison trap. Whether it’s comparing your children to other children, or your own performance with other moms, resist the temptation to look at one everyone else is doing — keep your eyes on what God is calling you to do for your family.
Don’t be surprised if that looks different from others. Don’t expect to agree with everyone on what church to attend, curriculum or learning style to use, schedules and chore programs, etc. But do agree to encourage one another to seek the Lord first in all areas of discipleship for your family.
Lastly, if you’re struggling to find a local homeschool support group in your area, consider the homeschooling community at large: There are both local and national homeschooling events taking place yearly that are designed to support and encourage you in the practical, emotional and spiritual aspects of homeschooling.
I’ve attended both a state homeschooling conference and the Teach Them Diligently Convention, and I can honestly say that I’ve never been so energized and refreshed. I’ve also made inspiring and supportive friends when attending these events, and these friendships are now an important part of my personal homeschool support network.
So don’t homeschool in isolation: Make time for a homeschool support group. Build your personal encouragement network for the road ahead!
Are you currently part of a homeschool support group? Is it formal and structured, or more casual in nature? Are you looking for practical, social or spiritual support from a homeschool support group? What other ways do you seek homeschool encouragement if you don’t have anyone local to connect with regarding homeschooling?