Finding or Starting a Support Group

By Mary Shaw, taken from OFTP Newsletter

Know what you want from a support group

This may sound silly, but expectations, and often the lack of awareness of expectations, are a major stumbling block. Are you looking for activism, curriculum information and planning advice, social contacts for yourself or your children, or like-minded individuals to share group activities? All of these are legitimate reasons to join a support group. Will every group meet all of these needs? Not likely. All homeschooling parents probably agree that homeschooling is best for their families and that they, the parents, are the best ones to determine the needs of their families. However, they do not all agree on just how one goes about this.
Before you go looking for a support group, assess your needs for support, and take some time to determine whether you can give support in any of these areas, especially to someone who has a different perspective from you. Ask yourself, Do I need support, or can I give support, in the following areas?

  • homeschooling in general
  • teaching methods
  • networking
  • religious, philosophical, political, lifestyle choices
  • social needs (you and your kids)
  • curriculum needs
  • activism

Once I find them, what then?

We are not just parents, we are people as well. If we don’t make sure that our batteries are getting charged on a regular basis, we are headed for trouble. Parenting is a stressful job at the best of times, and homeschooling increases some of those stresses exponentially. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves so that we can give to our families the best that we are able to give. So do what you need to give yourself positive strokes, and take them wherever you find them.

Don’t be afraid to say something supportive to someone who shares a radically different perspective from you. Also, be appreciative of support even when it comes from unexpected sources. If you find yourself being asked to validate actions that you cannot support (i.e., discipline methods, moral or ethical choices), be honest, but be fair. Remember that it is the action you cannot support, not the person, and see if there is a way that you can remain a part of the support network, especially if this group or individual has been a very good source of support in the past for you.

Forming your own group

Whether you are an existing group looking to broaden your perspective, or a new group being established, there are many avenues to pursue. Here are some of the things homeschooling groups do:

  • share activities such as craft projects, field trips, science or history fairs, athletic activities, and play groups
  • use group buying power for discount prices on performances, events, or educational materials
  • share curriculum ideas or teaching methods
  • get active politically
  • disperse information, perhaps through a telephone tree
  • have adult conversation — not to be minimized — as the teaching parent spends a great deal of time, energy, and effort focused on children.

None of this is an easy process, nor is it ever really finished. Many groups find that the needs change with the membership, and that things that used to work no longer do. Sometimes groups split up. This is not necessarily bad, as long as people maintain respect for each other. Growth and changes are immutable facts of life, and ability to adjust is a sign of health.

So get together! It’s worth the trouble.