By Susan Pineda
In this era of endless schooling options vying for our involvement, are private homeschool support groups old fashioned? Nope. They fill needs beyond the scope of schooling options. Private homeschool support groups protect our educational and religious freedoms, offer a broader scope of support, and, through participation, enrich us personally while strengthening the group. Support groups are different from co-ops and homeschool programs in which the scope is primarily academic. Why bother with a support group if you are getting academic support elsewhere? For this reason—it completes the picture.
Supports the Family
It surrounds the family with a full array of support, regardless of academic strategy, by filling the need for enrichment and fellowship through field trips, science fairs, arts festivals, etc. Externally, a homeschool support group provides the valuable link to CHEA, Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), and Family Protection Ministries (FPM) that helps protect our educational and religious freedom for future generations. Internally, personal con-nections strengthen us through the homeschool journey.
In some ways, a support group is like church. There are some “elders” serving in leadership for seasons, but the bulk of the community is provided through the members working together to bless each other.
Do you have a need? Chances are someone else has that need, too. Every activity, began with a member asking who might be interested in such and such, then going for it with the help of other members. The first spelling bee was inspired by the parent of a speller. At various times, different parents have coordinated events, then passed the torch to someone else.
Getting My Feet Under Me
We joined the Association of Christian Home Educators of Ventura County (ACHEV) in September 1999 with a 1st grader and a toddler. Back in that century, our newsletters were delivered by the US Postal Service. I’d eagerly read it from cover to cover, then attend field trips and functions. I didn’t volunteer for a single thing. I just worked on getting my homeschool feet under me.
Then, unfortunately, I let the busy stuff of life take over and became disconnected. At some point I realized we had not done anything with ACHEV for a whole year, and thought, “I need to either get involved, or quit.” I prayed, then decided to check the next newsletter for volunteer opportunities. I chose the easiest one. Walking through that small door changed my perspective.
I am not a natural leader. In fact, I am a reluctant, accidental leader. (The things we do for our kids.) I joined our group to receive support, but at some point, I don’t know exactly when, the tide turned and I realized I was giving back.
For instance, ACHEV dances humbly emerged from the needs of my then middle-school-aged son and his peers. Do some of you remember the first dances hosted in the fencing studio back in summer, ’06? The growth into annual ACHEV dances happened because several member families worked together to bless the group.
It was on a small scale at first, teaching each other with backyard lessons, and hosting opportunities to dance.
Also, I am the most unlikely yearbook editor ever. I don’t scrapbook or take pictures, but here I am, because that’s how much I want a yearbook for my family. It’s only possible because of the grace of God and pictures you all send me. Other members have stories like this. Every activity and event has a history with names attached.
Sadly, my homeschool journey will end all too soon. My youngest will graduate in the spring. I have been volunteering since 2002, and serving in leadership in various roles for about a decade. What I want most for you to understand is when I started volunteering, it was not because I had extra time on my hands. Heavens, no. It was because I wanted something from the group that might not have happened otherwise. Eventually I’d feel led to give it a whirl. I didn’t even have vision. That came later, along with blessings beyond measure.
So, I encourage you, if you are new, enjoy what the group has to offer. Be glad for the connection to CHEA, HSLDA, and FPM. Go on field trips, play at park day, make friends, dance, and share your talents at the arts festival—all that is the magic of home education.
If you have been in ACHEV a while, prayerfully consider leading an event, or reviving an event you miss—start making some of the magic.
It will expand your vision of home education to include the community. It will strengthen the group. It is the act of leading that grows leadership ability and models leadership for our children. To survive, we need each other. For our group to survive, we need to work together.
Originally published in ACHEV Newsletter (Ventura County), April 2015. ACHEV is a CHEA Support Network member. This article won the Support Network award of Best for Young Families, 2015.