You need a loaf of bread. You can go to the store, grab a pre-made, pre-sliced, pre-bagged loaf off the shelf, scan it on your pay-as-you-shop app, and head home. Easy peasy!
Or, you can go to the store, buy flour and yeast, head home, look up a recipe for making bread, mix the ingredients (let the kids help, of course!), let the dough rise, punch it down, shape it and let it rise again, heat the oven and the baking stone, brush the dough with egg wash, and bake it. Let it cool, and then slice and serve at dinner. Whew!
Both methods get you a loaf of bread, but one requires more of a personal investment of thought, time, and effort. Homeschooling is a lot more like the second bread-making option. It requires finding your own supplies, facilities, drawing up your own plans, finding participants for group activities, and making it all come together. But unlike bread-making, a successful homeschool requires one more ingredient: community. And creating your own community isn’t impossible.
Be Intentional and Diligent
Community and relationships don’t happen by accident. As adults, we intentionally seek out others who have similar interests to ourselves—church groups, sports teams, book clubs, community events. You can teach the same to your children. Be diligent and intentional in your search for community. Cast wide nets. You never know whom you will meet just by offering a bright smile and a cheerful “hello!”
Be Willing to Invest Yourself and Your Time
Deep friendships don’t develop overnight; they take time and effort. This is no different for your children. You can model how to be a friend, how to break the ice, and how to be hospitable with a simple smile and a cheerful word. Consider scheduling regular playdates or meetings with free time for chatting and getting to know one another. Look for volunteer opportunities and join in with helping hands. Not only will you meet others who also enjoy the activity, but you’re modeling charity and a serving heart for your kids.
Start Your Own Groups
You don’t need to wait for an official organization to step up and get groups together. Do you have a middle-schooler studying earth science? Ask around for other families who might like to get together for a weekly science class. Are you gifted at teaching literature and your friend is a good artist? Trade skills to teach your kids together. The possibilities are endless—it takes just one person to reach out and get the ball rolling.
Consider starting a support group, rather than a focused academic co-op. Support groups offer fellowship, emotional support, and a community focused on friendships rather than academics. These can be the most valuable and needed groups, especially for new homeschoolers.
Local libraries are a boon to homeschoolers. Many offer classes for homeschoolers of all ages. You can look into meeting room rentals if you have several families who would like to gather. If your library doesn’t offer homeschool classes, ask them how you could start.
Area churches, historical societies, and civic centers may also have homeschool events, or have space available to rent for group gatherings. And don’t forget playgrounds and parks. That other family over there with three kids over the age of 8 also at the park on a random Tuesday in October might be homeschoolers as well.
Love it or hate it, social media is an undeniable resource for connecting with homeschoolers in your area. Search for names of your town, county, or region to find local groups on major social media platforms, or ask at your local library if they know of any groups. Connect with your IAHE Regional Representative to find out more.
Be a Good Sport
Many local athletic businesses offer homeschool classes during the day. Call your local studios to ask if they have classes. Nothing in your area? Call the studios to ask if they would consider adding a homeschool class. Many businesses will require minimum participation rates (this is where that social media presence can be put to work.
Have you seen the Homeschool Sports Teams list on the IAHE website? It is huge! This is a great resource for finding all kinds of sports that might interest your children. Find location and contact information there too.
And don’t forget to check into your local parks and recreation programs, some of which offer daytime homeschool classes. Homeschoolers are not prohibited from taking part in community activities, which often offer a wider variety of sports and activities.
Creating community can be an exciting opportunity to delve into new hobbies or subjects and meet new people. Our modern world is rapidly changing, and with it we are re-discovering the very great need for community. Start small and be intentional in your efforts to seek out others who are also craving connection in their homeschool journeys. In the wise words of Miss Maple from the delightful children’s book Miss Maple’s Seeds, “…for the world is big, and you are small. But never forget…even the grandest of trees once had to grow up from the smallest of seeds.”