By Nicole Crawford
As homeschooling has grown in popularity, homeschool support groups have become common throughout the United States. Whether you’re just considering jumping on the homeschooling bandwagon or are a seasoned homeschool veteran, joining a homeschooling support group can be a great way to enrich your child’s homeschool experience – not to mention your own! As a homeschooling mom, I can say firsthand that homeschool support groups are a great way to meet like-minded parents and learn more about the many curriculum options out there.
Here are the ins and outs of homeschool support groups: what they are, why they are helpful, and how to find the right group for you.
What Is a Homeschool Support Group?
The primary function of homeschool support groups is to encourage community and connection between homeschooling families. Some are more academic in nature, whereas others aim to foster friendships and build social connections. Homeschool support groups are meant to enhance what families are doing at home, not replace the parent or caregiver as the primary educator. Here are five of the most common types of homeschool support groups that you might find in your area:
A homeschool co-op is a group of homeschooling families that come together to work towards a common mission. For example, one co-op I joined with my kids in our first year of homeschooling was designed to help with enrichment classes, such as art, music, and drama. Co-ops range in size and scope. Some might be quite large and structured, while others may be smaller and more flexible.
State and Regional Associations
Since each state has its own homeschooling laws, state and regional associations are a great way to familiarize yourself with your state’s homeschool requirements while also meeting other families who homeschool.
You can also check out our State Law Library to look at the laws in your state.
Social Media Support Groups
Facebook and social media have been a tremendous source of help for homeschoolers. For example, you can find all kinds of homeschool support groups on Facebook. Some of these groups are designed to answer more general questions, such as: Why homeschool? How do I get started? What curriculum is best for me?
Other groups have more specific purposes. For example, if you choose to use a specific curriculum, you can probably find a Facebook group for other homeschoolers who use that curriculum. Or, if your child has special needs, many groups offer guidance. The possibilities are really endless! Anything Academic has listings of Facebook groups available to our members. You don’t have to search for them. Instead, the top groups for your specific needs will be listed once you complete your student profile.
Virtual Homeschool Support Groups
Virtual homeschool support groups are similar to co-ops but online instead of in person. They are a great option for homeschooling families who don’t have much support in their local area. Virtual support groups offer online classes at low or no cost since volunteers usually run them. They also provide forums where students and parents can discuss questions and concerns.
Playgroups and Field Trip Groups
Some homeschool co-ops are geared more towards social connection than others. For example, many local support groups host playdates, so homeschooled families can regularly come together for fun and friendship. Other groups organize field trips to complement what kids are learning at home while taking advantage of group rates. Again, these support groups are an excellent way to meet other homeschoolers and get to know your new area if you’ve recently moved.
Why Join a Homeschool Support Group?
When I told my kids we were joining a homeschool group a few years ago, their immediate response was, “But that’s not homeschooling! Why would we do that?” The answer quickly became clear. Joining a homeschool group was an excellent way for my kids to make new friends and learn in a group setting. We had also recently moved to a new city, so the group was a great source of information about field trip opportunities in our area. Here are a few of the other benefits we’ve received from homeschool support groups through the years:
A convenient way to borrow and purchase homeschool materials
Extracurricular opportunities that work for a homeschool schedule
Group discounts on field trips
Friendships with kids of different ages and backgrounds
Encouragement, advice, and healthy competition for the students
A nice break from the house (and from mom!)
How Do I Find a Homeschool Support Group?
Before you start looking for a homeschool support group, as yourself these questions to nail down exactly what you’re looking for:
● Are there any gaps in your children’s’ learning that might be well served by a support group? If your child struggles in math, for example, learning in a group setting may be a great way to help him or her brush up on skills.
● What are your weaknesses as a teacher, and how could a support group help address those weaknesses? For example, if you find yourself skipping art class regularly, a group that offers an art class would be a great fit.
● What about socialization? Do your kids have lots of opportunities to meet other homeschoolers and play with children their age?
● Are there any extracurricular activities your kids have been begging to try?
● Are you looking for a large group with a lot of structure, or are you more interested in a smaller, more flexible group?
● What about field trips? Do you find that you want to take your kids on field trips but lack the organization or motivation (or both!)? If so, a group that organizes field trips can be a great way to take out some of the legwork and provide accountability.
● Are you struggling to follow your curriculum or looking for a new curriculum to try? Many groups have “come and see” curriculum nights, which allow them to view different curriculums in person.
Once you’ve identified your primary goals and desires, a search of Anything Academic’s matched Facebook groups for you is a great place to begin searching for groups that best fit your needs. We have done the research work, so you do not have to! You can also ask around at your local library to learn more about homeschool support groups in your area. If you find a great resource, don’t forget to share it with others using the Add A Resource feature!
Homeschooling has seen tremendous growth in the United States over the last decade. As of 2019, 3% to 4% of children in the United States are educated at home, and those numbers continue to grow every year. The estimates for 2020 are closer to 10%. Thanks to homeschool support groups, you can find encouragement, advice, and friendship as a homeschooling parent, as well as unique opportunities for group learning, mentoring, and personal growth for your kids. It’s a win-win situation!