So, you want to start a support group... Wonderful! Right about now the panic is probably setting in, or at least the worry that it will be extremely difficult, time-consuming, and best undertaken by super-parents. It must take a lot of knowledge about support groups to start one, right? Wrong. It isn't hard at all.
If you saw the movie "Field of Dreams," you are familiar with the phrase "if you build it, they will come." It's true for support groups too!
If you like, you can determine how the group will work at the outset; waiting until you have a few families also works well. No matter how well you plan, the healthiest groups change over time, as members' needs and participation changes.
There are about as many types of groups as there are homeschoolers; it would be impossible to describe each. By looking at a variety of established groups in Oklahoma, you may find some ideas you would like to adopt. You can read about them, learn about the way they operate, and begin to form your own opinion about what would work for you, taking ideas from the best and leaving the rest.
HERO always welcomes affiliation with other groups that support HERO's mission. HERO affiliates agree to respect that parents who choose to educate their children at home come from diverse backgrounds, and agree to have neither membership restrictions, nor any official political, philosophical, or religious position; nor any official stance on any other issue, other than the belief that parents and guardians should remain able to choose home education as a legal alternative in a child's education.
As a HERO affiliate you join a statewide group of groups, while retaining complete autonomy to run your inclusive group as best suits you and your members. Whether or not you become a HERO affiliate, you are welcome to a free listing on HERO's Support Group page, the most comprehensive listing of support groups in the state, and the most frequently visited, at nearly 2000 hits per day. Letting potential group members find you may be the most important step of all!
HERO of Stillwater, Tina Ahern
HERO of Stillwater has been active for approximately 5 years, and has always operated with a single support group leader. This leadership position has varied in the amount of responsibilities, due mainly to the size of the group.
In the past HERO of Stillwater has met once a month for an hour or so; however, this past year we incorporated a once-a-month visit to a local ceramics shop, and a once-a-month Game Day at one of our families local businesses in order to get our children together more often. We also met a few times for field trips and special events, such as Christmas Caroling. Next year we want to incorporate more "Park Days" in addition to or alternating with our "Game Days."
One of main responsibilities of the support group leader is to set the meeting place and contact others that are interested in meeting. This year contact has consisted of the support group leader keeping an e-mail list of all of the families, and sending reminders about meeting times, place, topics, etc. In the past when membership was as small as 2 or 3 families, we kept in contact through phone calls and met mainly for socialization time or field trips.
Our meeting places have ranged from local parks, to the public library, to individual homes, to family businesses. The majority of our meetings this past year took place at the public library. For 1/2 of the year we met in a conference room free of charge; however our group grew in size so much in January that it necessitated a move to a room with a fee. We all contributed money to pay for the room, but we are interested in finding a meeting place with no fee for this next year.
This past year we had four or five active families at the beginning of the school year and we all brainstormed together to come up with ideas for group activities. We decided on Spanish and Sign Language lessons in addition to a sharing time for each of the children. We would supplement these regular meetings with special activities and field trips. As our group grew to ten families with children ranging in age from newborn to twelve, the sharing time became somewhat overwhelming for little ones to sit through and for all of us to hear quiet children's voices, so we are rethinking that portion of our meeting.
With our group's growth and following an end-of-the-year survey, we
recognize that some changes in structure would benefit the group as a whole. As
the support group leader for the past 2 1/2 years, I recognize the need to
spread the responsibilities of this position throughout the group. I believe
that the more each family takes responsibility for a meeting--perhaps one or two
a year--the more ownership and kinship they will feel with the entire group. No
matter what our structure, we all agree that our group meetings are a great
benefit for our children, and we are dedicated to making our support group work
for our diverse desires and needs.
Links about Starting a Support Group