Questions and answers about starting a homeschool support group
If there's one thing I've learned about being in groups; it doesn’t matter what kind of group you are leading or organizing - when you, as a human being, get together with a bunch of other human beings, there are going to be problems. Homeschoolers are just as prone to the foibles of human nature as anyone else. And that goes double for Christian homeschoolers.
So if you want to start a homeschool support group, how do you deal with the inevitable miscommunications, misunderstandings, controversies, and disagreements that will happen, especially when children are involved?
Let me tell ya' - there is no recipe for conflict more volatile than a bunch of homeschooling mothers. It makes sense; we’ve told the system to take a flying bite at Mars, shouldered the responsibility of educating our children On Our Own, and many of us were homeschooling back when it was barely legal. We are some butt-kicking mamas, people, do NOT mess with us.
So how do you form and maintain a happy, healthy homeschool support group or co-op?
- Why do you want to start a homeschool group? Your motivation and goals will dictate what kind of group you organize, and what services you will provide. A simple information-fellowship-networking group is much MUCH different than a co-op, and each requires their own structure and time investment.
- Your group needs ‘founding documents’, such as a mission statement, bylaws or policies, code of conduct, etc. . . These are True North for your group. They need to be as simple as possible, addressing the most common issues that arise in your type of group. They provide both leadership and membership with clear expectations and direction. Everyone knows up front the purpose of the group as a whole, and the guidelines for each activity the group engages in. These documents are the starting point to answer questions, and serve as impartial mediators to settle disputes.
To be part of organizing and leading any group, you personally must learn to:
- Handle conflicts in ways that invite restoration and resolution.
- When someone seems to have an adversarial attitude towards you, find the things you have in common and try to bridge the gap.
- Don’t take it personally when problems arise. You don’t know the root of the other person’s confusion, pain, or anger, and their issues might not be about you at all.
- Put your own anger and discouragement in a separate place. Somewhere near the Auckland Islands, preferably.
- Always seek to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
None of these characteristics come by us naturally. We must plant the seed of Scripture in our hearts so that the fruit of the Spirit can grow in us and become evident to others, because no matter where you go, there you are. Only when you can view the people around you with the eyes of grace will you be able to serve the Lord by serving others.
Sometimes when thinking about organizing a support group, our excitement about serving others makes us blind to the challenges we will face. Time spent in preparation is priceless and will serve you well when the inevitable challenges occur.