How to Start a Homeschool Group



Guest post by Misty from Joy in the Journey.

Homeschool groups offer so much to homeschoolers. They offer friendship opportunities for parents and kids. Homeschool groups can offer field trips, co-op classes, and sports groups. Homeschool groups help answer the annoying “What about socialization?” question. In my opinion, they are essential to homeschool success. However, they are also hard to find sometimes, and can be overwhelming to consider starting.

How to Start a #Homeschool Group @hsbapostPhoto Credit: Kevin Dooley via Creative Commons

When I began homeschooling, our area did not have a local homeschool group. I founded our group with the help of two friends. Within a few years, we have over 50 families in our group. Starting a homeschool group can be a great blessing to you and your family, as well as new homeschoolers who may be afraid to step out into homeschooling without a support group. If your area does not have a homeschool group or if you are considering starting one of your own there are a few things that can help.

The first thing to do is find a couple other homeschool families to get started. If you know some already great! Get with them, and see if they are interested in starting a group. If you don’t know any homeschoolers ask around your church and family. Usually you can find someone who knows someone who homeschools. Libraries are another good area to find homeschoolers. Ask your librarian if they know any, and if they do leave your number so they can pass it on.

Once you have a few homeschoolers who are interested in a group, you will need to find an online platform for communication. This is the easiest way for members to communicate with each other. There are a few different options for online communication:

Web Page- This is a good option if you believe your group is going to be large, or you are going to charge an annual fee. Web pages can have “member access” areas for field trip and co-op information. A good example of a homeschool group webpage can be found here.

Facebook-Facebook is a great free tool for groups. This is the platform our homeschool group uses and it works really well. You can add members, create events, and stay in contact with most people in your group. The only down fall is that unbelievably…not everyone has a Facebook.

Email- If your group is small, and you have numerous members who do not have a Facebook account then an email group correspondence may be your best bet. One member of the group can send out emails to everyone in the group regarding field trip information and get togethers.

Yahoo Groups- Yahoo offers group pages and they are easy to set up. This option is a nice one for those groups who may not want to mess with email, and have multiple members without a Facebook page.

Another thing to consider when starting a homeschool group is what do you want from it? What do the other families want? Consider this and make up a mission statement. You may also want to consider a few standard rules that go along with your mission statement. For example, our group is only open to homeschool families who are okay with the Christian faith. It is set up so all members can plan events, and our rules are simple and state that all members must treat each other with respect.

Starting a homeschool group may seem daunting but I promise you that your work will not be done in vain. Homeschool groups are a huge blessing to new homeschool families, and give them encouragement to get started on their homeschool journey. They offer friendship for our children, and support for us moms who have been on the journey for a while. Some of my best friends are in our homeschool group, and I honestly do not know where we would be if I wouldn’t have taken the step to get our group started. So, if you cannot find a homeschool group near you, take the first step and get one started. Yes, it is a lot of work but once you begin to see the fruit of your labor, you will not regret it!
Misty @ Joy in the Journey

Misty Bailey is a wife to Roger and a homeschool mom to three beautiful blessings. She resides with her family in Southern Ohio. She loves helping new homeschoolers and shares her struggles with time management, becoming unglued, and finding joy in the everyday moments on her blog Joy in the Journey.



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Our Experience: Charlotte Mason Institute 2014 Education Conference Part 2



In my last post, I talked just a little bit about some of the in-between but important bits that are called riches in Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. This part of the series will focus on the workshops/sessions that we attended. I do not feel I have the space to talk about the other workshops/sessions that were offered.

CMI graphic II


Technology and Charlotte Mason

The sessions we attended were all great and very informative. The first we chose was “WWCMD: with the Internet”. That stands for “What Would Charlotte Mason Do”. Technology is huge today. We just cannot escape it. Should we even try? Actually any tool that is invented and used is technology. Sometimes I forget that books are technology in our age of all-things-digital. I think many people are with me on that.

