One of the common misconceptions of homeschooling is that you sit at home all day without any outside interaction for the kids or parents. You are “home alone” trying to create a learning experience and educational tools by yourself. Although this is not true for our family, there have been periods of time when it has happened to us.
Fortunately this is rare. It is rare because we have developed a homeschooling support system. Our support system is a huge benefit to us in many ways, and without it I’m not sure we’d be able to continue, let alone thrive in homeschooling.
Why support systems are needed
Without a homeschool support system, we could be that ‘stereotypical homeschooling family.’ With a homeschool support system, the experience is enhanced and much more enjoyable. Here are 5 Benefits of a Homeschool Support System.
1. Encouragement. Just like anything worth doing, homeschooling can be challenging. And those challenges can weigh you down. When you have other families that are experiencing the same, they can be your pick me up. And you can return the favor when they are struggling.
2. More ideas. None of us know everything. In fact, with homeschool, as parents, you learn a lot of new ideas and skills right along with your kids. Your prep time can be significant. It helps when another family has done something and can share it with you. Ideas, curriculum and materials, outside activities. When you combine the knowledge of multiple families you have an abundance of resources to enhance the education your kids are getting.
3. Focus. Although homeschooling is a lifestyle, there are many other things going on in our lives. When you have support, the support can help you to remain focused on your education and homeschool goals. Either through regular conversation or group gatherings.
4. Parent Social interaction. You spend a lot of time with little people (your kids) when you homeschool. It is very helpful to have adult conversation, and from time to time get away. My wife gets together at least monthly with a some of the mom’s in our homeschool community. When extracurricular activities are planned as a parent you have the opportunity to spend time with other big people (moms and dads). I know this is a great source of rejuvenation for my wife.
5. Gives you a break. As homeschooling parents you are the education board, the principle, the teacher, lunch lady/man, recess overseer, etc. Sometimes a break is needed. Your support system can be there when you need a break, or just when you are unable to. From drop off play dates, to carpooling, to a parent taking your child(ren) to the extracurricular activity. Those times give you the freedom to still handle other non-kid related business or even get some serious homeschool prep work done.
How to get a support system
The benefits are great, but say you are a first time homeschooling family and you have no clue. There are many opportunities to join or even create your own support system. I suggests starting with your friend and family. You may discover some homeschoolers, or some families that are considering. Begin to get active and search for homeschooling opportunities, groups, events, programs, etc. The library, the web (thank you Google!), and even local sports groups.
Here are a 5 Ways You Can Develop a Support System.
1. Share what you are doing with people you know. Even before you start homeschooling you should share your intentions with those you know. Beware as you may get some funny looks, and strange comments, but don’t let it discourage you. This may lead to introductions to others, ideas, or events where you can connect with other homeschoolers.
2. Take classes and attend events. Find events and activities that are geared toward homeschoolers. Attend these events so you can get engaged with the homeschool community in your area. You will also discover many other resources and events for homeschoolers when you do this.
3. Join a coop. Through your discussion with those you know, and attending homeschooling events you may be exposed to homeschooling families that meet together regularly. These are called coops. Typically a homeschool coop meets once per week and each parent shares in the responsibility of teaching a particular subject. This setting is very similar to a traditional school classroom.
4. Create your own community. Our family has done all of the above, and it eventually lead us to start a community of our own. As we met with and engaged with others in our local area we discovered curriculums and many other resources. Through this we discovered Classical Conversations, which was not only a curriculum, but a communities of families who all used the same curriculum and function similar to a coop.
We joined one of the communities, actually driving an hour once per week to meet with them. We liked it so much that we decided to start our own local Classical Conversations Community. Our community has grown to 15 families and almost 30 students from pre-K to 8th grade.
5. Have your own programs and invite family. Homeschoolers don’t get the typical ceremonies that traditional schools do, but that shouldn’t stop you. Have ceremonies, programs, etc and invite your family. Even if your family doesn’t understand or agree with your decision to homeschool, keep them up to date and welcome them to join you at these events at any time. This will allow you and your kids to freely share what is being taught/learned, and provide an opportunity to showcase it.
If you don’t have a support system, don’t worry. It may take time, but if you do some of the things above you will can develop your support system. Then you’ll share in the benefits it brings while you continue you your homeschool journey.
Question: What areas in your could you use a support system (not just homeschool related)? Please share in the comment section below.