Finding Your Homeschooling Tribe
One of the most important things to do once you start homeschooling/unschooling is to find your tribe...your people, your posse. Not because you "have to socialize the kids", but because homeschooling can feel very isolating--especially for the mom (or parent who stays home with the kids). And parenting is hard, regardless of where the kids go to school. Today I'm sharing my top tips to finding your homeschooling tribe.
To be fair, being a stay at home mom can be isolating in and of itself. But putting yourself out there is important so that you stay connected with moms going through a similar stage in life--because parenting is hard (understatement).
When you homeschool, it's even harder to stay connected with other moms. No more forced bus stop conversations (THANK GOD) or PTA meetings (YASSS) where you might connect with another mom. And when you're the only homeschooling family in the neighborhood (raises hand), you feel like the odd man out.
I'm an introvert, but if I hadn't pushed myself out of my comfort zone using these tips, we wouldn't be finding our groove and feeling as confident as we are right now! We stretched ourselves to meet new people and make connections. It's had a great impact on our unschooling journey.
Top 5 Tips to Finding Your Homeschooling Tribe
1. Find like-minded families
When you homeschool, you've got to connect with like-minded families. Not because you want an echo-chamber, but because it feels good to be with people who are on the same journey as you--especially in the beginning.
Just like when we were in traditional schools, it's important and natural to "compare notes", so to speak. Let's face it: we're all just winging it when it comes to parenting, so checking in with other moms was always a good measure of how my kids were doing.
The same goes for homeschooling. It's good to see how others are approaching homeschooling and to share experiences--wins and fails--with each other.
My experience in searching for a homeschooling community felt daunting, at first. If you are a Christian homeschooler, it's much easier to find your people. More than 60% of homeschoolers cite religion as their main reason for homeschooling. And they seem to always be more organized and formally grouped for some reason.
We aren't opposed to engaging with/hanging out with Christian-based homeschoolers, but I didn't think we'd be on the same page about a lot of things (curriculum, resources, reasoning, etc.). Biased? Definitely. But it's just my natural gut instinct.
Finding only religious homeschooling groups felt discouraging at first, but I kept at it. There were many Facebook groups--some very active and some not so much. I tried to get involved with many of the groups, but later realized that the group was kind of defunct.
I discovered a secular homeschooling Facebook group in Castle Rock (about 15 minutes south of us) through a homeschooling chess class my son was attending. I had seen the Facebook group before, but dismissed it because I thought it was only for people in Castle Rock, but I found out that wasn't the case.
At first at chess class, my inclination was to edit photos or write blog posts using the library's wifi while Kate read and Townes was in class. But I forced myself to actually talk to the other moms (and dad!) and low and behold, now I've been connected to the Facebook group that they all belong to and I'm connected to the over 40 other families in the group.
Sure, we don't agree on everything. And many of them are more traditional homeschoolers versus unschoolers, but being secular was a big deal to me. Plus, most of them have 2+ years under their belts. Talk about a wealth of information to tap into!
2. Get scoop from local homeschooling families
Other families who have been homeschooling longer than you can 'show you the ropes' and give you all kinds of scoop. I have gotten so much information and ideas on fun things to do, how to be compliant with our State, ideas for learning experiences, general playdates and meetups, enrichment programs, community colleges that offer homeschooling classes, and so much more.
It's amazing how much we don't know--we don't know what we don't know, right?
3. Attend a homeschooling conference
We attended our first in-person conference in February and for me, it was an awesome and energizing experience.
Beyond the incredible speakers who inspired me and gave me real world ideas that I've already implemented in our home, having the ability to just sit and talk with other homeschoolers really made me feel connected.
And hearing how their family does things in their home and then gathering ideas and tips on everything from other conferences to attend, enrichment programs, and just day-to-day wins really helped boost up my confidence.
I'm committed to doing unschooling with the kids and it sure is nice to see other people doing it well and having great success!
If you are unschooling, like us, stay open to more traditional homeschooling conferences--read the agenda and see if there's more you can take from it than you thought!
Going to a conference isn't in the budget? Try an online homeschooling conference from your home! Many of the larger homeschooling conferences offer live streaming, or the ability to purchase recordings of the speakers.
4. Make friends for you and your kids
This goes back to putting yourself out there. After you've found some Facebook groups and signed up for some classes, you have to take the next step and reach out to some of the other moms.
For me, when I'm feeling particularly introverted, and I don't want to put myself out there: I think of my kids. I think about staying open and non-judgemental for them. So that we can all meet new people and potentially connect with new friends.
Just like any other new social scene, there will be 'love connections' and there will be duds. But you won't know unless you get yourself out there.
I'm good with 1-2 close friends. Really, I don't need more than that! #classicintrovert But like I said, getting out there and making new connections is a great way to expand our worldview and just be with our people.
Keeping and maintaining friendships with people outside of the homeschooling community is equally as important. We haven't had a lot of luck with our neighborhood kids, but there are 1-2 keepers and I cherish those families. Us moms have to stick together!
5. When all else fails: google homeschooling programs in your area
Google searches can be a rabbit hole, but I was able to find many ideas while using this powerful tool. That's how we found out about the Denver Aquarium homeschool program (new post on the kids' squid dissection coming soon!), a homeschooling art class (where we met our very first homeschooling friends), and Townes' chess class (where we were ultimately connected with over 40 other homeschooling families in a Facebook group!).
If we were still hardcore deschooling, we never would have signed up for these homeschooling classes and we never would have met these incredible families who are on the same journey we are.
6. Start your own group
- If google doesn't do the job, you can really get out of your comfort zone and start your own group! Start a Facebook group and start posting to it regularly. Search for people in your area who are interested in homeschooling (I took some basic Facebook marketing classes and there are free ways to do this!). Friend them and invite them to join your group.
- Post a message on Nextdoor.com. I don't know about you, but our community is very active on nextdoor. What does it hurt to put out one post?
- Craigslist may be kind of old school, but I still use it! When I was first starting out in my photography business I got some good portfolio building work through a listing and I still sell and give away large housewares that we don't feel like hauling away. Plus, you can anonymously vet people--especially if you use a nameless email.
BONUS: Get a homeschooling coach or mentor
About month or two into unschooling and deschooling, I was feeling kind of lost as to what exactly we were supposed to be doing every day LOL I had seen Sue Patterson's coaching packages on her unschoolingmom2mom website (a great resource for new and veteran unschoolers!) and I mentioned it to Joe. He didn't even blink--he was like all the yes's to getting to talk with someone who has over 20 years of unschooling experience.
Sue is wonderful and laid back. And I liked that she asked me questions to push back on some of my hangups. She doesn't just tell you what to do, you have a productive back and forth discussion and she gives tips and resources and just general advice on where we are in our journey.
It felt really good to have a mentor who has been through it all before.
She has a few different options, so be sure to check her coaching page if you're interested.
Welp. There you have it! My top 6 tips to finding your homeschooling tribe.
Because we've found our tribe, we are feeling more confident than ever that unschooling the kids was the right move.
I feel like we've turned a corner (maybe we're coming out of deschooling even more) and we're all starting to click and roll with this new adventure. I'll be writing an update post on our unschooling approach soon!
If you are just starting out homeschooling/unschooling your kids, or if you're a veteran and feeling like you are isolated, there are so many resources right at your fingertips. And acting on some of them might just connect you with your homeschooling tribe!