I’ve been visiting some groups of home educating parents recently whilst promoting my new book and it’s been enlightening to see how diverse they are and what a valuable resource they offer to home schoolers.
Some offer a structured learning activity for the children, whilst others offer a more social occasion with activities for the children to do should they choose. Most also offer the opportunity and equipment for free play, often outdoors, depending on the venue. And some parents set up specific group meets for teens doing GCSEs.
These groups give children opportunities to get together with others in a supportive environment with a large proportion of adults who encourage good social skills. There are no restrictions on who plays with whom, or what age they are, so natural connections are made which are more in keeping with the social world. As there is a high proportion of adults to children there is plenty of guidance to encourage healthy, balanced and caring relationships.
These meetings are also an important opportunity for parents to get together and talk about their kids and their concerns, dispelling the myth that parents home school in isolation. And as more and more parents are choosing this route instead of school the numbers, networks and group opportunities continually grow.
Groups are usually organised by one or two members getting together and starting things off. But they soon develop from there and it’s often necessary to put more structure in place to support the provision and the personalities!
Inevitably, wherever groups of people get together there are clashes; this is true of all groups and is not exclusive to home schooling, anyone who’s ever run a group will appreciate they need managing. So in large groups rules and behavioural procedures have to be devised for the comfort and safety of all members as they grow.
On the whole everyone generally gets on, sharing the common aim to help one another. These groups provide valuable support for both parents and children, building confidence, sharing resources, offering encouragement and a sense of community.
Some parents like to belong to more than one group, if they’re lucky enough to have several in their catchment area, giving their children have different experiences. So that’s worth exploring.
Below are a few ideas for getting the best out of home education groups;
- Explore online, link with other home schoolers maybe through Facebook or Yahoo and see what’s available near you and what they provide
- Think about what you want from your group; either a social unstructured meeting or a specific activity, although these are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Think about what your child needs
- Try a variety of groups if you have the chance so you get the feel of them and meet a range of people
- Don’t feel shy in talking to people, everyone has concerns and issues and they’re much better aired and shared
- Be prepared to get involved and contribute either ideas, planning or activities. These groups are all run on a voluntary basis and everyone can chip in to help
- And if you can’t find what suits you could consider starting one of your own.