All humans love connection, even the most introverted among us. We thrive on a sense of belonging and expend a great deal of energy finding like-minded souls to share aspects of our lives with.
When we choose to homeschool our children, we enter a whole new paradigm of social connection. Our children no longer have their choice of friends from the smorgasbord of 25 to 30 children that they'd see every day in the classroom. And since at least one parent is home with a child (or children) during the day, that means that homeschooling also impacts the parent's access to other adults.
So, how do we find our home learning tribe?
Unfortunately, there's no one easy answer. Different approaches work for different people. In part, this is because being a homeschooler is not enough of a reason to become friends with another homeschooler. Just like any group of people, friendship is not based on only one aspect of our lives. The more common interests we share with others, the more we enjoy each other's company, the more likely it is that we'll forge those lasting connections many of us are hoping to find.
Some home learning families find that they can connect with others through enrolling their children in classes or activities organized for homeschoolers. Some people attend or organize field trips for homeschoolers. Some homeschoolers may create or join home learning co-ops. Other families go to homeschooling park days.
These types of activities are often posted on some sort of community email list that homeschoolers can join, sometimes for a fee. If you don't see any activities that appeal to your family, try organizing one and posting it for others to sign up for. Organizing an activity can be time consuming (and sometimes a bit hair-raising), but you'll want to consider the possible positive outcomes for your family when you are weighing the pros and cons. If organizing an activity that involves collecting money feels too big a place to start, try organizing a park or beach day. Set a time and a place, let others know a bit about your family (how many kids, what ages) and invite them to join you.
Sometimes home learning families find each other online before they meet in real life. Places like the discussion forums for an online DL program, yahoo discussion groups, or facebook pages can facilitate that sense of like-mindedness (for parents, anyway) that may bloom into real life friendships.
And, sometimes, homeschooling families find their strongest connections and friendships in their neighbourhoods, through community-based sports or activities, or through other avenues such as a church group or a social club.
Where do we connect in Victoria?
Home learners in Victoria have a few options when looking for connections.
VicHomeLearn (Home Learning Victoria) is an inclusive, free discussion group for all Victoria BC area families who homeschool. Members can share local (and other!) information, connect with one another, ask questions about home learning, and have respectful, supportive conversations about homeschooling, home learning, unschooling, deschooling, parenting, fabulous resources... and so on! All with a direct interest in home schooling or home learning are very welcome to join. Members of VicHomeLearn are welcome to use the list to organize locality-specific or interest-based activities and groups as meets their individual and collective needs. They may additionally choose to join one of the local support groups listed below. As new groups are formed, please let us know and we'll be happy to add them to the list.
"The Victoria Home Learners' Network Association (VHLN) is a non-profit society created to support home learning families in the Greater Victoria area. Members have access to a Hotline (a members-only Yahoo group where individuals post events and activities relevant to the home learning community), a monthly SOS (Support or Socializing) gathering for the parents of home learners, large group events held a few times a year, a website, a discount card for several vendors in the Victoria area, and a membership directory for those who choose to be a part of it." Cost is $15 per year (September through August).
"The Victoria Christian Home Schoolers (VCHS) is a community of homeschool families who have chosen to educate their children at home. VCHS seeks to provide its members in the Greater Victoria Area with practical support and encouragement with a Christian perspective. Support is offered to members in the way of this website, monthly fellowship meetings, an email tree (posting community events and fieldtrips), a lending library, membership directory and voting privileges." Cost is $20 per year.
Belonging to a group does not guarantee that either you or your kids will find people to connect with. If you've gone to a few organized activities and you're not feeling the love, it's time to organize something of your own, maybe specific to your kids' interests, and see what happens. It can also help to become involved in a deeper way within the organization, assisting with activities or administrative tasks so you can get to know the other parents better.
How do I connect online?
In addition to the local options listed above, there are other larger discussion groups that people enjoy being part of. The best way to find them is to google or to search on yahoo. There are many groups on homeschooling, unschooling, radical unschooling, classical education, Thomas Jefferson, Charlotte Mason, Well-Trained Mind... it's amazing.
You can also search on facebook for related topics and join the groups or "like" the pages that fit for you.
Your other option is to create your own blog. If you do, tell us about it and we'll link to you here. And be sure to comment on other people's blogs - it's a great way for them to get to know you, too.
It may take some time
Like anything in life, finding connection takes a bit of effort and a bit of serendipity. You may have some false starts and take some wrong directions before you make the connections you'll find most rewarding. And that's okay. Focus on your family, focus on having fun and doing what gives you and your kids the most joy. The community will follow.
Other Groups on Vancouver Island...
Sooke Home Learner's Group
Families living in the Sooke area can request to join the hotline for members of the Sooke Home Learners' Group. No fee.
If you live in and around Duncan, you may wish to join the Cowichan Valley Home Learners Message Board. No fee.
Nanaimo Community Home Learners
If you are in the Nanaimo area, please refer to the Nanaimo Community Home Learners website for helpful information. Cost is $25 per year.
Comox Valley Homeschoolers
Comox Valley Homeschoolers ning site is "an easy way for the Comox Valley homeschoolers to share upcoming events and activities, resources, and whatever else we can think of!" No fee.
If you are in Vancouver, the HS-Van yahoo group (Homeschool-Vancouver) is where you'll find the greatest concentration of lower mainland homeschoolers. No fee.
For other groups in the province, please check out the BCHLA' s Support Groups page.