Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Groups - Home Ed and Otherwise

I had a quick look through the various homeschooling e-groups that we belong to and this is a sample of what's on offer to homeschoolers:
  1. foreign languages (Chinese, Spanish, French, Latin)
  2. field trips
  3. theatre studies (drama, film studies)
  4. arts and crafts (weaving, sewing, basketry, woodwork, mixed media, arts awards)
  5. nature-based education (forest school, forest conservation, gardening)
  6. language arts workshops (creative writing, poetry)
  7. park days
  8. sports (karate, fencing, horse riding, sailing, trampolining, multisports, gymnastics, swimming, bowling, scouts/guides, climbing, kayaking, archery, ice skating)
  9. music (choir, instruments, music production, musicianship)
  10. science (engineering and electronics, robotics, physics, science fairs, various LEGO groups, science awards)
  11. history workshops
  12. geography workshops
  13. maths workshops
  14. special interests workshops (magic club, first aid, philsophy, cookery, circus skills)
  15. toddlers and preschoolers groups
The scope of activities is amazing, isn't it?  These homeschooling groups (or home ed groups, as they are normally called in England) are all run or organised by homeschooling parents and are pretty informal, in the sense that the length of each workshop can range from one day to an entire 10-week term.  I suppose in some ways their function overlaps with that of co-ops, except that they are much more relaxed, the nature of the activities are usually less academic, and they allow different families to dip in and out of them as necessary.

Most of the time interest groups are started by one or a few parents to fill in a gap when their own children has a need and the corresponding activity has not been offered yet.  These groups are basically created out of various homeschooling parents' initiatives.

As is obvious from the list above, it is very possible to home educate your child successfully in England by just signing up to the activities that are currently on offer.  I know of at least two families that do exactly that.

I apply the same basic principles in selecting how much external participation Tiger does as I have mentioned here.  It is really a question of finding the right balance for my family.  More than 90% of the activities listed above take place outside of our local area (i.e. more than 10 miles away from us) so Tiger's regular homeschooling group meet-ups has been for:
We have had more success with attending home ed groups than with co-ops -- we have been actively participating in various home ed groups' activities for four years now, but we only lasted six months in the co-op.  The high level of flexibility to move around to different groups at different times is crucial to us largely because of Tiger's asynchronous development.  In some areas he learns at the speed of the bullet train, in others he can be like an old man riding a mule, yet emotionally he is still a regular eight-year-old boy.  I don't expect anyone or any group to speed up or slow down for him, so one-off workshops or activities that allow for different learning speeds work best for him, e.g. drama and forest school.

Socially, the amount of regular interaction we have with other homeschoolers as stated above, is sufficient to keep us happy.  We don't limit our social interactions to homeschoolers so Tiger's social circle is very wide.  In other words, his peer group is not restricted by age group, locality, or methods of learning.  He is led by his interests to have regular meaningful interactions with adults as well as school-attending children, both locally and further afield.  For example, Tiger's passion in military history has resulted in him holding membership to a national history group that meets regularly to discuss, investigate, and debate over research and findings in archaeology, history, and battles.

These are books that Tiger reads at his own leisure.

Tiger is also a member of a junior chess club that competes at county and national levels, a local junior tennis club, and a regional junior archaeologist club run by working archaeologists.

Interestingly, I am aware that there are at least 10 homeschooling families that live locally to us, but there is no local group.  Everyone seems to have already found a comfortably suitable way forward without the need or desire to form a local group.

I have met a number of these families through our rounds in the home ed groups circuit over the years.  The common characteristics of these families, as far as I can gather, are that:
  • they are decent, honest families who are discreet and fiercely protective of their personal privacy;
  • they are very often blessed with an independent spirit that requires little external validation for what they consider to be a personal decision and indeed a private matter, i.e. to educate their own children.
  • they know why they are homeschooling their children, and they know what to do to best support their children's needs, so most of them just want to be left in peace to get on with their family life purposefully.
Some people may find the lack of a local homeschooling group to be disconcerting, but I see that as a blessing in disguise in that I am free to pick and choose different activities that appeal to Tiger's interests, without being limited to the ones that are being offered by the local group, had there been one.  As far as I can tell, the only drawback of not having an active homeschooling group local to us is that I have to work doubly hard to find appropriate opportunities for Tiger to participate in activities that matter to him, or to create those opportunities for him.  Luckily that doesn't bother me at all.  More importantly, Tiger is thriving in this extremely flexible environment.

Having said that, there is nothing to stop me from taking the lead in organising regular activities for the homeschooling community in the future should the need arise.  In fact, I often toy with the idea of starting regular group activities locally, but that hasn't happened yet because Tiger still needs individualised and focused support from me at the moment so trying to start something now would only distract me from giving him the attention he needs.  To meet Tiger's needs is, afterall, my top priority in this homeschooling journey.

With the wide variety of activities that are available to homeschoolers these days, there are so many ways to create a great education that is tailored to meet each child's needs, based on individual families' circumstances and requirements.  For other examples of how homeschooling groups might work for your family, please visit these ladies to read what they have to say on this topic:
  • Bernadette shares a sad story about the demise of a homeschooling group when some are Unable to Commit.
  • Erin has been involved in home education support groups for three decades.  She shares an overview of that journey and the importance the groups have played for her family in It Takes a Community.

This post is linked up to:
1) Hip Homeschool Hop - 5/21/13
2) Hearts for Home Blog Hop #18
3) Homeschool Mother's Journal: May 24, 2013
4) Collage Friday - Time for Nothing and an Exciting Something
5) TGIF Linky Party #77
6) Creative Learning #15
7) Weekly Wrap-Up: The One at NCHE
8) Share it Saturday! Creative Play with Kids
9) Sunday Showcase - 5/25/13


  1. Beautifully written and put together piece, Hwee. It's so interesting hearing more about your and Tiger's experiences of home ed. I love your list - isn't the abundance of opportunities wonderful? Makes school seem so boring in comparison!
    It sounds like you've found a great balance for your family. We have asynchronous development issues too. (Now i think of it, I wonder who doesn't?!) I love that right now my 8 yr old son is playing Yu-Gi-Oh with a couple of teenagers at our home ed group while my 9 year old is cooking with friends ranging from ages 5 to 15.

  2. Yes, I think most children's developments are all over the place during childhood so it is good to be able to support and honour their unique developmental timelines. I am also very grateful to all the home ed parents who work so hard to make available such a wide variety of activities to the community. I feel energised simply from knowing that there are so many dedicated parents around.

    As you've pointed out, age difference is such a non-issue in the home ed community. The flexibility of home ed really removes a lot of artificial and unnecessary obstacles to human interactions.

  3. Wow! There are a ton of opportunities in England. I'm amazed. We live in Germany where homeschooling is illegal, but there are several American families connected with the military who homeschool. The groups offer some activities, but wow! I'm impressed with the vast amount available to you.

  4. Yes, we are very lucky to have very commited parents who work very hard to make available all these different opportunities.

  5. Really great post, Hwee! As usual very well thought out and interesting. Without a car at our disposal during the day, I am limited to activities in our village, which are few and far between during school hours. We tend, therefore, to make more use of evening classes. It's great there's so much out there- a fit for every family!

  6. That's interesting, Claire. Although I'm aware of evening classes, they don't tend to cater to younger children at Tiger's age. I'll be interested to know how you've approached it.

  7. Wow more is happening in England than I realised!!

  8. Love the chess club! Found you over at Collage Friday! huzzah! Enjoy your weekend!


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