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The Support Group of My Dreams

Susan Grougan

"I don't want anyone else knowing what I'm doing; I don't need the truant officer pounding on my door!"

"My children are beginning to suspect that there's something weird about them because they don't go off to school on a bus every day."

"We're finished with school by noon every day. I wish I knew of some other families nearby for my children to play with!"

"I can't call my mother-in-law (sister, neighbor, etc.) when I have difficulty; she disagrees with what I'm doing. Who can I call for help?"

These are just a few of the snags we encounter when we set about to school our children at home. Where do we turn for help? Often, it's to our local support group. These groups come in a variety of sizes and differ in focus and dynamics. Okay...you've tried some groups and for various reasons you feel your needs will not be met there. Now what do you do?

How many of us have not toyed with the idea of the ideal support group? We daydream of one that will provide friends for our children, a variety of activities from which to choose, opportunities to get together and fellowship, to talk with others familiar with our circumstances and sympathetic to our cause.

I found myself in that very predicament. As I prayed about the problem, the answer dropped into my lap with a phone call from a very reliable source known for her expertise in support groups. After patiently putting up with my whining, she did what most competent managers do ö she put it back in my lap and challenged me to start the 'group of my dreams'.

I spent several days envisioning what I wanted from a group. I contacted others who had led support groups and go input. I made my plans, organized several open field trips sot hat I could expose the idea of this support group to the largest number of families and then I went out on a limb ö I had my name and phone number published in the Home Educator's Family Times which reached thousands in my local area.

At our first meeting, we had an excellent turnout - more than 30 families were represented with over 100 homeschooled children. We laid some ground rules, established meeting days and times, and got to know each other just a little. We planned 'park days' a lot that summer, allowing our children to form friendships and giving the adults a chance to build relationships. When fall came, we started our bi-weekly meetings in earnest. Our format worked for us because we all helped to establish it.

By January, I had my hands fuller than I could manage. My husband requested that I let some responsibility go because he was tired of coming home every night to a wife on the phone! I called a planning meeting and announced that I could no longer bear all the responsibility for our group and, if we could not find some way to share it, this might be the demise of the Moms & Munchkins group.

All the moms there rose to the job. We used a division of labor that proved to be quite positive and effective. We all began to get more out of our time together because it was not longer just one person's ideas at work.

At that meeting we agreed that three moms per month would be in charge of activities and all that they entail. One of our meetings was a project day, the other a group field trip. The mothers in charge plan the format and content totally. We have had some very imaginative meetings!

We rotated through the group as necessary. Additionally, we split our phone calling by areas, appointing a 'contact person' over each to disseminate information on a timely (and toll free) basis. This meant that getting information out the group was a matter of no more than five or six calls.

To underwrite the cost of certain activities, we decided upon semi-annual dues of $5/family and appointed a treasurer. I agreed to continue our little newsletter Update, a bi-monthly mailer with all the pertinent times and dates in one place.

These things are all common sense ideas and, as I contemplate what really made this group work, I guess it just came down to the people. We had a core group of about fifteen families who learned to appreciate one another in our similarities and differences. Each mother was motivated to give her best efforts because she knew that each other one was willing to do the same. We spent time listening as well as talking. We discussed a wide variety of topics from learning styles, to discipline, to chickenpox, to show-and-tell, and even how to get time for ourselves while meeting the needs of our families. In short, we gave as well as received.

I have been blessed with a fantastic resource in the women of our group. They shared their time and their lives and, in so doing inspired others.

NEXT - Children Educated At Home Don't Become Social Misfits

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