Don't try to do this alone. Do not try to live your life, raise children, or home educate alone. We were designed to be in communities. God created us with a need for fellowship - with Him, and with others. Whether your community is just a handful of friends, or as vast as the Atlantic Ocean, you really do need to have others to lean on for support while homeschooling.
Let's start at the beginning shall we? Emily was 4 years old, Arlene was 2, and we were thinking about what we might do once Emily got old enough for Kindergarten. While we know we wanted to homeschool her, both Kurt and I had attended public school, we were big on zeal, and short on ideas! I went to another mom from our church, and asked her if I could come over sometime and she could share a little about what she did for homeschooling with her girls. Of course Ginger was happy to have us over, and as her girls were playing with our girls, she shared about what methods and materials she used with their daughters. The most valuable advice she gave me was: start small, and don't buy everything you see at the homeschool convention. She recommended I look at a book, which has since become my all time favorite home education resource: A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.
Fast forward a dozen years or so...I still repeat those wise words that Ginger shared with me whenever God prompts me to share with a younger mom, or when they ask for advice. Start small. If we want to stay focused upon our children, and not let the tasks of choosing and balancing curriculum overwhelm us, we need to start small.
Now in high school, we still think small. I do not want our girls to have to miss out on some wonderful learning opportunity... like a field trip to the observatory or the Indianapolis Museum of Art because I chose a curriculum that was too time consuming, where requirements overwhelm relationships. As Emily neared graduation, I went through piece by piece and looked to see if there were gaps that were necessary to fill, or if they could be learned later. Talking with other moms in our local homeschool community has given me such great insight into what really needs covered in high school, and what can be skipped. It also gave me help in planning her transcript!
One thing that cannot be skipped during the high school years is fellowship, for our teens or ourselves! It has worked well for our girls to have friends from three distinctly different areas: friends from church, whether they homeschool or not, friends outside of our local church who also homeschool, and friends outside of the homeschool community. This ebb and flow of friends gives them a lot of opportunities for fellowship and fun. Of course, as parents, we hope their closest friends will come from those who share our faith in Jesus Christ, but we know it is important to have a variety of casual friends whom they can interact and talk with. Make it a point to have your home be one of the safe places for your High Schoolers to hang out with their friends! Have a game night or a bonfire, or just gather up a car's worth of teenagers and take them to the park.
Along the way, parents will also find they need fellowship. As a homeschooling mama, I have found my closest friends are other homeschooling moms because we can more easily share our struggles and joys. But more importantly, I need my closest friends to share my faith in Christ. That is the sweetest fellowship. When you know that your friends are praying for you during the week, those struggles with a defiant teen or even a stopped up drain don't seem so bad.
If you are struggling to find a homeschool community, may I offer some advice: be gracious! There is a place for your family out there, but you may need to tread lightly through the options until you find it. The group closest to home might not share your values, or it might meet every week on your husband's day off, making it a poor choice overall. The homeschooling group in the next town over might only offer field trips, while you are looking for a co-op. But if that farther away group is where your children find friends, make the effort to attend those field trips, and change your personal outlook about joining a co-op this year.
There are plethora of online homeschool communities to join, and while they can be a lifeline, I want to encourage you to also find local people who homeschool to encourage you! Locals can let you look through their old curriculum and give you honest answers about what worked and what was a struggle. Local friends bring you over a meal when your husband breaks his leg, or you've been sick. A local homeschool community stays abreast of the laws and requirements for your state, as well as giving children many opportunities you might struggle to provide on your own.
If you're a working and homeschooling mama like me, you might even be blessed by a local friend who wants to teach a class to high schoolers that would free you up for more time at home with whatever your child needs help with this year.
It can be hard to find a community of other home educating families, and harder still to make choices with our time to get together. Yet, as I look back, we all have so many fond memories of doing things, going places, and being a part of our local homeschool community. I am so glad we made the effort to be a part of our local home education community!
Stop back by tomorrow for some more of our series An Honest Look at High School. Until then, click on the links below and see what everyone else is sharing today!