by Katie Julius
Being a homeschooler, especially one who homeschools independently in California, can be a very isolating experience. We are with our children/students all day, every day, and often without breaks or interactions with other adults. It’s so important to make sure that we, as homeschool parents, are taking care of ourselves so we can be the best parents we can be for our kids, both in and out of the “classroom.” We need to seek out and engage with a community of like-minded families to walk with us on our homeschool journey.
An outsider looking in on the current state of homeschooling in California might be puzzled as to why finding a community is necessary since there are so many resources outside of the home available to homeschoolers. We seem to always be at one extracurricular class or another (socialization, right?). However, in my search for a homeschool community over the last two or three years, I was surprised to find there are very few groups who offer true community for the entire family. Many of these supplemental resources offer community for our kids, but the parent either drops off their child and leaves or sits silently amongst all the other parents they see for one or two hours every week before heading off to the next activity.
The issue of overscheduling our kids is a discussion for another day. Today, I want to share with you why it’s so important to have a homeschool community and how it can transform your homeschool experience.
The Bible Tells Us To
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
While the author of Hebrews wasn’t speaking to homeschooling parents in this passage, he was speaking to believers. Being in community with other homeschooling families gives us the opportunity to encourage each other, not only in our practical day-to-day struggles, but in our walk with Christ, too.
I recall a park day with our co-op group last spring, a time when there seemed to be no light at the end of the school-year tunnel. It was a few months after we lost my dad to cancer and it was just a rough day. While my daughter ran around the playground with a group of her friends, one of the other moms in the group prayed with me in the middle of the park. It was such a small gesture on her part, but such a blessing to me in the midst of the chaos of all that was going on at that time.
Chances are, if you join an established homeschool co-op or other support group, you’ll find homeschooling families that are at all different stages of their homeschool journey, from first year homeschoolers to seasoned veterans. What greater resource to seek advice from than a mom who has been doing this for the last 25 years?
When my husband and I were first discussing homeschooling, the mom of a boy in our Awana Club at church was the leader of our co-op group. She was able to answer our questions and offer advice and suggestions as we considered what homeschooling would look like for our family. From curriculum options to planning, she was able to provide insight and guidance based on her experience.
In the age of social media and technology, I have read countless anecdotes and a few studies about how kids struggle so much with interacting with other people. One could argue many adults have this same struggle. Being part of a homeschool community gives kids (and parents!) the opportunity to develop face-to-face relationships with people of all ages.
My daughter is an only child, but also one of the most outgoing and friendly people I’ve ever known (except for maybe my dad). In her six short years, she has never met a stranger. She can’t wait for our activities with our co-op group! I love that she has a group of girl friends who are the same age. Additionally, our co-op puts on a theater production each year, which includes kids as young as three all the way up through high school. It was so neat to watch how the older kids befriended, helped, and encouraged the younger ones. I only pray that she continues to look up to these amazing teens as her role models.
Of course, friendships for your kids are great, but friendships with other homeschool parents is also important! One of my favorite co-op group events is “park day”. It’s not just because that’s my daughter gets to run off all that energy for several hours, but it’s the time we, as moms, get to talk…mostly uninterrupted. This is where conversations that provide the encouragement and support, so vital in making homeschooling truly enjoyable, happen.
Where to Find Community
Finding a homeschool community that is a great fit for your family can be a challenge, so it may take some research on your part. As I mentioned before, it was difficult to find a group near us that offered the opportunities for community that I was seeking, and also fit within our budget. For us, this meant joining a group that is about a 30-minute drive from our home. We drive there three to six times per month. It’s a sacrifice, but given the importance and benefits, well worth it!
A great place to start your search for a group is the CHEA Homeschool Directory
If your search doesn’t yield results, pray about starting your own group! We moved to our current city almost three years ago. Earlier this spring, we finally found several other families in our area who have also been praying for a homeschool group focused on community and we are eager to kick-off our first year together in September!
God did not create us to be solitary; He created us to be in community. I encourage you to pray for the people that God would have in mind for you to walk with for this very important time in the lives of your family. If you are already in a community, thank Him for providing that for you and share it with a friend!
Tell us in the comments below what you most enjoy about your homeschool community!
Katie Julius serves as the Editor for CHEA of CA. She homeschools a soon-to-be first grader in Southern California and is grateful for the families who are part of her homeschool community.