“But aren’t you concerned about socialization?” If you’re a homeschool parent, chances are you’ve heard this question or some version of it more than once. When parents choose to homeschool their children versus sending them to traditional school, they often have to give up the built-in peer support network. But that doesn’t mean children won’t get any social interaction. To have a successful homeschool experience, community is extremely important. If you struggle with building community or are looking to expand your community, we have some ways to help.
1. Join a Co-op
A co-op is a group of homeschooling families who meet together on a regular basis. Some homeschool co-ops meet every day of the week. Some meet once a week. Some only meet up for field trips and special activities. The size and age-ranges of co-ops also vary. In some co-ops, parents take on some of the teaching duties, presenting courses to small groups of students. The courses students take are typically enrichment-oriented. For example, students may take a course on Shakespeare’s England or Model Rocket Building, offering unique ways to get in some of the science, history, and English lessons.
Finding a co-op can be difficult for some homeschoolers. Many co-ops have monthly or annual fees to help cover the cost of the space they meet in and the materials needed for the courses. It’s also important for parents in a homeschool co-op to get along and share similar educational goals and values. For example, a parent who believes in a classical Christian education may not mesh well with those in a co-op that focuses on unschooling. To find a co-op or other support group near you, check out the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) or The Home School Mom’s Local Support resources.
2. Visit Local Attractions
Sometimes just getting out of the house and visiting local attractions can be a great way to build a community as a homeschool parent. You may encounter other home school families at the zoo, the local art museum, or the science center. If you’re visiting these places and see a mom (or dad) with children who look like they are school age, consider striking up a conversation to see if their children are homeschooled. Perhaps you’ll find a new friend in the process. In addition to randomly approaching strangers, you can check out the events page for your local library and other local attractions. Many libraries and museums offer special homeschool programs on a weekly or monthly basis. Even some amusement parks offer discount admission for homeschoolers at the beginning or end of the season.
3. Go to School
While you may not want your children to attend public school full-time, many school districts offer part-time options where homeschooled students can attend for part of the school day or take special classes, such as physical education, band, or art at the school. If your area public school does not offer this benefit, you can often find the same benefit at a local private school. If you’re struggling to find homeschool groups that cater to your child’s age group, sending your child to school for an hour or two a day can be a way to build those peer connections while still maintaining control over your child’s education. In addition to taking classes at the public school, many school states have laws that allow homeschool students to participate in athletic programs at public schools.
4. Play a Sport
Even if you choose not to participate in the athletic programs available through your local school district, sports can be a great way to build community as a homeschooler. Check out your town’s recreation department or local YMCA for different athletic opportunities. Chances are you’ll find sports programs to cover every season. For example, your child may play soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball/softball in the spring, and swim in the summer. Look beyond the popular sports too. For example, your local bowling alley may
5. Celebrate Homeschool Spirit Week
During the last full week of September, many families celebrate International Homeschool Spirit Week. Just like Spirit Week at more traditional school, this week gives homeschool families a chance to participate in themed days, such as Crazy Hair Day and Superhero Day. Families can participate as a co-op or individually. Photos can also be uploaded to social media channels using a special hashtag. As you look through photos from other homeschool families, you will feel a sense of community and you may also find some kindred spirits in the process.
If you live in a community that doesn’t have a strong homeschool presence or you find it difficult to make it out of the house to attend a co-op, you can also find community online. Search Facebook for homeschooling groups or conduct an internet search for “online homeschooling groups” to find a wealth of possibilities. Just like with an in-person co-op, look for groups that share your core values and educational goals. For example, you might search for “Christian homeschooling groups” or “unschooling groups.” Whatever group you find, make sure that you feel supported in your homeschooling journey and leave any negative groups immediately.
6. Connect Online
offer a youth bowling league or, if you live in a town with an ice rink, you may be able to sign your child up for ice skating lessons or a curling club. Dance and gymnastic teams and classes can also be a good way to find a community to connect with.
The community you build does not have to be one full of other homeschoolers. You may find that community through a local non-profit organizaation or another volunteer opportunity. Check out your local animal shelter to see if they offer volunteer opportunities for homeschool families. Contact a local nursing home to see if you can bake cookies and visit with residents once a week. Serve meals at a local homeless shelter or help at a local food pantry. Many of these organizations have loads of people ready to volunteer on the weekends, but during the week they can often really use the help.
8. Get Involved in Your Community
Beyond volunteer opportunities, just get out and get to know people in your community. Visit the local library and the post office. Spend time playing at the local park. Talk to the workers at your local grocery store or hardware store. Attend community fairs and festivals. If you’re religious, get involved in a local church. The more you get out of the house and experience your community, the less likely you are to feel isolated as a homeschooler.
How do you build community as a homeschooling family? Share your tips in the comments!