“Without counsel, plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22
Choosing to homeschool your children is a worthy and important undertaking. It’s exciting to think about custom making an education for your children. Along with your hopeful plans will also come questions, concerns, and at times anxiety.
You might wonder how to begin homeschooling, how to choose a curriculum, what the experience will be like for your children, whether they will have friends and thrive, or if you will even have the patience and fortitude to get through the day to day. Let me assure you, all of these questions are valid. It’s completely normal to have a range of emotions surrounding this decision!
When I began to consider homeschooling my children, they were ages 6, 4, and 3. Of course I felt some trepidation. One of my biggest fears was that we might feel isolated and stuck at home all the time, lonely with no friends. After seeking counsel from friends who were already homeschooling and researching various groups, my apprehension began to wane. I was ready to give it a try.
Fast forward 11 years and I am on the last leg of our homeschooling journey. I now realize how incredibly important it was for our family in those early days to seek out support and counsel from those who had gone before us and to be intentional about connecting with the local homeschooling community. Even now as a homeschool veteran, I continue to seek out support and advice from others more seasoned than me.
There are many ways you can find the encouragement and help that you need to successfully homeschool your children. Here are several:
Home School Legal Defense Association
Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a non-profit advocacy organization that defends the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children. They can advise you on the homeschool laws in your state and offer recommendations on how to inform your local school district of your decision to homeschool. If you run into any issues they are there to help and will even provide you an attorney and cover all of your legal fees, should you ever need that level of support.
Their website also offers a wealth of resources: online classes, help for homeschooling high school, advice on homeschooling children with special needs, and more. They even have a foundation to assist homeschool families who have experienced a death or some other kind of catastrophe.
State Homeschooling Organizations
Every state has organizations that exist to support and equip homeschoolers. Many of these groups have a wealth of information available on their websites. They often hold informative meetings to help connect you with other homeschoolers in your area.
Furthermore, most state organizations sponsor an annual homeschool convention. Here homeschoolers can gather to attend sessions on a wide range of topics. Most conventions include a vendor area where parents can peruse curriculum and high school students can check out colleges and volunteer organizations. Some conventions offer fun programs for students from kindergarten all the way through high school as well.
Attending our state homeschool convention has always been one of the highlights of our year. My husband and I appreciate the encouragement we receive, and my kids love hanging out with old friends and making new ones. There’s something inspiring about being together in a large convention facility with hundreds of other families who have made the same educational decision. I always leave feeling motivated to keep going and reminded that I am not alone. My kids seem energized after attending as well. Being surrounded by other young people their age, who are also being homeschooled, is always life-giving for them.
Finding a local homeschool group can be a great way to find support and community right where you live. Many state run organizations will have chapters and groups spread throughout the state. Check out your state organization’s website for a listing. Sometimes several families will also form their own groups, not associated with a state organization. Both types of groups can be wonderful sources of extra-curricular activities or educational experiences for your children. They also help facilitate the creation of meaningful friendships for parents and students.
I love my local homeschool group. These families have become some of the closest friends I have ever had, and the same is true for my children. We have enjoyed so many wonderful experiences together over the years.
Some of the things that my group offers are monthly parent meetings where we discuss a topic of interest and where parents can check books out of our group’s lending library. We always leave time for Q & A, and we spend time praying and encouraging one another as well. Over the years we have done various things together: field trips, gym class, art class, park and beach days, hiking trips, tween and teen groups, and more.
When one of the moms in our group was in a terrible car accident the week before Christmas, our homeschool group rallied around her family. We bought Christmas presents for the children, provided months of meals, helped with childcare and homeschooling, and donated thousands of dollars to help with expenses. It was one of the most incredible things I have ever witnessed. The love and support of the community was beautiful.
Homeschool Co-ops and Tutorial Communities
Homeschooling families often gather together around a specific goal. In a co-op, parents typically share teaching responsibilities. A tutorial community functions more like a business, offering tutorials or traditional classroom experiences.
This is a great way for parent teachers to share their gifts with students. Years ago we were in a tutorial community where one of the dads was a brain surgeon. He volunteered to teach on the human brain and even brought a real specimen to dissect. Parents and students alike were in awe. As he explained the amazing complexity of the brain, he shared that the longer he operates, the more convinced he becomes of the awesomeness of our Creator. This real life exposure to passionate professionals can be very inspiring for students.
In the elementary years we participated in an enrichment co-op that offered classes like crocheting and karate. My children loved getting to experience subjects we couldn’t prioritize at home. As a homeschooling mother, I appreciated not only the social outlet, but the skills they learned from other parents.
My high school students currently attend a tutorial community where they all take literature classes taught by professional teachers. The quality of instruction is excellent and helps lighten my teaching load at home. With three students all reading different books, I cannot devote the time to give them each a robust study of literature. Having a tutorial service to help has been such a blessing.
When deciding on a co-op, be sure to choose wisely, weighing out the contribution required against the benefit to your family. If your investment supersedes what your family gains from the experience, it becomes more of a drain than a blessing. Nevertheless, finding a well run co-op that is a good fit for your family can be an invaluable resource.
Online Groups, Forums, and Blogs
There are many useful online groups and forums for homeschooling parents. These can range from yahoo groups to forums on individual curriculum providers websites to Facebook groups. The homeschooling community is very diverse, so chances are there is an online group that shares your particular interests or perspective.
Blogs can also be a source of support if you find a mom blogger who seems like a kindred spirit. You can frequent her blog, establish a rapport with her, and gain insight and encouragement when needed. I have a few favorites bookmarked on my computer to visit when I need homeschooling inspiration. Reading about someone else’s real life homeschooling journey makes you realize you are not alone in your daily struggles. Some days that is all you need to keep going.
Homeschooling is a big commitment. There have been times when I have felt like I might be in over my head. In those moments, I take a step back and broaden my view. When I think about what a wonderful journey this has been for our family, how my children are thriving, and how even the hard times have made us stronger as a family, I remember that with the Lord’s guidance and the love and support of the homeschooling community we can see this through to the end. Find a community. Reach out. Ask questions. Be teachable. Pray. Take advantage of all the support that is available, and you too will begin to realize that it is possible to deliver a wonderful home educational experience for your children.