Why I Don’t Participate in Homeschool Groups

A few events have happened recently that got me to thinking about why I have tapered off my participation in “official” homeschooling groups, and why I am currently group-free with no regrets.

  1. At the library, a few months ago, we stumbled upon a “free” homeschooling chess club.  We gladly participated… but then the leader started pressuring me to come to the for-a-fee practices, and the official for-a-fee chess meets, trying to up our once-a-month participation in the group into a once-a-week commitment, if not more. 
  2. A potential homeschooling dad called me the other day, asking about how I homeschool, and was really surprised to find that I don’t participate in an organized group.
  3. Most recently, my blogfriend, Julie, recently had a bad experience with a homeschool group

I actually started attending groups even before I started hs’ing, with a friend of mine who had been at it for a couple of years.  Over our five year of homeschooling, I have given serious effort into participating, mostly for my kids’ benefit.  (Since I am an introvert by nature, I don’t feel a compelling need to get out and continually connect with other adults.  I mean, I need it some times, but it’s not a driving force in how I organize my weeks and my homeschooling schedule.)  I have participated in at least four different groups, and that’s not counting the handful of them that I visited once or twice. 

In my experience, most of them devolve into petty political positioning, with seemingly everyone but me trying to weasel themselves in a place of power, and gathering to themselves lackeys who support them as a person their particular stance. 

Or, it becomes about popularity, which, in the homeschool world would be the family who actually digs the pit and roasts a pig while studying traditional Hawaiian luaus, or does their Eastern European unit study in eastern Europe.  The rest of us who don’t have the time, energy or money to homeschool so lavishly just kind of stand around the sidelines and feel less-homeschooling-worthy-than-thou, shiftily gazing at our knees with nothing to contribute to the conversation. 

Or, involvement becomes guilt-motivated.  A group might initially present itself as, “Come one, come all!  We’re here to help!”  But then, in short order, it becomes, “Well, since you enjoy the benefits of this group, you really should be giving more of your time, energy and money to us.” 

Or, it gets all religious, even in supposedly non-religious groups, or multi-denominational groups, with the leaders not-so-subtly promoting their particular ways and/or place of worship.

Due to one or more of the above reasons, I have been the unwilling participant in at least two different homeschooling group splits, which is perhaps even more petty, emotional and confusing than a church split. 

Uh, no thanks.  No thanks to all of it.  I’ll find my friends and support elsewhere, thankyouverymuch.  “Elsewhere,” for me, comes in the form of friendship and outings with individual homeschooling families, and the online support of similarly-minded homeschoolers, both from forums, curriculum websites, and blogs.

When I was just starting my homeschooling path, groups were helpful to me, if nothing else but to solidify, in my mind, how I did not want to homeschool.  And, occasionally, I did get a few good, applicable ideas for my family.  But, it seems like that groups are more like socialization opportunities for the adults, which I really don’t need.  I have, by the grace of God, a good number of friends, whom I love very dearly — though virtually none of them homeschool…

That last sentence brings to mind another point:  I think many homeschooling families too greatly shrink their perspectives, making every last detail drenched in Homeschooling World.  While it can be encouraging to befriend someone who is just like you, I think it’s dangerous to minimize one’s perspective to the end of disincluding everyone else.  KWIM?  Get out there!  Meet other families!  Befriend people unlike yourself!  Broaden your horizons;  don’t shrink them! 

If my kids were starved for socialization (which, btw, is a MYTH that has been blasted through multiple studies, yet continues to pervade the arguments against homeschooling), perhaps I’d prioritize group participation more.  However, with our weekly church attendance (where we — including our kids — very actively participate), near-daily play with neighborhood friends, and weekly-or-better visits with extended family, we’re not lacking.  Oddly enough, one of the reasons we homeschool is to be actually be HOME, which seems to be lost among some hs’ers, who can be more hyper-scheduled than their regularly-schooled counterparts, including those guilt-laden compulsory voluntary homeschooling groups.

Can you tell I have some really strong opinions a few thoughts about this whole subject??  Aargh! 

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on May 1, 2007, in Friendships, God/Christianity/Church, Homeschooling, Introspective Musings, Sad Things, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. This post was very enlightening, thanks.

  2. Great post! I used to be part of two different homeschooling groups and ended up leaving both of them. I’m not in one at all now and it doesn’t bother me a bit. The first one was very similar to what you described in your post – a competition of who is the better homeschooler and just petty behavior. Like you said – no thanks!! The other one kind of dwindled down and ended up with a lot of families with young children and mine are both older so it wasn’t a good fit. Like I said, I’m completely happy the way we are though.

