SPED Homeschool Team

How do families find community while homeschooling? Sometimes, finding our extended network of friends comes easily. And sometimes, it’s a challenge. Every month we ask our SPED Homeschool team to share their own experiences navigating through the highs – and lows – of homeschooling. We live in different places with children that are different ages, have different diagnoses, and different interests. And the way we find community is also different.

 

Finding Our Foundation by Cammie Arn

Building community around here starts with our church and finishes with our homeschool community. 

We began this journey as a military family and moved frequently so finding community was hard because it takes time to build relationships with others. Once we separated from the military, it became easier. Having eight children over a twenty-year span has given my family countless opportunities to plug into different groups and organizations. I have been a ballroom dance mom, a theater mom, a choir mom, a speech and debate mom, a Taekwondo mom, a soccer mom, a baseball mom, and a ministry mom. While involved in all these different activities, we were able to find community based on both faith and common interests.

I find the biggest key to building a community for our family started with being willing to meet someone else’s needs first. That is where community truly begins. 

 

Encouraged by Co-Op by Dawn Spence

One thing that I learned early on in homeschooling is that we needed a community. I wanted to walk along those with similar goals and those who could celebrate the good times and pray for me in the bad times. Having these meaningful connections is one way I take care of myself emotionally and physically. Our homeschooling community included our co-op. They were amazing as they embraced my daughter with special needs. That was important for us because whatever we choose to do, it would have to fit everyone. Through co-op, we found friends that have a big part in our community. While our co-op has not met yet this year, our community of homeschooling friends has been a source of constant encouragement. This journey for our family needs and thrives on our community.

 

Small but Substantial by Lara Lee

It is hard to be involved in everything, but the few groups we are committed to have helped all of us have relationships in a way that is not overwhelming. Even though we are part of the Texas Homeschool Coalition, sometimes therapy schedules and medical appointments make it difficult to attend activities to meet other parents. While we share an interest in homeschooling, I often end up feeling down over the fact that my special needs child is not able to do what other children can do. I end up feeling pressure, discontentment, or that we are behind. I stay in touch with the organization for ideas and resources, but we find our community in other places.

For us, our homeschool communities have come from the various therapies and outside interests my son has. We were able to find therapeutic horseback riding that works with a sliding pay scale. The horses helped my son in so many ways, and we were also to have a group of friends with diverse needs who share this same interest in horseback riding. My son can succeed and even compete at this. 

We also have a great church community with a few homeschoolers. The church has provided support, adoptive grandparents, and friends of all ages.

 

Starting Over Again by Peggy Ployhar

Since we have lived in many places over our 18 years of homeschooling, we have had to build, and rebuild, our homeschooling community. From living in the suburbs surrounded by fellow homeschoolers, to dealing with weather and small-town cultural issues that kept us rather isolated, to being transient as we lived and homeschooled in our RV twice, we found that adapting how we found and created community was different, but nonetheless rewarding for our efforts. In the times of plenty, we chose wisely which groups and activities we should participate in. In times of scarcity, we relished the few friendships God allowed us to entertain and the diversity of community and cultural experiences we enjoyed with those who allowed us to come into their lives. And, in the times when we didn’t have a distinct place to put down our roots for too long, we enjoyed the community of our family and the new experiences and discoveries we were allowed to experience together. We have learned that community is what you make of the relationships you have right in front of you, instead of letting them slip through your fingers in the pursuit of something better, more typical, or what you had envisioned.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Leanna Ampola – SPED Homeschool Partner, HomeschoolAnywhere

One of the best things about homeschooling is that your children can learn by being a part of the broader community. Homeschoolers everywhere can supplement their at-home learning by attending local homeschool events and taking online classes. 

 

Advice for New Homeschool Families

Our greatest homeschooling asset is each other. If you recently began homeschooling, you will want to connect to in-person groups and online resources. 

Online: If you use Facebook, find local groups of homeschoolers that align with your values. Larger cities will often have groups for specific areas of the city. I recommend joining local and state-wide groups so you get a variety of perspectives. There are also nationwide groups for specific topics, such as homeschooling a child with ADHD. 

In-Person: Children thrive in the company of others. And parents do too. Some of my best adult friends have come from the homeschool community. Find local social groups that meetup for in-person activities or classes. If you have difficulty, post on your local Facebook group and tell them what you are looking for. And if you don’t find what you want, start a group of your own! 

 

Finding Activities

There are so many amazing events and classes! Keeping track of them can be daunting, even for seasoned homeschoolers. Some Facebook groups keep lists of local activities and resources. You can also look on HomeschoolAnywhere.com which is an online calendar of homeschool activities. 

