a local homeschool support group can be intimidating; having
to advertise, manage, and organize events is overwhelming.
Active homeschooling families have busy schedules and virtually
no free time. Another big commitment can seem impossible,
but the rewards make it worth the effort. If you have ever
considered starting a local homeschool support group, here
are some tips to keep in mind:
Prioritize – Don’t let starting a support
group interfere with teaching, family, church, or other responsibilities.
If the support group needs to take the backseat during Christmas,
be upfront with your members and tell them you cannot commit
to anything during December, but they are welcome to plan
events without you during that time. If you have to miss a
park day, do it. Keep the number of events minimal. A bi-monthly
park day and one outing per month are enough for most groups.
Maintain a balance that makes your family and your homeschool
group compliment one another.
Start up – If you’re lucky enough to
have a large homeschool group in a neighboring city, contact
the director and tell her your plans. She will probably have
great advice. When I contacted Karen Matlock, director of
Horizons Homeschool Group in Grapevine, Texas, she informed
me that other surrounding cities had spin-off groups. She
was thrilled to let me advertise the Roanoke Homeschool Group
on Horizon’s email loop. She also helped me create an
email loop for my new group. If you want to post messages,
calendars, updates, and photos online, go to smartgroups.com
or groups.yahoo.com. In a few easy steps, you can create a
free email loop for members to join.
Advertising – Whether or not you have a parent
organization for your local group, advertising is important.
The library is usually allows posting notices if you ask nicely.
There may be a bulletin board or a resource area for flyers.
Newspapers often feature a community bulletin board or calendar
where they list upcoming events. Call your local papers and
find out how they prefer to receive press releases, then type
up the when, where, why, who, and what about your first meeting
or event. Submit it to the editor a few weeks before your
event. Your city may also have a community cable channel.
The local librarian or city hall receptionist should be able
to tell you whom to contact about this advertising venue.
Explain to the cable coordinator that yours is a non-profit
group, new to the community, and request they post your press
release on television for a week. These are ways to advertise
without spending money. Once your group is established, you
may want to boost promotions with tee shirts, bumper stickers,
or book bags.
Events - Scheduling events and delegating responsibilities
can be challenging. Try planning a mom’s morning at
a local coffee shop, no children allowed, and ask the members
what the best time would be for park day. Not everyone will
agree, but the two main considerations will be your attendance,
as the group leader, and the majority’s preference.
Brainstorm special events and field trips for the next semester,
and get commitments for help with planning and hosting. Make
sure you have everyone’s phone number, names, email
addresses, and children’s ages for your records. Try
to hold a mom’s meeting at least once a semester.
Location - Where will all of your events take place?
Again, call your city and ask for use of a room in the community
center or library. Always mention your group name and that
you are a non-profit community support group for homeschooling
families. If you have no success with the city and library,
churches sometimes allow use of their facilities for homeschool
groups. Wherever you meet, be sure to ask for a list of clean
up responsibilities, what’s off limits, and where to
take the garbage after the meeting. Have a few moms in the
group sign up to stay late and help clean. Good relations
are imperative to making your group successful. You need community
support and respect, so be sure to do your best to earn it.
Send thank you emails or notes to everyone who helps your
Activity Ideas – A mom’s meeting and
park day are standard events in a homeschool support group,
but fun and unusual opportunities keeping membership up. Plan
an oral report day, holiday parties, field days, or nature
walks. The Internet provides resources for field trips in
most areas. Museums, tours, camping trips, the zoo, and farms
are wonderful outings for groups. Ask about group discounts
and be prepared to create a letterhead and logo for your organization
so you will qualify as a school group. If you do not have
the resources to create a letterhead, one of your members
will. Just ask. The more involved members become with the
group, the more dedicated they will be.
Deadlines and Money - You will have to establish
deadlines for event sign ups and require prepayment if tickets
are to be purchased. It is discouraging to not be reimbursed
for tickets you prepaid for. Don’t put yourself in a
bad situation. Make prepayment mandatory. Request cash or
a check made out to the event instead of passing checks through
your personal bank account.
Organization – Keep monthly calendars in a
three ring binder, and file a clear page protector for each
scheduled event behind the appropriate month. List the members
who will attend, whether or not they have paid for the event,
or their responsibility (i.e., clean up, potluck dish, craft
hostess, games hostess, etc.) on an event sign up form. Keep
an envelope stapled to event forms for ticket purchases, if
applicable. As members pay, mark the event form accordingly
and secure their payment in the envelope, inside the page
protector. A few days before a field trip or activity, send
a group email listing the responsibilities and who has signed
up to attend. Request a final RSVP.
Diversity - Homeschooling families are diverse. If
you want your homeschool group to be a religious based organization,
require members to sign a statement of faith. Parenting and
teaching styles are diverse, too, and respecting unfamiliar
beliefs and methods can be difficult, especially for young
children. Nevertheless, diversity is part of socialization,
and teaching children to understand differences is essential
in preparing them for life. Talk about these differences in
the privacy of your home, and explain that as Americans we
have freedom in schooling, discipline, religion, and lifestyles,
and why freedom is so valuable.
Conflict - Unfortunately, parental conflict and disagreements
between children will occur in any homeschool group. Be a
mediator, and maintain open communication and honesty with
everyone. Do not allow gossip to take root; it will destroy.
Being a leader often means taking a stand for what is right,
even if everyone is not pleased with the outcome.
a support group can be challenging and time consuming, but
the rewards are immeasurable. Local support groups benefit
individual families by fostering relationships and providing
social activities, and they also help build community awareness
and respect for homeschooling families. If we want homeschooled
children to become the leaders of tomorrow, we need to set
an example by being the leaders of today.
Shauna Smith Duty is a freelance writer and homeschooling
mom of two. She writes parenting content, family activity
ideas, and inspirational short stories, and she provides book
reviews and editing services. Visit her website at www.shaunasmithduty.com.