    You are so right about homeschoolers getting over involved in things too! We have activities that we are involved in but we spend the bulk of our time at home. I don’t know how these families do it that are constantly on the go!!

  3. Just do what I do. Go and glean and go home. That’s it. I don’t get close enough to uncover the rocks to see the ugly politics. Bleck. Luckily we have a primo, for REAL leader. She was saying last month that it used to be tabu to say you didn’t use Saxon and now the untouchable curric is IEW/Pudewa’s writing program. JQK hated his class in it–sickening sweet flowery writing. But with Erin and me it’s okay to say –BLECH!! She’s more polite mind you….I wanna hear about Wes’s issues. Darin noted his lack of response to verbal stuff as you noted to me in the past as rudeness…..thinking it’s something different?

  4. livinglyrics

    haha, I love it! Perfect sense, thanks! =][=

  5. You’ve just described every homeschooling group I’ve ever encountered. I guess they’re the same everywhere, that’s too bad.

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you….even as a new formal homeschooler as dd is getting ready to start K according to the state, I am not fond of groups. I attend a support group for homeschool moms and no kids are allowed. I have found the topics to be more mom related and the group is diverse (race, age, etc.) so the only common denominator is our faith. It is quite wonderful and I enjoy it; however, I went to another support group and they were trying to increase enrollment in their tutorial program, vocally advocating certain curriculum and saying negative things about others and I was totally turned off. There is no one way to homeschool as we are all different and there is more than enough stuff out there to float everyone’s boat.

    There are a lot of homeschool agendas and quite frankly most of them deal with homeschooling taking place outside of the home. Groups remind me of high school and eventually if not careful the devovle into cliques, which are not healthy. Thanks for verbalizing my thoughts and feelings. 🙂

  7. Actually, if you crossed out “homeschool” and put in “parent-teacher association”, you wouldn’t have to change another word in your post – it would still make sense. Well, that would seem to be the experience of so many people I know (including my parents who were teachers and a headmaster!)
    Reminds me of that line from William Blake about building a Hell in Heaven’s Despite. Great post.
    And I must do that book meme!

  8. I think homeschool groups really help out when you’re first starting. Make you feel like your not alone and hopefully a place to make friends. After a while, you kinda grow out of them and they just become a burden.

    Good post!

  9. Mommyzabs ~ Hope I didn’t scare you off from homeschooling!

    MLBAH ~ How old are your kids? Just wondering. I have thought that when my kids are a bit older, I may re-involve myself in a group, just to fill in the gaps of things they might miss out on w/ just me as their teacher… I’m not sure, though… So far, I’m filling in the gaps with other, non-hs’ing stuff.

    RCG ~ Well, you want my church, and I want your homeschooling group!!!!!!! I think I might post a bit more about Wes’ issues. Did you mean that Darin identified it as rudeness? That’s why it’s been so hard for me to determine whether or not there’s something ‘real’ going on with him, or if it’s just behavioral. (Miss you!!)

    livinglyrics ~ You need to change your link! You’re a homeschooled teen, right? I’d really be interested in your thoughts on groups.

    Julie ~ Glad you liked the post!

    Kiva ~ I will say (as entropy did, below you) that when starting out, groups were helpful to me. Somewhat. In some things. But for making hs’ing friends, I have had better luck meeting moms at the library, mid-day, mid-week. It’s hard to just go cold turkey into a group and expect to make friends and glean any really good information. Hard for me, anyways.

    URD ~ We just read some William Blake the other day… Your comment makes me think that there are just *people* out there of the same variety, worldwide, no matter what kind of group it is. I mean, maybe it’s just the nature of mankind. Ugh.

    Entropy ~ Yet you, brave soul, still participate in three of them! But, visiting your blog, and seeing your child’s experience (and yours) in them… Well, for me, the bad would outweigh the good, which is why I’ve sworn them off. For now, at least.

  10. OSC, my kids are 14 and 11 (going into 9th and 7th grade). We haven’t done the group thing in quite a few years. The last one I was in was like the one southerngirl described – adults only once a month. It was nice but, as I said, my kids outgrew the topics. 🙂

    I think entropy hit the nail on the head with that comment – they help when you’re starting out but after awhile not so much.