 

In-Person Learning and Connection 

Below are just some ideas for in-person connection. Check beforehand to ensure you are comfortable with their in-person Covid-19 precautions so you can stay safe while having fun.  

Homeschool social groups: Your local homeschool social groups are a great way to find new friends, both for you and your children. Many host classes and sponsor field trips.

Homeschool days and classes: Many museums, zoos, and nature centers host monthly homeschool days. Organizations such as science centers, churches, gymnastics / dance centers, and others sometimes hold daytime homeschool classes. Your local Facebook groups may list these, or you can find them on each organization’s website.

Factory tours: Our homeschool group toured a family-run cheese factory and an Arden’s Garden juice factory. We also had a (tasty) educational session about making chocolate at a chocolatier. Reach out to small or large businesses that produce products. Unless they have legal restrictions, they are often happy to arrange a tour. 

Farm tours: Learn about biology, botany, and animal husbandry at your local farm. See what’s in season and go picking. Group tours are also an option. Take what you learn on the farm and do some gardening at home. 

Local history: Communities are rich with history. You can also search the  National Register of Historic Places to find historical houses or other places near you. Also, some local cemeteries give out educational information or host tours. 

State parks: Many state parks offer much more than hiking. Many have museums and offer regular educational programs. Get on their email lists to keep up with their events. 

Hybrid learning centers: Some organizations offer hybrid homeschool programs, where children learn with others for part of the week. Ask your local homeschool group what options exist in your community.

Volunteer: It’s wonderful to volunteer as a group. I organized groups of homeschool children to do monthly crafts at a local nursing home, pack food at a food bank, and do yard work at a wildlife nature center (where we got to learn about the animals afterwards). Each organization has its own rules, but many welcome volunteers. 

Specialty centers: Many communities have businesses that specialize in activities like cooking, sewing, yoga, skating, archery, and even comedy. Their facilities are mostly empty during the day, and they are often excited to host a class if homeschoolers ask for one. Children can also connect virtually to attend classes from afar.

 

Virtual Classes and Community

In 2020, virtual classes have replaced many that are normally held in person. For example, most museum “homeschool days” are currently virtual. Though not ideal, they still provide an enriching live connection. These are just a few of the many places you can find virtual activities. 

  •  HomeschoolAnywhere.com hosts a calendar of virtual homeschool activities that can be sorted by age, cost, topic, religion, etc.  
  • Outschool lists online classes for children of all ages.  
  • Go somewhere new from the comfort of your couch! Girl Travel Tours offers live virtual tours of places like Egypt, New Zealand, Pompeii, and the Great Wall of China. (For everyone, not just girls.) They are free with tips appreciated. Past sessions are archived and can be watched anytime.  
  • Last year we got hooked on watching a livestream of bears fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls, Alaska. From nesting spoonbills to a kitten sanctuary to a watering hole in Africa, this site  streams 24/7 from around the world.  
  • There are many online opportunities for special learners, such as  Incuentro, which offers live virtual classes to help children learn social skills.  
  • You can tour museums around the world… from the Sistine Chapel to the National Museum of China. These self-guided tours are an excellent way to supplement your art, history, and science curriculums. This site lists 75 of the best virtual museum tours in the world.  

 

There is a vast variety of online classes, especially during COVID-19… you can find everything from chess to cooking to acting. Some organizations cater specifically to homeschoolers, whether secular or religious. Several are listed here .

 

When choosing activities, let your children’s interests lead the way. And whichever experiences you choose, have fun and “pay it forward” by sharing what you know with other homeschoolers. Best wishes for all your homeschool adventures!

 

 

 

 

 


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Valerie Bolieu, Texas Home School Coalition SPED Homeschool Partner

We all need community!

We all have a responsibility to build community. It may be through our families, neighborhoods, schools, churches, work, or social groups, etc.. 

I love being a part of the homeschool community and a staff member at the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) . Every day is a new adventure, like fishing in the ocean, you never know what kind of sea creature you will catch after casting your pole. Every day is different because of the array of questions we receive through phone calls and email from homeschooling families all over our state.

I enjoy being able to talk with fellow homeschoolers whether they are brand new homeschoolers who are petrified of what they are getting into or seasoned and already know how to homeschool. Why do they call? Because they have hit a bump in the road, or just have questions in their season in life as a homeschool parent.

Another substantial part of home education I love being involved in is the fact that we as parents can learn alongside our children. Teaching is actually an effective tool for learning, and it is a gift to learn with our children. This rapport with our child is the beginning of creating our homeschooling community.

