A few of the questions I am asked (or my kids are asked) a lot are, “Don’t you get bored being home all day?” or “Do your kids get lonely staying at home all day?”, My reply is almost always, “We are too busy to be bored!”
Many people assume that just because we are “homeschoolers” that we are always at home. As my husband and daycare parents can tell you, that is just not the case. At least for us it is not the case!
I admit that Oklahoma City and many of the surrounding towns have a lot of awesome opportunities for homeschoolers and that does make it a lot easier to find fun things to do and make new friends. We are not limited to doing activities or going to events during after school hours and weekends.
People who are new to home schooling often asking me, what is the difference between home school groups and home school co-ops? I do not claim to be an expert on this. There may be some sort of legal definition I am not aware of and couldn’t find, but I can tell you what my experience has been since I started looking for home school groups, co-ops, and opportunities in general for my children. In my experience, the groups’ name may not always make it easy to figure out the group/co-op’s goals or opportunities. They all vary as to what they offer and what they expect from their members. Group names can be anything from the name of a town, like OKC Homeschoolers (just an example) to something like “unitedhomeschoolers” or “OKC Christian Homeschoolers”. The key word in most of the group or co-op names is some form of homeschooler or home schooling. If you use a online virtual school, make sure to ask the school or teacher if there school has a Facebook page, Yahoo Group, or any other groups that get together.
Being in/close to a major city like we are, there are so many opportunities that it is sometimes hard to decide what we want to do. There are so many groups offering so many different things. Regardless of where you live, I highly recommend doing searches on your favorite search engine, Facebook, and Yahoo! Groups. On Facebook, I just searched “home school” and it brought up all sorts of pages and groups that my friends were in or “liked” and stuff that had Oklahoma in the description. Usually once you find one; it is not hard to find more.
Personally, I am in a few groups on Facebook that have members that are all over the US, as well as groups that are local to me. The benefit of the nationwide group is that it offers a lot of support from veteran home schoolers who are a wealth or ideas and information. One thing to keep in mind about nationally-based groups is that home school laws vary a lot by state. So if join one, make sure to be specific about what state you live in when asking questions or offering advice or ideas. The benefit of the local groups is getting local information and the real possibility of being able to meet new people in person.
The idea behind home school co-ops and groups is not only to get together to meet new people and let the kids socialize in a supervised and safe environment, but to also support each other, share information, and often times to pool resources. I have seen groups that get together once a week at a local park and the kids play while the parents talk. It is just a way to get out and be active and be social. I have seen highly organized and well-funded groups that hire teachers, coaches and tutors to teach small groups of kids a specific subject. I have seen groups that specifically look for and plan events/activities where they can get group rate discounts. Some groups may specialize in a specific interest or subject; like a home school photography group or Lego robotics group. The purpose of the groups is basically the same. Come together as homeschoolers and every one can reap the rewards, whatever those rewards may be.
Something to keep in mind is that just like any other type of group or “organization”, they may have their own rules and expectations of their members. Groups may be faith-based, location-based, interest/topic-based or even age-based. The reason for these rules varies from group to group. Another thing to remember if you use a virtual school program or a public school at home program is that many homeschoolers do not view you as a true homeschooler, especially if you use a public funded home schooling program. It is nothing personal against you or your family. Legally, if you use a program that is funded by the state education department, you are not legally considered a homeschooler because the state is paying for your curriculum, you are required to state standardized testing (in most cases), and the state monitors your progress. There is nothing wrong with these programs. It literally comes down to a legal definition that is more important to some groups than others.
I am a member of many different groups. Most of which do not care what curriculum is, who paid for it, what my personally faith is and so on. Most of them just want the same things all of us do, the best opportunities for our children in a safe environment.
So research the groups in your area and look at them all with an open mind and an open heart. We all want our kids to get the best education possible and sometimes that means being willing to look for and accept a little help. Even if all that “help” is, is a play date at the park.