In spite of how much we talk about homeschoolers being social creatures, the challenge of homeschooling can become isolating. We are focused on many educational tasks- choosing, borrowing, and purchasing the best materials, organizing lesson plans, helping our kids with their questions and checking their progress, traveling on field trips, extracurricular activities, and volunteer opportunities. We often look to support groups to help us with these needs, but we need to occasionally ask ourselves- are we supporting our support group?
Support groups work best when all members view it as a collaborative effort. There are usually a few people 'out front'- a leadership team, committee heads, officers. . . but they can't make the group work to its fullest potential without the cooperation and combined effort of the membership.
"But I don't have anything to offer!" you might think, "And I don't have time to do more than I am doing!" Perhaps you are new to homeschooling, or you have a special needs child, or your family has health issues, or you care for an elderly relative.
The fact is that we all have challenges in our lives. The responsibilities of family, friends, church,and job. Every family occasionally finds themselves stretched with too much work and too little time and energy, or too many expenses and not enough income. But we still make room for other things that are important to us, like hobbies, a social life, television, reading.
So when we seek support from a support group, we may find ourselves soaking up the fellowship and encouragement and information without thinking about what we can give back, or feeling as if we have anything to give back.
There are literally dozens of ways that each person can give a little to a support group. The simplest things are a help. Just staying informed about group events by checking your email regularly, and reading the website updates or the newsletter is HUGE. If you have an online forum or message board, post encouragement and information, and answer questions when you can.
Come to meetings a few minutes early to help set up, or to act as a greeter. Stay a few minutes late to close things down and clean up if needed. Oversee a sign up table, be a hall monitor, or ask a leader if they need someone to make a few phone calls or pick up supplies for a meeting or activity. Look for new faces at meetings and on field trips and introduce yourself. If you don't know the answer to a question, help folks find someone who can.
Part of home education is teaching our kids good character, and how to overcome obstacles. We want them to be strong, generous, resourceful, and compassionate. A support group can give us a chance to model these virtues to our children.
For those who think, "I've been there, done that, and I don't need a support group", let me encourage you to think about how you can share what you've learned over the years, or offer yourself as a sounding board to someone who needs a friendly ear. Both men and women have a tremendous opportunity to mentor younger/less experienced parents, as well as the young people in the group. Our children need to see us living up to our expectations of them, and we have an obligation to help others as we ourselves have been helped.
"But no one helped me- I had to figure out everything by myself. If I can do it, they can do it." OK, fine- but is that the attitude of a compassionate, generous heart? Is this the example you have decided to set for those around you?
We saw shining examples of caring and sharing on display at our May meeting, with dads who are involved in technical careers sharing how they got started and what they've learned over the years. These dads work hard at their jobs. They have family, kids, yards that need mowed, washing machines that need fixed, and trash that needs to go to the curb, but they found time to be a benefit to others.
It reminds us that homeschooling is more than academics, and support groups are about more than receiving support. Take some time to think about your local support group, and what helpful and unique contributions you can make.