I love to get together and be a small part in my local area with co-op days, field trips, park days, parties, graduations, and hear parents, teachers, grandparents, and even the students, sharing what they have been using for curriculum and may love it or not so much. I also enjoy learning about what they may be trying out for their students, area classes, homeschool organization tips, discipline techniques, you name it. We can learn so much from others and the communities we are building every day and every year.

More than ever, people are feeling isolated despite the ever-increasing sources of technology and social media advancements. There are too many of these types of sources available right at our fingertips, however, these sources can make us feel more isolated, thus we need to be intentional with all of our relationships right now.

Community creates growth. As a state homeschooling support and advocacy organization, the Texas Homeschool Coalition (THSC) has many support groups on our website. If you live in Texas, you can search our site for a group that is a good fit for you and your family . If you live outside of Texas make sure to check your state homeschooling website to their groups listings, you can find more state organizations who partner with SPED Homeschool using this link.

You can be part of a community in your area or online. I would suggest both so you can gather for times of fellowship in person as well as having advice or help at the touch of your fingers.  Groups can have so much to offer the whole family.  It is great to be in groups with like-minded people, and homeschooling is one of those connections we can make with others. There are also connections we make within those groups with families with kids of the same ages and other interests as well as special need students. If you are interested in getting connected with a virtual group, check out this link to the various groups SPED Homeschool hosts .

I think this year it has been especially important in being proactive about building a homeschooling community, as most of us have felt isolated from our normal routines due to COVID-19. We need to begin to repair the connections that have been broken because of this pandemic. Our nation, our state, our cities, our communities, our neighborhoods, and our support groups, need to build back the community support to heal and create networks of support in all areas. More than ever, people are feeling isolated despite the ever-increasing sources of technology and social media advancements. There are too many of these types of sources available right at our fingertips, however, these sources can make us feel more isolated, thus we need to be intentional with all of our relationships right now.

I challenge each of you to make an intentional phone call or write a letter or card to someone to broaden your family’s community and reach out to someone that may really need that interaction with a live person.

Keep building community relationships and growing our homeschool community. We need each other and building that community starts from your home and builds outward into your community.

 

 

 

 

 


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by Peggy Ployhar

 

Before the COVID-19 crisis and there was such a term as a “homeschool pod,” this small personalized homeschooling community was how our family developed some of the richest and most meaningful learning experiences with other homeschooling families.

 

The Basics for Creating Homeschool Pod Community

Creating community is work, and often that is why we avoid it. But the advantages of creating community far outweigh the disadvantages. As we unite with others different from us, we have a great deal to learn from them and about ourselves, and we are always better off from the exchange. This goes for adults and children.

As a parent of a child with a special educational need, pods can be the most ideal community for your student and the other students involved because they may never have had a friend with a learning or physical challenge. Thus, don’t just try to pair up with other families who are homeschooling children with special needs, instead join up with those who are nearby and who need community just as much as you and your student.

 

How to Find Homeschool Pod Families

  • Seek out other families in your neighborhood who are homeschooling this year
  • Ask these families about how they are handling COVID exposure and ensure they and your family share similar views 
  • Ask these families how much they would like to meet in a given week/month and what types of shared activities they would like to do with other homeschooling families
  • Determine if these families are willing to cooperatively share in running the pod and decide on general responsibilities for each family, parent, and child
  • Ensure everyone coming into your pod has a willingness to learn and grow together, respect each person’s individuality, each family’s values, and work out conflict when it arises

 

“…this small personalized homeschooling community was how our family developed some of the richest and most meaningful learning experiences with other homeschooling families.

 

Setting Up Your Homeschool Pod

  • Start with an initial plan, maybe even just a parent meeting before you get all the kids together, and be willing as a group to consider your plan as a “draft in progress” for the first few meetings so you can make necessary changes it if needed
  • Set up a way to communicate and change your initial and ongoing schedules to meet the needs of the group
  • Be consistent and be there for one another, even beyond your homeschooling  and student learning needs
  • Create a homeschool pod oath, including the following elements: Respect for individuality; Being accountable; Helping one another in and out of meeting times; Be teachable; Willing to grow and learn; Understanding there is always something new for everyone to learn; Forgive and give mercy.

 

As I look back on the years our homeschooling pod met on a regular basis, I am thankful for the deep and lasting relationships my children and I were able to develop with other homeschooling families. Even to this day, these are some of the people we call our dearest friends.

If you are interested in learning even more about homeschool pods, check out this relevant article on the National School Choice Week website.

 

 

 

 

 


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