How to start a homeschool group

Many homeschool groups and activities got started because someone saw the need and decided to be proactive.  As a homeschooling parent, you may have to be that someone.

Maybe there isn’t a homeschool group in your area, or maybe the local homeschool group doesn’t meet your needs.  You may need to be a pioneer and start your own–this is what I did when our homeschooling jourey began.

During my son’s pre-school years, we were members of the MOMS Club.  Each Friday we would get together for playgroups, field trips, park days, or lunch.  When we began homeschooling, I could find co-ops that offered classes, sports, etc, but not that same level of social opportunity. So I started my own group.  Here are some tips for starting a homeschool group in your area:

  1. Start a facebook page and a yahoo or Wiggio group.  This is what people search when they are looking for a homeschool group.
  2. Research the closest homeschool groups and get permission to post on their facebook page or message boards that you are intetested in forming a new group, and ask that intetested families contact you.
  3. Once you have a few interested families, set a time and place to meet.  A park or restaurant with a play area offers a chance to meet while the kids play.  
  4. Once scheduled, get the word out.  Hang a flier at the library and bookstores.  List events on facebook and your Yahoo or Wiggio message boards.
  5. At your first meeting, establish what you want the group to be and get feedback on what the other families want.  
  6. Establish a schedule–how often to meet, on which day of the week to meet.  Keep it consistent.  Our group decided to meet each Friday.
  7. Decide on activities.  In the beginning, you might stick to park days.  Our group decided on:
  • 1st Friday:   park day,  which would double as our planning meeting.  We rotated parks.
  •  2nd Friday:  planned activity (such as a parent-led science experiment or craft, lego project day, show and tell, seasonal activity such as gingerbread house decorating or Easter egg dying).  Parents would take turns planning the activity.
  • 3rd Friday: playgroup at a member’s home
  • 4th Friday:  field trip (zoo, museum, historic site, bowling, bounce house open jump)

As the group grows, divide responsibilities.  Ask for a field trip coordinator to reserch and schedule field trips, a playgroup coordinator to rotate playgroup locations, a park day coordinator to rotate park locations.  Add a student council, photography club to photograph activities, social media team.

  1. Add other activities, such as Moms Night Out, seasonal parties, enrichment classes, campouts, guest speakers–the oppoetunities are endless!

Today’s used book haul

I wanted to provide proof that homeschooling does not have to cost a fortune by sharing the results of our weekly book hunts.  Each weekend, we make the rounds to Goodwill and three charity resale shops, which sell books for about $.15-$3.00 each.  

Today, for less than the cost of 1 new book, we purchased 10 used books to add to our history, civics, and science collections.  We spent a grand total of $7.50:

  • Chief Joseph $.59
  • Indian Life in Texas $1.99
  • Heroes of America: Daniel Boone $.79
  • Geography for Christian Schools Map Exercises $1
  • A History of the American Revolution (500+ pages) $.49
  • Warriors: Navajo Code Talkers $.49
  • Everyday Life: The Civil War with cross-curricular activities and pull-out poster map $.49
  • Government by the People textbook with practice test book $1
  • Advanced Skywatching hardback book $.49

A few trips like this will quickly fill up a bookshelf for not a lot of money and keep your student busy for a while!

You don’t have to be rich to homeschool!

Many conservatives are repeating the talking point that only the rich have school choice, leaving poor and middle class kids trapped in public schools–cue the government to come to the rescue… In reality, homeschooling is an affordable choice.  After all, families that utilize the “free” public school system actually spend hundreds of dollars each year on back-to-school supplies, uniforms, backpacks, lunch kits, daily transportation costs, etc.–those same dollars could easily fund a homeschool.

Yes, the convenient boxed-set curriculum packages are pricey–but I will let you in on a little secret–no one I know uses them.   Instead, many homeschoolers pull from whatever resources they can find, and use them as a starting point, to be enriched with activities, field trips, etc.

Free Resources:

  • Many local libraries offer not only books, but e-books, homeschool kits, audio books, DVDs, reference materials, computer access, and free activities.  Many libraries will order books/DVDs you need or borrow books from another lending institution.
  • Public schools discard new sample textbooks and used books and manuals from their classrooms and libraries.  Contact the school for scheduled clean-outs.  Even outdated textbooks can be used–I cut out pictures and timelines and use them for homemade flashcards or scrapbooks.
  • Many homeschooling families participate in book swaps.
  • Educational apps such as Duolingo are free.  
  • The internet brings countless free resources to our fingertips–from encyclopedias to maps, diagrams, timelines, printables, videos, songs, and even free online curriculum such as easypeasyhomeschool.com and khanacademy.com.  
  • Use what you have on-hand, such as beans rather than store-bought counters and manipulatives.
  • Many museums and historic sites offer free admission once a month or during festivals or special events.  Get on the mailing list and mark your calendar.
  • Mother nature is a great teacher–and she works for free! Get outside and learn to identify trees, plants, clouds, constellations, moon phases, bugs, weather, and wildlife right in your own backyard.  Start a nature collection for a science project.  Use nature items for crafts.

LowCost Resources:

  • DIY: make homemade versions of the expensive products on educational websites and catalogs.
  • Once the back-to-school rush is over, take advantage of the school supply clearance sales and stock up for the year.  
  • $1 stores and $1 bins usually carry educational posters and flashcards for basic math, presidents, states, planets, alphabet, phonics, etc.  I like to store flashcards in the $1 flipbook photo albums.  I also make my own flashcards using index cards.
  • Check out used book stores such as Half-Price Books, which offers even deeper discounts in the clearance section.
  • I make weekly rounds to the local thrift stores such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and charity shops, which typically offer books for 50 cents to $2. 
  • Watch out for garage sales, library sales, and teacher retirement sales.
  • Homeschool groups may offer book sales once or twice a year, or allow members to advertise books for sale.
  • On-line retailers and marketplaces such as Craigslist and Amazon are a great option for books you can’t find locally.
  • Many zoos offer memberships and discounted homeschool days once or twice per year.

Why homeschooling works for my family

  1. My son can work at his pace.
  2. We can choose our own curriculum.
  3. We can go on a lot of field trips.
  4. We can cut out the red tape.
  5. We can cut out the busy work.
  6. We can homeschool year-round.  This means we don’t have to make up for long breaks, and we can travel during the off-season for cheaper rates and less crowds.
  7. More family time.
  8. Consistent teacher.
  9. No standardized testing.  
  10. One-on-one instruction.