The session was led by Lisa Cadora brilliantly. Lisa is one of the coordinators for Mason in the Morning CM study group and Great River Learning CM co-op in the Cincinnati, OH, area.  She talked, very briefly, through different technologies and how they ‘changed’ society. She also mentioned those who at the time pushed back against the technologies. Individuals such as Plato, Socrates, Seneca, Benjamin Franklin and Marshall McLuhan. Even through all the pushing and shoving, technology continues on advancing. And we are left to catch up.

We discussed what are some *good* resources on the internet, as well as how we as parents manage the technologies. It was very good. A point that she made, and I’m sure can be seen by many who have children (ahem, and adults) who spend a lot of time on digital technology: When they are done with their time on the technology, they sometimes suffer depression, anxiety, let-down, and can be irritable. Digital technology affects our brains in ways that are only now beginning to be understood. She gave titles for books that she recommends:

  • Alone Together, Sherry Turkle
  • The Dumbest Generation, Mark Bauerlein
  • Wired, author?
  • The Shallows, Nicholas Carr
  • Hamlet’s Blackberry, William Powers

One that I highly recommend is Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.

Some technological resources that the group suggested:

Notebooks and Charlotte Mason

The individual session we attended on Friday morning, before our long drive home, was “Keeping Notebooks” by Erin Daly and Kerri Forney. For those who follow CM schooling methods, if you do not use notebooks, I highly encourage you to look into including these in your lives. Recently Laurie Bestvater published a book, The Living Page, that discusses notebooks and Charlotte Mason. I believe that notebooks are essential to a good CM education. Almost as essential as narration. That is a personal sentiment. Here are some quotes from the session:

“He gives back what he has taken in, and so makes it his own possession.” (CM, speech “P.N.E.U. As A Service to the State”)

“Therefore, teaching, talk and tale, however lucid or fascinating, effect nothing until self-activity be set up; that is, self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.” (CM, vol. 6, pg. 240)

“But the children are not to sit still and merely passively receive ideas. No lesson is valuable which does not promote self-activity by making the child think…making the idea given a well-spring of activity. We can judge then of a value of a lesson by the amount of work which it gives the children to do.” (Miss R. A. Pennethorne, “P.N.E.U Principles as Illustrated by Teaching”)

Notebooks afford attention, concentration, and thoroughness; intellectual volition, accuracy, and reflection. One thing that I personally came away with from this session is that it isn’t about how well a person can draw or how neat the handwriting. It’s about what is known, how accurate it is, and how much the child cares about what they know. For a nature journal, it is about the connection that are made through the time it takes to get to know the specific plant or animal that they have chosen.

I would like to share with you some of our nature notebook pages. Remember, it isn’t about being perfect; it is about the process. You can browse some of mine that I’ve put on my blog. The ones below are from my son’s  notebook, and daughter’s new notebook, since we’ve been back from the conference. My daughter, especially, enjoyed this session.

nature notebooks1

Jeffs Journal

lees journal

The three notebooks that are most often mentioned and used in Charlotte Mason’s schools are the Book of Centuries, the Nature Notebook, and a Commonplace Book. We started utilizing Charlotte Mason’s philosophy late, in the sense that my kids were already teens, and so we’ve never had a Book of Centuries.

Is it too late to start one even when a student is in their teens? Personally, I don’t think it’s ever too late. Education is, after all, a life. The Book of Centuries will still afford connections, even to older students.

The Commonplace Book is actually my favorite notebook. It was not the first of the three I started with but it has become my most treasured. Mason says in Volume 5 of her works (p. 260):

It is very helpful to read with a commonplace book or reading-diary, in which to put down any striking thought in your author…Such a diary, carefully kept through life, should be exceedingly interesting as containing the intellectual history of the writer; besides, we never forget the book that we have made extracts from, and of which we have taken the trouble to write a short review.

