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Why can't I join a local homeschool group: 'closed' groups

By Beverley Paine, Jan 2021

There are many reasons for this. I've been on both sides of the issue - the person looking for connection and the person pulling back and not be 'out there'.

We started home educating in 1986 and a couple of years later I started our first home educating group, which was state wide back then - meet ups were rare! 10 years in and I started another group, this time covering the region (we live in a country town) with fortnightly get togethers at a local park and then one of the members generously offered to meet at their house (on a bit of land). Sometimes we'd get 10 families rock up, others times 2. The group had over 20 families on the email list. Eventually it split into 3 groups: some people gelled better together, others were coming from the same place so it made sense to create their own local group.

I started another group when my grandkids started homeschooling, this time focusing on keeping it local, and advertised it through a regional group. Sometimes we'd get 10 families rock up, more often than not 2 or 3. Some would drive an hour to get here. Covid happened and because I'm immune compromised I stayed home. We miss our get togethers and I'm hoping to revive the group this year, but it is a bit hit and miss still. And I've discovered that so many home educating families are in the same boat as our family, and have to be careful with social situations at this time. A lot of us are staying home or cautiously socialising. It's really put a dent on group activities and homeschool classes and co-op activities. We finally caught up with one family from our group at the end of last year after having not seen them for 6 months...

Having said all that, it has always been hard to crack the local home ed scene if there is one. A lot of groups don't advertise their presence. A lot of groups are formed around particular interests or values and entry and acceptance into the group are by recommendation. That can make it very difficult for a family new to the area as first they have to get to know someone in the group. The only way to do that is to be very out and about in the local community generally, be chatting at the post office, newsagent, library, etc. I'm not very good at that, and from what I've discerned over the years I don't think most people are!

What I tend to do and encourage others to do, and which has worked really well for my daughter (who has moved house a few times) is start your own group by either organising play dates at local playgrounds and advertising that on the regional or state group, perhaps putting up a poster at the local town noticeboard (with a contact number and playground but not date or time). Or host an activity - home educating families seem to prefer to rocking up to something that is 'educational', for example an excursion to a wild life park or museum or marine education centre, etc. But if you do that, allow time for a playground meet afterwards for lunch and a play, as that is when the kids get to to know each other and the parents can chat. It is hard to do this when you don't already know someone, but it does work. Sometimes you won't get a group happening but usually you end up meeting at least one or two families if you persist for a few months in organising something more or less regular.

And we're still thin on the ground in most areas, particularly in rural regions. Plus home educators tend to be really busy. Most of us find that one day out a week is enough, although we do have a new local teen group that has something scheduled for every day of the week! Obviously families don't need to attend everything, but it is sure fire way to meet and make lasting friends if you're able to.

The energy in home ed groups waxes and wanes too. Sometimes one or two members of a group are able and keen to do lots of organising, other times life gets in the way and things fall by the wayside. Another reason groups may be 'closed' is that the venue or activity has a natural number limit on how many can attend. The reasons can be many and complex. All I can say is don't give up.

I moved to find a like-minded community and for a year it existed, then the core members organising it moved away and the activities stopped and I felt a little miffed for a while, but every time I went for a walk along the beach I was reminded of another powerful reason why we decided to settle here. We're still here 30 years later.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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