When starting out on the homeschooling path, most families plates are full with figuring out their timetable, setting up their homeschool, choosing their homeschool curriculum, and simply settling into the change of pace and lifestyle that comes with the homeschooling way. Once homeschool families find their own personal routine, the next question tends to be how to go about finding other homeschoolers in their area. Even though homeschooling is on the rise in Australia, choosing to homeschool can feel somewhat isolating in the initial stages, especially if you’ve experienced any push back from friends and family. Finding a community with other homeschoolers is an important part of the homeschool journey in order to establish a network for giving and receiving support, socialising with others and progressing the homeschooling movement in Australia. While it may sometimes feel like there are no other homeschoolers around, often it is simply a matter of finding them. Here are some tips for both finding and nurturing a homeschool community.
Online Homeschool Groups
If you’re already using CEA you can join the CEA Parent and Student group with well over 3000 students there are more and more CEA Co-ops were parents get together regularly. In addition start an online search. Search for groups on social media or web pages created for your own town or general area. Homeschool communities tend to have online groups that allow them to coordinate events and share homeschool tips.
While you’re on the internet, it’s not a bad idea to connect with some global homeschool sites that connect homeschoolers worldwide. Having support from the global community is a wonderful way to learn more about homeschooling and get advice on how to find your local community. Having support in greater numbers allows you to bounce ideas off of others with more experience and you’ll also develop a greater sense of belonging by tapping into the global homeschool world. The CEA Parent group allows you to organise catch up and connect students who can develop their own friendships, online and in person.
Check out local Libraries
Most homeschool families have developed a keen relationship with their local library, or several libraries in the area as a second place for their children to self-study, or as a resource for books and audio-visual materials on particular subjects in which their homeschoolers are interested. Ask around at local libraries to find out whether they are connected to a network of homeschool families or if they are already running some homeschool meet-ups or study sessions.
Put up Posters
If you’re looking for other homeschool families, chances are, they may be looking for you too! Making some posters about possible meet-ups and put them up in your most frequented spots. You can usually ask to post things at the grocery stores, community centres, libraries, gyms, and local cafe notice boards.
Post to your local online bulletin
This is the online version of putting up posters. Many communities have an online bulletin board where members can ask for advice, plan neighbourhood events, look for jobs and housing, and share important information about the local area. If you feel comfortable speaking out about your choice to homeschool, make a post to let others know and to gauge how many families are also homeschooling. You may even inspire others to join the homeschool movement and you can begin a community together.
Visit kid-friendly spots during school hours
This is a clever way to determine who else is homeschooling. You won’t generally find kids from the mainstream school system at a playground during school hours mid-week. If you head to your favourite play areas and find some other families, strike up a conversation with them to find out why they aren’t at school! Once you’ve got this idea in mind, you’ll likely start noticing kids out with their parents at the library, the park, grocery stores, the bank etc. Don’t be shy about having a chat with others as homeschooling families tend to be open and happy to meet others in the community and make new connections.
Ask at local venues
Many homeschool communities will develop relationships with local museums, learning centres, historical landmarks and other field-trip spots that may offer discounts for homeschool families or larger groups. These are great places both for meeting other homeschoolers and for asking about whether these places may be able to connect you to an established homeschool group.
If they don’t already know about a homeschool group, you might ask about establishing a group rate which you can offer to other homeschoolers you find in your area.
Tell your friends and family
Spread the word! If you don’t already know of someone who is homeschooling, friends of your friends and family most likely will. Ask people you know to put the word out and to keep their ears open and you’re likely to make some connection you wouldn’t have otherwise. Word of mouth connection is also a lovely way to find community members that already have mutual friends.
Join a club sport team
There are many sports teams that run through private clubs rather than through a school itself, so other homeschoolers are likely to participate in sport through one of these clubs. Call around to some teams offering the sports that you’re homeschooler wants to pursue and ask if they have any homeschool families involved.
Organise an event
If you’ve started to gauge where the other homeschoolers are and how to get in touch with them, you might even consider holding your own event to get everyone together to start building community. You could organise an arts and crafts day, start a book club, go for a picnic at the beach, or meet for a play day at the local playground. Use the CEA Facebook Parent page to help you keep track of who is coming and also to allow other people to be in contact with each other after the event takes place.
Check for local conferences or homeschool events already set up
Someone may already have put in the hard work for you to organise some events for homeschoolers. Check out what’s planned in the area and go! If you’ve met some other homeschool families through the methods above, invite them along and make it a joint outing.
Once you’ve identified a few homeschooling families in your area, you can coordinate to have children enjoy group lessons or excursions together. Perhaps you can hold a CEA Art, Science, or PE Group once a week, alternating which parents does the teaching and giving the other parents a day-off to work or do errands. You can also plan your play time together to maximise socialisation and foster friendship development. The CEA Co-op groups are thriving and allowing parents to also work part time.
Set up your own learning centre or meet-up group
After you’ve started growing your homeschool community, you may even want to establish a communal space for everyone to come together, hold meetings, plan events, and carry out CEA group lessons and study sessions. Survey the local community to gauge interest and enquire in libraries, gyms, or community centres about available spaces that you can hire. CEA provides special activity day multi-age programs free to Co-op groups.
Homeschooling in Australia is on the rise and the movement is continuing to gain respect and recognition. Once you’ve started homeschooling then you’re already part of the global homeschool community. Try out some of these tips to find your local group and begin growing your own homeschool community.