by Katie Julius

Just as traditional schools are making plans for what a return to school will look like in the fall, homeschool groups must also make plans. Families, in numbers unseen, are now considering home education as a viable alternative to classrooms with strict social distancing, masks, and constant cleaning.

As a leader of a homeschool group, it’s important to take several things into consideration when making plans for Fall 2020 – and it’s very possible you will need to have a Plan A, Plan B, and maybe even a Plan C!

As things are still very uncertain, it makes sense to plan for most any level of “openness” in your county. Of course, we all want to plan for the ideal scenario where we can be together, participating in all our activities, just as we were before mid-March of this year. However, this is likely not realistic in many parts of California. It will be vital to work with the location(s) where you meet to establish how your group can meet under the health and safety guidelines that have been issued in your city and/or county. What would your group meetings look while adhering to social distancing guidelines, cleaning protocols, and personal protective equipment?

Additionally, as much as no one wants to go back to this level, it is important that your group plan for a situation where we families must “shelter in place” and no meetings in person are permitted. While many were caught unaware this year and scrambled to make things happen for the remaining two to three months this spring, having a plan in place ahead of time in the event this is needed, will make for a much smoother transition. It’s important they know before they sign up, what will happen if you aren’t able to “deliver” on your promise of in-person classes and activities.

Guidelines will be determined by county and city health officials. It is important to have a conversation with the venue where you host your gatherings to establish guidelines for classes and other activities that meet there. Be as detailed as possible and communicate your plans, both to current and prospective members.

If you have liability insurance for your group (or are under the venue where your group meets), you will also need to take into account your insurance carrier’s policies. Is there a situation where your insurance will not cover you if you are meeting without certain precautions?

In any group, there will be families who fall across the spectrum on their level of readiness to get back to life as we once knew it. You will have those who are ready to meet together right now, with absolutely no regulations or restrictions. You will have members who are concerned, perhaps because they are ones who are considered higher risk, who are still not ready to go out beyond trips to the grocery store for essential items. You will have families who fall somewhere in between. It will be a challenge to take all these differing opinions to craft a response that pleases everyone (hint: you won’t be able to please everyone). However, approach your members with grace, understanding, and humility as you navigate these difficult decisions.

As much as we don’t want to admit it, it’s likely that our lives for the foreseeable future will be, at least in part, more virtual.

I know many people are over Zoom meetings and virtual classes and such, but I also think it is something we need to get used to, embrace, and figure out how to make it work for our groups. What this looks like will vary by group, taking into consideration the demographics, size, and purpose of the group.

I am part of several different homeschool communities. During the past few months, I have been extremely impressed at the response of one of our groups in particular.

After the initial couple weeks to figure things out, we’ve been having virtual moms nights once a month. We had one where several moms shared their favorite things like “favorite way to make a cup of tea” or “favorite worship song” or “favorite unit study” (each mom was an “expert” in whatever they shared). Another one was themed “Beautiful Things” where each mom shared a story about something “beautiful” they chose from around their home. Stories varied from heart felt and deeply meaningful to fun and playful.

We had a mother/daughter tea party with some activities, singing, and a short devotion led by some of the teen girls and their moms. We held a family BINGO night, complete with small gift cards as prizes. We had our promotion night virtually, at the same time it was originally scheduled. While not nearly the same as being in person, it was still a special time to celebrate the accomplishments of this year and to recognize the grads and their parents. We continued rehearsals via Zoom for our musical theater performance (now postponed to March 2021) for much of the spring … we’re taking the summer off from rehearsing. Our teens held a Zoom meeting where they dressed up for prom and participated in activities together on the night they were supposed to be together at the dance. 

Our ASB teen leadership played an incredible part in keeping our kids connected, recording two videos a week for the group – one a word of encouragement and one, “what to do if you’re bored,” giving ideas of a fun activity to do with your family. 

As for co-op classes, we only meet once a month so it’s been a little easier to convert. We’ve had the teachers, who are all parents, create videos or a written lesson plan for what they would have been teaching that month. Then it was sent out to ALL our families whether they were enrolled in classes or not. It’s been fun to see photos of the kids doing the activities. Plus it has given us photos to fill our yearbook!

I know this has been a bit on the long side, but one final thing I want to say (and probably the most important)…we were considering not continuing with the homeschool group I described above. We haven’t felt as connected this year with all the other commitments we have and the distance we are from them. 

However, they were the only group (homeschool or otherwise) that has made an effort to keep the members of the group connected during this time. To me, that spoke volumes about the leadership and their heart for the group and those who make up the group. It has made me reevaluate where I want to spend our time this fall, knowing it’s possible we will have to continue some version of “safer at home” for at least some part of next year. Even if you don’t hear it from your families, the effort does not go unnoticed. During a time when we are craving connection, you can be a source of comfort, support, and encouragement for your families.