Joining a Homeschool Group
As you begin your homeschooling journey, you should become familiar with your local, state, and regional homeschooling groups and co-ops. These are typically grassroots groups created and organized by fellow home educators in your area.
Because these groups are organized by parents, you can expect them to reflect the variety and diversity of the homeschooling world:
- Some groups hold official nonprofit status and have fundraising drives or charge dues, while others consist only of a Facebook group run by a parent volunteer.
- Some groups include hundreds of families, while others may include just two or three.
- Some groups meet in person frequently, occasionally—or not at all, existing purely online.
- Some groups are focused on children of particular age groups, children who have particular racial or ethnic identities, or children who have particular disabilities.
- Some groups subscribe to a specific religious or philosophical tradition, and may even require you to sign a “statement of faith” or other such document in order to join. Other groups are more inclusive and accept homeschooling families from a variety of ideological perspectives.
- Some national or state-level groups may take political positions or engage in lobbying, including on issues unrelated to homeschooling.
“Homeschool support group” is the term used for a group of homeschooling parents that has come together (in person or via social media) to provide members with some form of support. This support may be primarily emotional, including opportunities to ask for advice about specific homeschooling methods or problems; or it might be more concrete, such as maintaining a curriculum resource center or running a field trip group or co-op.
“Homeschool co-op” is the term for a program that brings homeschooled children together to receive education in specific subjects or areas. Homeschool co-ops may meet once a week, once every other week, or monthly, but rarely meet every day. Some homeschool co-ops engage parents as instructors, while others hire teachers or other professionals. One example might be an arts co-op where students meet one morning each week to take band, orchestra, art, or sign language. In most cases, homeschool co-ops are organized and run by homeschool support groups (see above).
“Homeschool convention” is the term for an event held in a convention center or other large venue that brings together curriculum vendors, workshops on various topics, and keynote speakers. In some cases, these conventions may be put on by state or local homeschool groups; in other cases, they may be organized by for-profit companies. Homeschool conventions offer home educators the opportunity to browse curriculum and learn from other homeschooling parents or professionals.
“Homeschool umbrella school” is a term for a private school that enrolls students who are educated at home. In some cases, homeschooling groups may found and maintain umbrella schools. While legally considered private schools, these programs do not always have a physical campus, and parents of enrolled students typically choose and implement their own curriculum in their own homes. These programs offer parents a way to meet state legal requirements, as well as access to community and enrichments such as field trip groups. For more, see our page on umbrella schools.
Benefits of Homeschooling Groups
Homeschooling groups offer many advantages, including:
- Information and resources. Homeschooling groups are a great place to go for practical information like which venues are homeschool-friendly, where to purchase curriculum, what scholarships might be available in your region, etc. Groups may also pool their resources to purchase shared equipment or materials, like supplies for a biology lab or wood shop.
- Encouragement and support. Homeschooling can be challenging, so homeschooling groups can serve as a sort of “teacher’s lounge” for parents to share their struggles, give helpful advice, and offer emotional support.
- Community building. Homeschooling groups often offer the opportunity for homeschooled children to interact socially with one another—celebrating milestone events such as graduation and prom; assembling athletic teams or debating clubs; and participating in fun events like pool parties, camping trips, or field trips. They also offer homeschooling parents the opportunity to socialize in coffee hours or book clubs.
- Mentorship. Children benefit from access to caring and trustworthy mentors outside their immediate family. Homeschooling groups give your children the opportunity to receive support and positive feedback from people other than you.
- Academic instruction. Many homeschooling groups run co-ops which offer courses taught by member parents in subjects that other parents might find difficult to instruct. For example, if one parent in the group is particularly good at calculus, or another is gifted at dance, they might offer classes to all the children in the group. Some co-ops may also hire professional teachers.
- Professional development. Homeschooling groups may also offer courses or training for homeschooling parents’ professional development, such as teaching a child to read or educating children with certain disabilities. In some cases, these seminars may be offered at homeschool conventions hosted or organized by the homeschooling group.
Our research suggests that children who participate in homeschooling groups while being homeschooled have better outcomes as adults, and report fewer feelings of social isolation or loneliness as children. We highly recommend that you participate in homeschooling groups as much as you are able.
A Note of Caution About Homeschooling Groups
CRHE is founded and run by homeschool alumni and is fundamentally child-centered in its orientation. Some homeschooling groups engage in practices that we believe are harmful to children, such as political lobbying against children’s rights, or holding discriminatory or “childist” views about children (for more on this, see our page on becoming an advocate for children. In addition to the benefits offered by homeschooling groups, here are a few hazards to watch out for.
- Opposition to children’s rights. Some homeschooling groups embrace an extreme ideology where parents have the absolute right to make decisions for their children, regardless of whether those decisions are in the child’s best interests or take the child’s perspective into account. These groups may embrace negative ideas about children, believing that children are inherently wicked and should be forced into obedience at any cost. Even where homeschooling groups hold less extreme views, they may privilege parents’ ideas and feelings over those of children, and members may be unwilling to question another parent, even when their actions are harmful to children.
