- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2000

One of my jobs with the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania is to field calls from new and relocating home-schooling families looking for a support group. No matter what their initial reasons for home-schooling, most families realize home-schooling may be difficult without the support and encouragement of other like-minded families. As a result, home-school support groups have sprung up across the country.

If you are new to home-schooling, joining a local support group can help you get started. All seasoned home-schooling moms and dads can remember what it was like when they began. Most home-school parents are willing to sit down and share their experiences. Veteran families may also acquaint you with your state's home-school laws, and help you keep from getting stressed and overwhelmed.

Families join support groups for various reasons. Some join to provide support for Mom and Dad. Others join to give their children an opportunity to learn with other home-educated students. Whatever your reason, don't hesitate to get involved.

Our family has participated in numerous home-school support groups over the years. After 16 years of home-schooling, I have found being part of a group gives me a sense of accountability, provides opportunities to share educational resources and a place to seek solutions to problems we may be facing in our home-education program.

Every support group is unique, so shop around. Do you want to be involved in an intimate group where the decisions and workload are distributed among a few families? Or would you prefer a large group that can provide more activities and services?

If there are groups in your area, select one to complement your family's lifestyle, priorities and present educational needs. Ask questions about how the group is structured, how often it meets, if it publishes a newsletter, and whether it has age requirements or membership fees.

But what if you can't find a group in your area? Ask friends or contact your state home-school organization. Active in nearly every state in the country, these state panels maintain lists of local groups.

If there isn't a group nearby, start one. Forming a support group is not as difficult as you might think. Here again, your state organization can provide information. Groups function best when they are organized by parents who are like-minded and share the same goals for their children. Finding even one family that shares your vision can be the beginning of a new group. And with the growing popularity of home education you will have a number of families in no time.

Once you have made the decision to start a new group, there are two important questions you need to answer. First, what is the purpose of the group? Second, who will lead it?

In general, most groups try to keep a balance between the parents' needs for support and activities for children. Establishing a simple, yet strong statement of purpose will give your group a solid foundation on which to build and help you avoid problems that may arise within the group.

The leaders could be members of a veteran home-educating family. Or you may know a new home-school mom with a servant's heart who possess leadership skills. Your goal should be to build a team of families that can work together well without major disagreements on policy, roles or responsibilities. Everyone working together not only lessens the workload but will also help each family feel essential to the well-being of the organization.

Whether you have home-schooled for 10 years or are just starting, involvement in a local home-school support group can provide the encouragement, fellowship, activities and information that could make the difference between having a fantastic home-school experience and "just muddling through."

Kim Huber, a mother of four children, has been home-schooling for 16 years. She and her husband serve on the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania's board of directors. She can be reached by e-mail (CHAPKimH@aol.com).

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