Over the last few weeks, I've had a couple of conversations with some of the other moms in my homeschool group in which we've discussed how the group has changed over the years. One of the moms had recently found an old issue of the group's newsletter - about 15 years old or so - and was struck by how many activities we had for moms and students then compared to what we have now. The number of activities on our monthly calendar now is only a fraction of what it was then. And the attendance at some of the activities has dwindled dramatically as well.
I think there are a number of factors in play. For one thing, homeschooling is so much more mainstream now than it was even fifteen years ago. Although I don't recall it happening anywhere in my county, there really was a legitimate concern that children would be reported as truant, or that some government agency would 'investigate' homeschoolers. We tended to do things as groups in order to deflect that kind of interest.
Another factor is certainly the internet. When I started homeschooling (about 18 years ago), we did have a home computer and internet, but it was really limited. Blogging? I don't think I'd even heard of that, and never mind homeschool blogs! I found an online forum for moms that did have a message board specifically for homeschool moms, but that was IT. That was the extent of online support. And downloadable curriculum? Streaming video tutorials? Websites devoted to homeschool learning? Unheard of. I'm pretty sure I didn't even order curriculum through websites for my first several years.
So now homeschooling is seen as fairly normal, and there are homeschoolers of all stripes everywhere. In general, homeschooling is well-accepted and even admired. It certainly isn't considered fanatical or strange by most people. There are lots of local homeschool groups of various kinds, in contrast to when I started. At that time, there were the oversight groups that provided some level of accountability; and there was basically one fellowship group. Little wonder that fellowship group had so many member families, and so many activities on our calendar - we were the only game in town! Not that many years ago, that local fellowship group was pretty much the only place where homeschool moms could get together in a like-minded and supportive group. No wonder our monthly Encouragement Group was so well-attended - most of us weren't getting much encouragement from anywhere else!
It's tempting now for those of us who remember those days to be discouraged, and wonder why our group's membership is static (or maybe even shrinking) even while the homeschooling movement is growing dramatically. Tempting to wonder what we should be doing differently in order to get our members to attend the activities we do have, or to participate in planning activities. Don't get me wrong - I think we should be doing our best to grow our support groups and to encourage involvement from all our members. And we may need to adjust our expectations or how we operate in order to better serve the changing homeschool community, because the homeschool community and some of its needs are changing.
However, I also believe that one important need of homeschool families - and moms in particular - remains the same. We need the friendship of other homeschool moms. We need the understanding and support of moms who are or who have been walking a very similar road. I also believe that the support is best found in real life. Not that online message boards, Facebook groups, and blogging communities aren't valuable sources of information and encouragement - of course they are, or I wouldn't be involved in them! - but I don't think virtual "interaction" should completely replace real world interactions.
So what do we do about it?
Well, if you have a local support or fellowship group for homeschoolers, get involved. If you're not already a member of a group, see what's available in your local area, and join a group that seems like a good fit. If there's not a group, consider starting one. It doesn't have to be full co-op or something huge; maybe just a monthly meet and greet at a local coffee shop, library, or playground.
Get involved in the group, at whatever level you can. Are you a newbie homeschooler? I bet there are more experienced moms in the group that would love to answer your questions or soothe your worries. Are you a veteran homeschooler? I bet there are some rookies that need to be encouraged that their kids will turn out okay and that they will survive. Whether we are just starting out on the homeschool adventure, or whether we've got graduation of our youngest in our sights, we all need to be encouraged and even challenged. Some of us need other homeschool moms to understand our worries and calm us down. Some of us need to be refreshed and energized when we have slid into a homeschool rut. And then we switch places and do it all over again.
We do need each other. So get together with some Other Homeschool Moms and encourage each other!
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” ~ Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
See also: Homeschooling is Hard for Extroverts because I think we all need some personal interaction, whether we're introverts or extroverts!
Do you have a great group of supportive homeschool moms you get together with regularly? Leave a comment and let me know!
This post is linked at Blogging Through the Alphabet, hosted by Cristi at Through the Calm and Through the Storm and Meg at Adventures with Jude. This week participating bloggers are featuring the letter O.
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