Homeschool parents across the country share with me their fears and concerns: What if I’m not doing enough? Will he get into college? What should she know? What if he doesn’t like me when he grows up? How do I homeschool and get dinner on the table in the same day? (And many more!)
As a group leader (and leader of group leaders), I have found that most of the needs they share typically fall into these four categories: Information, equipping, importance, and encouragement. Let’s consider how we can help meet their needs by addressing these four areas within our local groups.
1. They need to be informed. On a state and on a local level, how do we provide information about homeschooling in general, or about opportunities in our area? Here are a few ways—maybe you can think of more things your group does.
- Introductory meetings to explain the basics of homeschooling in your state
- Kick-off meetings
- Monthly informational meetings
- Social media pages and web presence
- Newsletters and articles (print or digital/online)
2. They need to be equipped. This is a step beyond informed—the focus is on providing tools to help them succeed in their goals. Equipping could include:
- Field trips
- Workshops/in-service training (often at our periodic meetings)
- Monthly meetings with practical topics
- Sports activities
- Resource center with books/seminars
- Educational opportunities/classes
- Web presence or social media groups
Listen to your parents at meetings and park days—what are some of their concerns? What are their fears about homeschooling? What can you offer within your group to help them feel empowered to stay their course?
3. They need to be needed, to feel valued within your local homeschool community. Some folks will volunteer; others will respond only when asked, but will be happy to help with:
- Volunteer/service projects
- Sports or co-op programs
- Book sale or seminar
- Resource center
- Activities for dads
- Involvement in a common cause
- Hospitality ministry—cards or meals, or even cleaning or lawn care as a “gang” for a family with a need
4. And finally, they need to be encouraged. I often tell new homeschoolers that it’s not their job to teach their kids everything they need to know; it’s their job to equip their kids with the basic skills and teach them how to learn, then give them opportunities to use and build those skills. Well, it works the same way for us as leaders: It’s not my job as a group leader to do all the equipping and encouraging; it’s my job to teach them how to encourage one another.
In our homeschool group, we do this through:
- Social media groups
- Mini-retreats covering relevant topics
- Phone calls and snail-mail notes (it’s all about the personal touch—even if it’s just a postcard)
- Moms Night Out
- Brunch for special needs parents
- Mentoring group for new homeschoolers
What other avenues of encouragement come naturally to your group? This support doesn’t have to come from just the leader, but could be a ministry of others with the gift of encouragement.
It’s all about relationship—about building community. While the informing and equipping can often happen online and in remote internet groups, the inclusion and encouragement needs are primarily best met “in real life.” What we are offering is personal relationship. When they are involved and encouraged, they feel important and valued—they feel like they are “family” – and people are loyal to family. How can you encourage your families to “do life” together?
This article is adapted from a leadership workshop Vicki presents and was previously published in the Christian Home Educators of Colorado magazine (www.CHEC.org, Vol 1 Feb 2020, pp. 18-19). Vicki will present six workshops at CHEC’s annual family conference in June 2020 (now postponed to 2021)