  11. I have to agree for the most part. The only group I’m involved in is a once a month park day/outing group I started that has only members of our denomination in it. (When you are Reformed you get a bit gunshy of other Christian groups after a while.) If you ever start a group you can add…no one else wants to do the planning. Seriously, the jockeying for position one had me laughing and thinking “that would be really nice.” roflol. I once had a woman in the group who obviously wanted something else but when I offered her the opportunity to do that she refused saying she didn’t have the time. And I do? hehehe.

  12. Sara ~ That’s funny about no one wanting to help with the planning! In the groups I’ve been a part of, it’s like “too many cooks spoil the pot.” KWIM? Everyone wants their personal priorities to be the *group’s* priorities.

    For the most part, I have no problems w/ denominationally-based hs’ing groups. If someone started one at my church, I’d join! (That’s a joke, because to my knowledge, I’m the only hs’ing mom at my church.)

  13. Nooooo. YOU identified it as rudeness. Darin simply stated he thought it was something more than that.

  14. Hi – found your blog in a quest to answer my never ending question: SHOULD I HOMESCHOOL??? LOL. My daughter starts K this year – it seems the groups I have been too have the smartest kid competition going on. “My daughter is 6 but we are working at a 4th grade level” blah blah blah. My kid is smart too, but I happen to that think building forts and playing in the mud is equally important for a 5-6 year old than multiplication and division. The other groub was a very cliquish Christian group where the women go to their prayer closets on Sunday (huh?).

    I feel so alone. *sigh* I’m with you.

  15. Sara ~ Would it make you feel better if I tell you my 7yo is nearly a year *behind* in English??? 😀 I think it’s great that as a hs’ing mother, I can teach both to my kids’ strengths and their weaknesses… But I, too, dislike the competitiveness that many moms display. I think they see it as a confirmation of their teaching ability, when their kids excel. To a minor extent, it is… But, I’m *SO* with you about playing in the mud. Have you read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv?

    I strongly feel that if you feel an inkling of interest in hs’ing, you should *DO* it, *TRY* it if you at all can. It would stink to look back, five years from now, and think, “I wish I would have at least tried it.”

    Don’t make it so difficult!! For K, here’s a super-simple curriculum: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons; a simple math program (like Singapore Earlybird); a simple phonics program (like MCP Phonics K or Get Ready for the Code); and maybe a very simple science program — like a unit study in an area of your daughter’s interest. Plus, lots of good picture books/read alouds from the library. All of that would cost less than $100. You’d know by the end of the year if you could continue, or if, even though you gave it your best shot, your daughter should enter a “regular” school. You wouldn’t be out a lot of money either way, and there’s NO WAY you’d “ruin” your daughter by under-educating her, or whatever else your concerns are. K is so low-risk. Really. You should try it.

    Off to my prayer closet. 😉

  16. I don’t participate in local homeschool groups either for many of the same reasons. I remember years ago the first one we attended, my kid’s and I were ignored completely because they felt they were better than us (they lived in a richer city than us). At that point I began to realize I didn’t need to validate my reasons of homeschooling with belonging to groups such as that.

    I tag you to participate in this meme:
    http://momtoanangel.blogspot.com/2007/06/8-things-about-me.html

  17. It’s good to hear others who feel the same way. There are not many homeschool groups where I live and the ones I have been to are like what you discribed. I don’t like big groups of people because most of the time I find a lot of drama that doesn’t really have to be there. This in only our third year of homeschooling so I am still a bit new at it and it’s good to hear I am not the only one who feels this way.

  18. I came to your blog because of out of order teething and then i noticed your sidebars- Sonlight and such. i stayed to read about not having a homeschooling group-I can so relate. A few good homeschooling friends is a blessing but a group is more than i can deal with at this point. In 12 years homeschooling i have never read about NOT having a group. So honest, thanks!

    • Thanks for stopping by & staying for a bit, Nancy!

      For the last year, I have been participating — GASP! — in a group. It is, however, my ideal. It’s a small, informal assortment of mothers… each week (though we don’t go every week) has about 5-10 families, and this is how our “meetings” go: We meet at a park, and the mothers chat, and the kids play. That’s the full of it. Occasionally, one mother will say, “We’re planning on going to the zoo (or wherever) later this month. Anyone want to come along?” It’s very low-pressure, and no jostling for power-positions, because there ARE not power-positions. Additionally, most of the kids in the group are from a semi-rural setting, and I think that may make a difference… it’s just a more laid-back collection of families, and the kids and I both really enjoy it.

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