Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rethinking the Future of My Homeschool Support Group Meeting

Right now I am making a decision about the future of my homeschool support group, whether to continue it or to discontinue it.

My group is small and it has a specific goal and a clearly defined purpose. The group has met for three solid years. The group began when two mothers approached me and urged me to start a group for those interested in the Charlotte Mason method. We were all attending a similar group but that group had moved meeting locations and was a 90 minute drive each way, which was just too far to drive. I wanted that type of content also so I began the group. Things have shifted over time. One of those original members hasn’t come to a meeting at all in two years, she says due to being over-scheduled and other times due to her husband traveling. The other original member came only a couple of times two years ago and then didn’t come last year as the meeting night changed to a night when she attends church services. So now the group is me as the leader with the other core mothers who joined in sometime after the original group began meeting.

My group has one activity: a monthly evening adult support group meeting in which we discuss a very narrow topic (the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling). My group does not provide a wide spectrum of services or events as the other local homeschool groups do, intentionally.

I am not trying to compete with the other groups nor am I trying to replace what those groups do. Right around here where we live there are other support groups for different audiences who do other things which I and my group members also are members of. We have inclusive groups, Christian groups, and a Catholic group all within a very small geographic area. We have a group for classical homeschoolers and one for unschoolers. Between those groups there is an array of various projects and services they offer. Here is an example: evening adult support group meetings, park days, ice skating rink meet-up’s, (board and card) game days, field trips to museums, community service projects, classes on specific topics (chess strategy), presentation forum, teen social activities, and indoor gym days. Additionally there are secular and Christian co-op opportunities.

After seeing all that is offered by the other groups (which I am a member of), what I do with my group is very limited and easy to run. I feel also that since all of that is being offered by the other groups, that I have no reason to duplicate what they are doing.
I am not willing to do all that it takes to have a larger group that does other activities. I am aware of the need for good leadership, the need for delegation and for having other people do some of the work as I could never do everything myself (if I had a larger group with a wider span of services). I have no time for managing other people and no time for doing more jobs all by myself.

On a related note, I have declined taking over leadership of two other local inclusive support groups who offer more services. Those leaders said they thought I could do the job well. I just don’t want that type of workload for myself nor do I want to deal with delegation and management of other volunteers doing work for the group.

I think that I’ve done well with setting limits and parameters around what I can offer to a group that I lead. Keep it simple and keep it small are two things that I have done.

Right now I am pondering the future of my little support group. I try to figure out if the core members who attend are getting something out of the group or not, and use that to help me figure out if continuing the group is worthwhile or not. So far the core group members are asking me (and some are begging me) to continue leading the group, they say they want the meetings to continue and that they get a lot out of attending them.

Perhaps I am on the fence about whether I should continue the group or not because I no longer feel that I need the meetings for my own enrichment or support. With that said I will say that last year on some days when I was rushing to tidy up my home for the meeting, I wished I had ended the group. Or when I had a number of people coming but only a third actually showed up, I felt annoyed. But when the core group arrived and we had great conversation and hearing supportive words to and from other members to each other, I then felt enthusiastic and happy that the meeting took place. I’d have trouble falling asleep afterwards because I was so excited about homeschooling and happy to hear all the positive things that were said about homeschooling at the meeting.

There are a couple of negatives about holding the meetings. First some members complain about the night the meeting is held on. So I did a poll last year. I changed the night that we met based on the requests of certain members. Yet nearly all of those requestors then did not show up for the meetings. Yet the quiet ones were the ones that were flexible and still attended the meetings. One vocal person who wanted it on that night ended up booking a conflicting appointment after I made my change, and she never came to my meetings. So much for changing my meeting night to accommodate that person!

I am rethinking having the meeting at my house for several reasons.

1. I don’t like being judged for the state of my home. Since I don’t have a housecleaner it is a lot of work to keep the house tidy (uncluttered) and clean, plus live in the house and use the house so much. Although the other mothers tell me to leave it messy, I am not comfortable with that. I want the dishwasher emptied, the clean pots in the sink to be put away, the counter recently cleaned and shining and clear of clutter. The good thing about holding the meeting is it forces me to have a deadline and to make time to do things like tackle piles of papers and to put things back where they belong. However I will confess that on meeting days sometimes I put doing the homeschooling lessons on the back burner and spend the time doing housework!
2. I don’t like advertising my home address on public Internet sites and discussion groups in the meeting announcements. I have tried work-around’s but they are not always successful and sometimes my home address is put out to the public.
3. I had an incident where it began raining during the meeting, and then two people (and a baby) slipped on black ice and fell on my front steps. None of us realized that the rain had turned to ice upon falling onto the colder ground. Then I found out the state’s homeschool organization’s insurance was not what they had said it was and that me and my homeowner’s insurance would be liable for any damages. Plus I felt horrible that the two mothers got hurt with bruises and sore muscles (the baby was completely fine thank goodness), and I was glad that no one was hurt more seriously! I was later encouraged by the state homeschool organization to hold the meetings in a public venue so I would not have the risk of personal liability.


I am considering changing the venue to a bookstore or rotating group member homes instead of holding them in my home. There are pro’s and con’s to each of those three options. One big con is that some people don’t like rotating to different locations each month. They hate driving to strange places in the dark. They may not like that some locations are a longer drive than getting to my home is. If I hold the meeting at the nearest bookstore I am not sure that all the core members would be willing to drive to that location (it is closer for some but a 20 minute drive farther for others).

I am not sure if I should poll the members to ask if I should change the night. I am not sure if I should poll the members about opinions on rotating meeting locations or holding it at that certain bookstore. I am stuck. Since September is approaching I need to make a decision and if we are to continue I need to make plans for meeting dates and locations and get the word out so that we can start in September. My plan is to have a decision made this week and to take action to announce the dissolution of the group or to advertise the meeting dates and locations.

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1 comment:

Sebastian said...

Is there a coffee shop or a library that would meet your needs?