The purpose of notebooks is not to show the work that has been done, although it is a way to do that. The purpose of notebooks is not to show how talented a student is with their handwriting. The purpose of a notebook is not to show how well a student can draw or paint. Tweet: Notebooks are for the process and the connections. They are for the self-education of the student.  The session ended with suggestions to create a notebook culture at home. The ones I appreciated the most are:

  • Parents start keeping notebooks, as a model; be regular and enthusiastic
  • Focus on the self-education of the child and not the notebook
  • Respect the ownership of the notebook- be ready to share in the joy of discovery; avoid critiques or praise
  • Be patient

Next, and final, post in this series I will talk about the plenaries and the big picture of the conference.

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North Laurel (8 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel Home & School.

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Fun with Summer Writing Prompts




writing prompts

The summer is well underway. Many of us have been out of the school mind-set for several weeks now, and several never really stopped. Others of us (hand raised!) do something resembling the in-between.

When it comes to writing, however, many homeschoolers decide to “take the summer off.” While I can appreciate the need for breaks (we can all use them), I like to think of writing as one of those things we should all do, as much as possible, until it’s a more integral part of how we communicate and express ourselves creatively. Unlike many areas of study, writing is both an art and a science, which often makes it so confounded difficult to master. There are many conventions we are expected to adhere to, and yet, writing in its many forms can be entirely subjective.

Instead of assigning an essay to your high schooler, or asking your elementary-aged child to write a report on his summer vacation, why not try to make writing a little more fun this summer?

I’ve compiled a few (fun!) writing prompts from my weekly Facebook series Wednesday Write in addition to one from my Teen Short Story Writing Circle class.

1) Study this image and do one of three things:

writing prompts

1) Describe what you see in as much detail as possible
2) Write a poem inspired by the image
3) Begin a short story about the image

2) Go outside.

Take a blanket or chair with you and a timer (that’s it).

And then, do this:

Find a comfortable place — shady if it’s sunny.

Close your eyes for five minutes — don’t open them until the timer goes off.

Focus on three things (no more, although you can choose less):

What do you HEAR? Animals, people, machines, wind, water?
What do you FEEL? Heat, chill, rain, humidity, creepy-crawlies?
What do you SMELL? Grass, flowers, exhaust, nothing?

When the timer goes off, go back inside (no lingering right now). Set the timer for another five-minutes. Write down, using as much detail as possible, everything you heard, felt, and/or smelled. How can you convey these things so that we can “see” them–not just hear, feel, or smell them?

3) “These Three Words”

Take “These Three Words” and write a sentence, a poem, or a story. Any length is ok!

Crickets, Sandal, Music

4) “Take Three Objects”

“Take Three Objects” that you find around your house–unusual things that aren’t easily described. Set a timer for five-minutes for each object and have your writer describe these objects in as much detail as possible using sensory images (sight, touch, sound–if it makes a noise). And don’t eat it unless it’s edible.

Have your writer read the description aloud to a family member or friend. Can they guess what the object is just based on the writer’s description? You can modify this into a fun game with two or more players.

5) Invent a Character

Take someone you see on the street or in the supermarket. Imagine a life for this person, and you’ve got a fictional character. Now give your character an obstacle to overcome and you’ve got the basis for a great short story!

Don’t forget that you can write, too–right along with your children! If they see you having fun with the writing prompts, they will be much less likely to believe this is part of their summer curriculum (wink, wink!).

Be sure to follow Gathering Ink on Facebook so you won’t miss today’s Wednesday Write!

Angela (27 Posts)

Angela is co-founder of Mosaic Freeschool and a homeschooling mom to two never-been-to school kids. Born in Southern California and raised on the East Coast, Angela had a bit of an unconventional education, but did not consider homeschooling seriously until her first child was born. Believing that young children learn best from those that love them most, Angela and her husband John chose homeschooling for their two boys. She is dedicated to the advancement of alternative education choices, creating the web-site Raising Autodidacts in 2011 to further explore the idea of fostering the self-taught individual. In June of 2013, she started an instructional writing service called Gathering Ink .

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