I’ve been kind of quiet for a while, dealing with a variety of things at home that needed my attention. Today, I want to talk about what happens when you realize that something you’re doing for your homeschool has run its course and is no longer needed – or no longer wanted.
There’s a lot that goes into homeschooling. There are curriculum choices, papers to be filed, decisions such as whether to register with your county or use an umbrella school, extracurriculars, groups, sports, classes, co-ops, and the list just keeps going. Some things are obviously temporary. You’re not going to need multiplication flashcards forever, and when you realize they’re no longer needed, it’s easy to decide to put them up for the next child or pass them on to a new family.
But some things are a little harder to know what to do, because the idea that they’re just temporary might not be as clear. Groups and co-ops are a great example. The arguments we get from other people about socialization often leave us thinking that groups and co-ops are a necessary, and permanent, part of our homeschooling. We often join these groups thinking that we’ll be with them until our children finish school. We take extra time to choose carefully and make sure we’re a good match because we think it’s going to last until we’re done homeschooling.
But what if that weren’t the case? Isn’t it possible that being a part of a homeschooling group or a co-op might be a temporary thing? Isn’t it possible that it could serve its purpose and no longer be needed long before your homeschooling years are done?
This wasn’t something I’d thought of until a few months ago. Finding a group to belong to was something I sought out even before I pulled my kids from public school. I wanted to find people who could help me find my way as we began this journey, to have access to people who had more experience and knowledge and could help guide me at those times when I felt I didn’t have what I needed to know what to do. And I found a group, through luck and chance, because there aren’t many groups in my area.
When I joined our group, I never really thought that there might come a day when we wouldn’t belong to it anymore. And of course, I’m not saying that we’re leaving our group. But there have been changes in past months that have gotten me thinking. Incidents that have had an impact on my kids, finding that there is a parent or two that I don’t connect with in any way, things that are relatively minor, but have made me think that perhaps the group thing isn’t something we need or want at this point.
Being part of a group served a purpose. It helped us find our way. It helped us make friends, and we have made many that we would keep in touch with even if we did choose to leave our group. It helped us enjoy field trips, park days, and parties that we otherwise might not have ever have done, because they were group events and as a family of three, we just can’t make them work all by ourselves.
But it also has started to be a complication at times. Sometimes park days conflict with other plans, and I’m forced to make a choice or rush around to get everything done. Economic differences among the members have become somewhat obvious, to me at least, in the planning of some events that are far outside my price range. Fortunately, I’ve done a pretty good job of teaching my kids about money, budgeting and how to handle both, so when I explain that I can’t afford a particular event because it’s too expensive, they tend to understand – they’re disappointed, but they understand. But it does start to become a bigger issue when it seems that more and more events are going to be more expensive than I can afford. Personality or parenting differences start to become more and more apparent when you’re seeing people on a weekly basis, or even several times a week.
I think it’s important to think of everything that you do in your homeschooling as being replaceable or removable. We often talk about changing curricula that doesn’t work, dropping sports if they’re too expensive or the child loses interest or the schedule doesn’t work for you. But we don’t often consider dropping groups or co-ops. We think about changing them, but only if we can find a new one – if we can’t find a new one, then often, we stick with the one that isn’t working. Because of socialization.
It’s important to remember that socialization doesn’t require being part of a particular group, any more than it requires sitting in a classroom with a bunch of other people the same age. Socialization includes talking to the cashier at the grocery store, telling your order to the server at the restaurant and asking the librarian if they have the book you want to read. It’s the ability to walk up to a kid you don’t know at the park and say, “Hey, want to play with me?” It’s being able to be polite to people you don’t necessarily like when forced to interact with them, and being able to know who you like and want to be friends with, and who you don’t. None of those things requires a group.
If you’ve made friends in a group or a co-op that you want to remain friends with, you can do that. If you’re a part of a group or a co-op that would try to stop that, then you should probably rethinking being a part of it anyway. Keep your friends, and make personal arrangements to get together. If you enjoy getting together in groups, you can arrange to get together with several of those friends at once, to keep that group feeling.
Look for other opportunities to make friends, meet people, and enjoy activities. Think about places where you see other kids: parks and playgrounds, museums, etc. If you see them when you’re there, and it’s during school hours, chances are that unless it’s a large group, they’re homeschooled, too. Take a chance, introduce yourself to the parents, have the kids introduce themselves, and see where it goes.
Maybe what you want is the advantage of a group: discounts on fees for large groups, the ability to plan a field trip to a place that requires a certain number of people that your little family can’t meet on its own. Look for ways to get that benefit. Look on Facebook or Meetup for groups in your area, or just outside it. Maybe there’s a great group in the next county or one two hours away that does tons of field trips. The fact that it’s not conveniently located for park days and making friend doesn’t matter – use it for the field trips, and stick with your local friends for the rest.
If you decide that a group or co-op you’ve been a part of has run its course and is no longer of any real benefit to your or your children, you don’t have to make a big deal of it. You can simply decide that it’s best to leave the group and quietly do so. If someone gets in touch to ask why you’re no longer coming to events, you can be honest if you feel that’s best, or you can just say that you’ve been very busy and unable to attend. I would recommend, however, that if you are deciding to leave due to a major issue (a child that is violent, or some kind of major dispute) that you take a few minutes to speak with the leader(s) of the group and inform them of what’s been happening. You might find that others have had the same complaint and that you don’t have to leave because the other people involved will be asked to leave instead.
Have you ever left a group or a co-op? If you have, why did you leave and how did you handle it?