You are an overwhelmed homeschooling parent. Maybe you have just moved to a new place. Your kids are lonely for friends. You are lonely for friends, people who won’t look at you funny when you tell them you homeschool your kids. Where do you turn?
One of the most important steps I have taken as a homeschooling parent is joining a homeschool network. It took a couple of years and a few disappointments, but the effort I put into finding and building a reliable homeschool network is now paying off in a big way. My involvement started out as simple weekly park meetups and has now grown to weekly field trips and park days, as well as many other random get togethers for picnics, craft days, birthdays, and holiday parties. Our entire family has formed lasting friendships. It keeps us happily busy!
What is a Homeschool Network?
A homeschool network is basically a group of fellow homeschoolers who have a common goal in mind. That goal may be to organize group classes and field trips, or it may be something as simple as wanting a social group for yourself and your kids!
Why Join a Homeschool Network?
There are several advantages to belonging to a network of other homeschoolers including:
- A group to organize field trips and other outings with. Often you can get a reduced rate on tours and at museums if you have a sizable group. We are often given the same discounts and incentives that public school tours get.
- Friendships with other like-minded parents. Many of the moms in my group choose to homeschool differently from each other. We all use different curricula and follow different schedules, but there is never that awkward pause that sometimes follows when I mention to others that we homeschool. As moms in the group we have done coffee, brunch, pedicures, and craft nights. Even the dads get together sometimes for a hike with the kids or a night at a local concert.
- Consistent friends for our kids. I really became committed to our homeschool network when we moved to the city and my kids found themselves without any friends nearby. At first we just met the group for weekly park days. Now the friends my kids have in the homeschool group are the ones who invite them to birthdays, come over for playdates, and take classes together. We see many of them several times a week!
- Homeschool help. It is overwhelming to homeschool, especially at first! There are so many different options out there for curricula and so many philosophies floating around. It is so great to socialize with other moms who are more experienced homeschoolers than myself. They give me great advice on scheduling and curricula, not to mention encouragement when the going gets rough!
How to Join a Homeschool Network
Typically there are two online networks that you can search to see if a homeschool network already exists in your area: Facebook and Meetup.com. I belong to groups on both of these sites. The Meetup groups work much better just because Meetup is such a fantastic platform for scheduling activities and sending out reminders, but Facebook can be effective if the group is active and involved.
If there are no existing networks in your area or if the networks aren’t very active, don’t despair! There are several ways you can still find or create your own network. Chances are if you are searching for a homeschool network, somebody else in your area is, too. Here are a few ideas for where to start building your own homeschool network:
- Start your own group on Facebook or Meetup! It’s really easy on both platforms. Facebook is free while Meetup charges a yearly fee. Most Meetup organizers I know charge each member of their group $2-$3 per year to join so that they don’t have to swallow the cost by themselves. Be sure to include keywords in the title of your group, typically the name of the city you are in and the word “homeschool”. That should be enough for other families to find you. (example: “Denver Homeschoolers” or “Homeschool Families of the Mile-High City”) Just start posting activities and you’ll be astonished at how fast your group grows.
- Ask around your existing networks for homeschoolers who may be interested in starting a group. I have a friend who called around to different parishes of her church and organized a weekly park play day with other homeschooling families that way. You can also go out of your way to chat with families you see at the zoo or the science museum who are homeschoolers to find out what kind of network they belong to or if they would be interested in starting a group with you. (You can always spot the homeschoolers: Families who are out and about together during the school day!)
- Join an online network. There are tons of great blogs and homeschooling forums out there that can help you with homeschooling. They won’t meet the social needs of your family since there is no face-to-face interaction, but there are tons of great information and resources available online. Here are a few of my favorites: Hip Homeschool Moms, Enchanted Homeschooling Mom, and 1+1+1=1
What other ideas do you have about joining/creating/belonging to a homeschool network? I would love to hear your thoughts!