Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Value of a Good Support Group

2012: The following is a column I wrote in August 1997 for the Teachable Moment regarding Tallahassee Homeschool Group or THG as we all abbreviated it, written and spoken. I will always be forever grateful for that group! I strongly recommend to anyone starting their homeschooling travels that you find a group that works for you or you create one! It is vital. The saddest thing to me when fielding homeschool calls for all those years from new homeschoolers is when there was no interest in participating in a support group. I think it is much harder to be a lone ranger and you are almost certainly shortchanging your kids. I hope the following article will help newcomers understand why.

"A beautiful location, outstanding entertainment, a refreshing pool, great food and wonderful people...the year end rally, in my opinion, was one of our best activites yet!

As I chatted and visited with others, thoughts of those who hadn't been able to attend crossed my mind. I reflected upon the people I've had the opportunity to become acquainted with due to the homeschool group. It sometimes feel frustrating to not have the time to invest in closer friendships with each member of the group, but I've enjoyed the intermittent conversations and sharing that have taken place.

It's amazing to me when I mentally rehearse all of the activities and projects that THG has participated in over the last 2-3 years! I love to see the contribution each family has added as they've joined in with us. Not everyone has been able to stay with us (due to various reasons) and, of course, their absences are felt. However, THG exists whenever any number of us join together for an activity.

Every year brings changes. Children certainly metamorphose as they go through their developmental stages, as do we adults. Our family dynamics are remodeled as a result. Consequently, THG will continue to experience changes also.

The last two years have shown an evolution from a small core group of people to a larger group of involved members. One reason I feel the group has been able to weather this transition is the ability of new members to realize they are part of the group. Also, the credit for successful activities and projects can be attributed to the resources each member, new or old, brings in with them.

When we welcome a new family to the park, we're also welcoming the resources and insights this family will bring with them. These will have a positive impact on our children. We also recognize the supportive help other adults give us when we're involved in certain projects, such as the Junior Museum (the Eco-Show) and Elizabeth Danley (who was a librarian who went back for her Ph.D. and utilized many of us for her dissertion on home education). In the process, Elizabeth made suggestions to the library for better ways to aid and assist homeschoolers.

Our family feels fortunate to have such a unique group to aid us in our homeschooling endeavors. I would like to use this opportunity to say thank you to each of you for your contributions. You're each important and add so much to the dynamics of the group. We miss you when you're not able to be present, yet understand too, that THG activities can't always be at the top of the priority list. Best wishes to those who are pursuing other educational choices this next year! "

Ideas implemented during our years in THG:

We always met one day a week at Optimist Park. They still meet there every Thursday afternoon, except in the summer. The city daycare programs have it during the summer. So the option then was to go to Wakulla Springs every other week for a day. Wakulla Springs was great about not charging our group for that!

Learning Circles: No more than an hour. Probably the greatest one was when someone brought a hot air balloon to the park. It was an older one, so they laid it sideways on the ground and the kids and parents all ran in and out of it. Then they set it right side up. Otherwise, there were a variety. Anything anyone was learning about could be presented. One young man, who was diabetic, taught all the kids about diabetes and demonstrated checking his blood sugar. We had people come teach about other countries and bring items from those countries. I personally taught a few science ones regarding the human body. It was a good time to work in the dangers of smoking. There were some dedicated to service projects also. I might have to dedicate another blog about learning circles.

Yearbook: We started a yearbook. Each child made their own page with their picture on it. We also had group pictures. Parents signed up to obtain sponsors for advertising which helped bring the costs under control so that everyone could afford to have a yearbook.

Field Day: A load of fun! Probably the most popular event every year.

Field trips: This category always depended upon someone being willing to coordinate. And I will just add, if you sign up for a field trip, try with all your strength to honor your commitment. Homeschoolers can sometimes turn into slackers in this area. It's embarrassing for someone coordinating to have everyone bail out at the last minute. The most favorite ones that come to my mind (but there were so many!) were the  Marine Biology Lab in Panacea, horseback riding, Joe Budd in Quincy (fishing and science lessons) St.Marks Wildlife Reserve (especially during the Monarch Butterfly migration!)  and don't forget the Junior Museum.

Valentine's Day: The same traditional stuff.

Halloween: Same as Halloween Day. The kids dress up and march around in a parade with some festival type booths set up too.

International Day at the Library: The kids made posters based on learning about different countries which were put on display at the local library.

Soccer: In the early years, a wonderful father gave of his time and taught the kids soccer. It was low key and not super competitive. Many families would stay at the park afterwards and have pizza together for dinner. Sweet memories for our family!

A Teenage Dance: This was added in after our years there, but I heard it is very successful.

4H Clubs: We did some 4H activities together. Matthew especially enjoyed the Archery Club.

THG version of Scouting!

Cooperative classes: Writing, Greek Mythology, etc.

I know I am leaving some things out! It really grew to the point where you had to start picking and choosing your activities because it was very hard to do it all!

One last point; when  you join a support group, go with the attitude that you will find a way to be a contributor.  The parents make the group go. Each group is only going to be as successful as the parents who are sharing their time, talents and resources. So please take this seriously. THG was good about giving first year homeschoolers a break just to get on their feet and absorb it all, but the expectation was that by the second year, parents needed to be jumping in somewhere. Some homeschool groups require a written agreement. It's that important.

Happy homeschooling!  : ))


  1. Support groups really do help. Sometimes you have to visit a few to find the right fit for your family, but it is worth the effort. So glad I got to know you and Matt when you joined us for LIFE Co-op. Btw, Life is gearing up to start our fall semester if you know anyone in the Tallahasse area who would like to join us.

  2. Thank you! I was wondering if you would write up a little bit about the LIFE co-op or just co-ops in general that I could share in my next post. There are people reading from other states and this would be helpful to them. You are far more the expert in this area! We were very grateful to be included in the co-op too! That was going to be my next blog and you led right into it!

  3. Actually, I am in the process of writing about homeschool co-op classes on my new blog. I hope to include a step-by-step guide along with other info. Let me know when you are ready and I can send you a little blurb or you can post a link to my blog. Whichever is easiest for you. :)

  4. Please send me a little blurb and your link and I will post both! : )) Thank you! You will be the expert guest!