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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Dawn Spence

For many, this will be your first year of homeschooling and my best advice for you is to take self-care breaks this year. Homeschooling is a fabulous journey, but it requires work and dedication. Breaks can take many different shapes and forms, so I want to highlight a few that have been helpful for me in my seven, almost eight, years of homeschooling. Not only will taking breaks help you finish strong, rest is an essential part of staying healthy – physically and mentally.

 

Quiet Time at Home

I am still working on this part. Whether it is taking a hot bath, a Bible study, or sitting quietly with a cup of coffee, it is important to feel calm and quiet. Let’s face it, life is crazy and most days we go all day. We are teachers, cooks, nurses, referees, moms, dads, and much more but we need time to just be still. Find your peace and wrap yourself around the bigger picture of why you do this whole crazy life. We are called to serve and love but we need the quiet and break to refocus and ground ourselves so we do not become overwhelmed.

 

Connect with Friends

You are not just a homeschool parent, you are a person who needs their friends. Take time to talk to or meet up with other friends that will encourage you. Find your friends or group that give you words of wisdom and who you can be real with about your struggles and your triumphs. Meet over coffee or chat over zoom, but take the time you will be amazed how much it will rejuvenate you. I truly believe that friendships help us know that those bad days are normal. We all need a cheering section that will speak to our hearts, hold our hand, and pray for us.

 

“…friendships help us know that those bad days are normal..”

 

Retreat Away from Home

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of getting away with an organization called A Mother’s Rest. A special needs mom started this program because she knows what is on our plates. It was an amazing time to get away at a bed and breakfast with no expectations except to relax and sleep. It was nice to be with other moms who understand. They also have retreats for couples or just dads. Their motto is, “You cannot pour from an empty cup,” which is so true. It was nice to step away, be pampered, and truly rest. If you cannot get away for a retreat, find other ways. My husband has surprised me with a night away at a hotel to sleep. Find a way to fill your cup.

 

As you go through this year, take time for yourself so that you can give more to important people in your life. Self-care is never selfish and it allows you to replenish yourself so that you can accomplish your goals.

 

 

 

 

 


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