Finding Your Homeschool Tribe

By Holly Giles | homeschooling

homeschool tribe

Finding your homeschool tribe can take time. Frustration and burnout can occur without the right support system for you and your children. But how do you find what is right for your family?

The Beginning

I began homeschooling my oldest son ten years ago before he entered kindergarten. Fortunately, my neighbor, Stephanie decided to do the same with her daughter who was the same age. We had each other to navigate the plethora of choices, styles, and requirements to teach our children. We both felt like we needed more support and interaction after a year or so of winging it. We wanted to find a homeschool tribe where we felt like we belonged and with moms of similar styles.

The Co-op

Together, Stephanie and I,  joined a co-op for our kids’ second-grade year. Stephanie also had a first grader and I had a preschooler. We both believed this co-op was our salvation for socialization and mommy friends. We were dead wrong. This particular co-op was strict on core lessons, sitting at desks and replicating a school environment.  As for the new mommy friends, well we were hustling around helping all the other teachers, cleaning up messes and never had a spare moment to connect. At the end of each Monday co-op, I was exhausted, my kids were cranky and it made our Tuesday never get off on the right foot. We did not go back for a second term.

Here are a few considerations if you are looking for co-ops:

  • Does a day away from home help or hinder your family’s rhythm?
  • Look for your style of homeschooling. Classical, eclectic, core studies or fun electives.
  • What is YOUR time commitment? Will it affect the rest of your week?
  • Are your children content with your home schedule or would they benefit from the time at the co-op.

The Park Day

Next, we thought maybe a park day with other kids would be best. There were several yahoo groups in our area with meetups. For some reason, we ended up with groups who had completely different ideas on raising children, appropriate conversation and lifestyles. Stephanie and I felt like we were on candid camera sometimes at the situations we ended up in. In being persistent and not giving up, we did find a few families each of us clicked with that led to long-term friendships.

Park day tips:

    • What is the age group that will attend?
    • Is there a good mix of boys and girls?
    • Are you looking for a Christian group or secular?
    • Does this group support only a specific style of parenting or schooling, or is everyone welcome?
    • Be brave and start your own. Head to the same park on the same day for a month and you will probably meet a few homeschooling families that may turn into a weekly park day.

Support Groups

Here is where fitting in can be hard. Walking into a room full of homeschool moms that you don’t know is kind of like the first day of school. Terrifying. I really just wanted to know that I was not alone in this wonderful, frustrating and downright exhausting journey I was on. There was one particular support group that I went to for six months before I really made an effort to connect. I sat in the back and just listened to the women who came to speak or shared ideas. When I finally let my guard down, it has been a good decision to stick with it.

Support group tips:

  • Will your spouse support you in meeting with a group and taking care of the children if necessary?
  • Does the group have a specific focus or encompass a variety of topics.
  • Does the group have a specific religious affiliation? Is that important to you?
  • Is there a variety of moms with varying age children? Having mentors who have already been where you are is worth its weight in gold.

What I learned

As I look back over all the co-ops, park days, field trips, online groups and in-person support groups, I realize that you have to find a tribe for yourself first. Home educating our children is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. You need support for yourself first, then activities for the kids second. I do not believe this is selfish, it is self-preservation. Yes, I believe God has called me to give of myself to homeschool my children. However, I don’t believe he wants me crying in the bathroom and eating all the chocolate bars that were for the weekend bonfire either.

It may take several tries with many different groups, over a period of time before you find where you belong. It took me three years to realize I was in the right group all along, I just had not allowed my self to jump in with both feet and be a part of the group. Most of my best buddies these days are from co-ops or activities from the past.

I also believe you need to be in a group that meets on a regular basis. Not just an online group. Online groups can be great to keep up with information and ask questions, but there is no substitute for face to face interaction and a hug when you need it. It can be two moms or thirty moms. The truth is you may just connect with one or two and that is all you need to survive many seasons of motherhood.

Find your homeschool tribe

Children are resilient. They can make friends with a rock if necessary until you find your homeschool tribe. Some are quite content with their siblings and don’t require weekly gatherings with other children. Finding a few moms you click with can make all the difference in your homeschool experience. This can carry over in your interaction with your children. Stephanie was that friend for me. She was always there for a good laugh or a good cry. We understood the pressures each other felt and were a good sounding board for each other.

If you have not found your homeschool tribe yet, get out there and start the hunt.

  • Ask around for meet up groups
  • moms night outs
  • monthly support groups
  • coffee chats.

Be brave and get out there! Ask a mom over to your house for coffee. I bet she won’t see the dust, she will just enjoy the company. You will come across people and events that do not work for you and that is ok. It just means you have to keep plugging along until you do.

Be brave and get out there!

Finding your homeschool tribe is important for your own well-being. Knowing you have people to count on during rough patches and successes can be what keeps you going and pulls you through. Pray for direction and peace, especially when you go through a season alone. Pray for your own homeschool tribe.

homeschool tribe

 

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