- Political activism. Many homeschooling groups, particularly at the state level, employ professional lobbyists and/or advocate for changes in state law that their members favor, regardless of whether those laws relate to homeschooling. In some cases, groups oppose laws designed to protect children’s right to an education in a safe home environment. In other cases, homeschooling groups have opposed marriage equality or lobbied against voluntary visiting nurses programs for families with newborns.
- Legal insurance. Some homeschooling groups sell a form of legal insurance, promising to defend member families against legal challenges they might face while homeschooling. These groups may also defend families who are accused of child abuse, keeping children with abusers and perpetuating harm. It is CRHE’s position that legal insurance is unnecessary for homeschooling families, and that it is harmful to children to fund uncritical legal defenses of parents accused of abuse or neglect.
In some cases, state-level and even local homeschooling groups may have links to national homeschooling groups that oppose children’s rights or act in ways that harm children. You should always find out about a group’s affiliations before joining.
Other challenges you may experience with homeschooling groups are more interpersonal in nature. Homeschooling groups frequently grow, shrink, or have rifts. New families start homeschooling every year, while other families “graduate” out of homeschooling or enroll their child in school, contributing to a high natural rate of change. And homeschooling groups, as with all human communities, can also be sources of conflict. This conflict can result in the dissolution of groups or the formation of new ones.
Here are some potential conflicts that may arise in homeschooling groups:
- Personality conflicts. You may not get along well with other parents in the group, or your children may not get along well.
- Time constraints. Not all member families may have equal amounts of time, energy, or resources to devote to the group’s success.
- Family hardship. Member families may experience difficulties such as poverty, homelessness, the death of a family member, etc. Other members may not know how to respond effectively to these challenges.
- Philosophical and organizational disagreements. Since each homeschooling family has distinct needs and a distinct educational philosophy, disagreements may arise over the group’s mission, values, goals, and policies.
- Scandal. Because homeschooling groups are self-governed, member families may lack professional standards, leading to negative outcomes. Possibilities for scandal include everything from embezzlement to child abuse.
Despite these potential concerns, CRHE advises that you should participate in at least one local homeschooling group. Make sure to choose one that seems like a good fit with your educational philosophy and outlook, and one that offers appropriate child protection safeguards, particularly if adults are going to be alone with children other than their own. For more on child safety, see our page on implementing child protection policies in your homeschool group.
Finding a Homeschooling Group
Take some time to browse through the homeschooling groups in your area. You should be able to locate local homeschool groups by using a search engine; doing a search on social media; or asking at your local library. Because different groups have different ideologies or philosophies, lists of homeschool groups in your local area that are maintained by homeschooling parents may not always be complete.
As you research what homeschooling groups are available to you, you should do the following:
- Visit the group’s website (if they have one) and read their “About” page, mission statement, and membership requirements, if these are publicly available. What are some of the words they use to describe themselves? Does their approach fit with your educational philosophy?
- Consider your goals. Which of the benefits of homeschooling groups are most important to you? What are you hoping to get out of participating? How does this align with what the group offers?
- Do you already know people who are members of a particular group? Or do you possibly want to form your own group?
Once you have done some preliminary investigation of the options available to you, you should reach out to any groups that have piqued your interest. You and the group you are interested in will both be evaluating each other’s compatibility starting with your first contact, so be intentional about how you reach out. As you engage with them, you may want to find out about the following (although be aware that homeschooling groups may be sensitive about some of these topics, so tread carefully):
- How many members does the group have? How long has it been in operation? Is it funded and if so how?
- What are the membership requirements? Are there any requirements for background checks/child safety?
- How is the organization structured or governed? What are the policies and procedures for handling conflicts?
- How often do group members meet/interact?
- What benefits are offered with membership?
- What other groups or organizations is it affiliated with?
- Does it participate in political activism? If so, for what causes?
After you investigate a group, you’ll want to meet some of the people in it and see whether it is a good fit personality-wise. Most groups will allow you to attend a meeting or a park date with other members, or visit their co-op to see it in action.
Make sure to include your child in the process of choosing a homeschooling group or co-op! Going forward, you should check in regularly with your child about how they feel about groups or co-ops you are involved in, and whether their needs are being met. Remember—your child will not click with every other homeschooled child, and bullying can and does occur among homeschooled children. For more on finding a good social fit for your child—and avoiding possible pitfalls—see our section on socialization.
Don’t forget to read the other articles in this section!
— Homeschool Resources & Support
— Public and Charter School Partnerships
— Access to School District Resources
— Joining a Homeschooling Group
— Homeschool Umbrella Schools
— Drawing on Local Resources
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