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Are You a Pioneer... a Settler... or a Refugee?

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, July 14, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 30, July 14, 2011, ISSN: 1536-2035
(c) 2011, Heather Idoni - www.FamilyClassroom.net

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Notes from Heather
-- Pioneers, Settlers and Refugees
Winning Website
-- Paula's Archives
Helpful Tip
-- Traveling with Children
Reader Question
-- Starting a Local Support Group
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Are You a Pioneer... a Settler... or a Refugee?

(Excerpted from an article titled "Homeschooling Isn't About Education", where Chris Davis shares some thoughts from his friend, Rob Shearer.)

"About 20 years ago*, a group of parents began to feel a deep desire to have their children grow up at home rather than in an institutional setting. Thus began what is now referred to as the Homeschooling Movement. These early 'homeschoolers' my friend refers to as Pioneers: parents who knew God wanted them to take total responsibility for raising (including educating) their own children. These Pioneers were determined to have their children home during the day in spite of the difficulties (and sometimes the dangers) this decision created.

During this Pioneer stage, there was another group of parents who heard about the benefits of homeschooling, but who decided to wait to see if the Pioneers would be successful before becoming homeschoolers themselves. These my friend called Settlers. Once the Settlers were convinced of the benefits of homeschooling, they joined in. However, unlike the Pioneers, many Settlers weren't sure they would homeschool for the long term so they simply copied the public schools' curricula and sequencing methods just in case it turned out that homeschooling didn't work for them. And, if it didn't, their children could be mainstreamed back into 'school'.

By the late 1990's public schools were receiving such negative publicity, and homeschooling such positive publicity, many more parents began to consider homeschooling as a viable alternative. They knew little about homeschooling except that it had to be better than the public school. These families my friend called Refugees: parents who were escaping a negative situation, but with no real understanding of what they were doing or why; nor did many of them want to know. They simply wanted their children to be educated as if the children were 'in school' but without the negative context they perceived existed in the public school setting."

So are you a modern day pioneer, a settler or a refugee? And what would you think if someone told you that homeschooling shouldn't be about education?

Click the link below to read the rest of this classic article by Chris Davis!

Homeschooling Isn't About Education

* While I'm not sure about the date of this article, it should probably be 25 to 30 years ago now for the original homeschooling pioneers. Westward Ho! :-) -- Heather


Your feedback is always welcome! -- mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net

Winning Website

Paula's Archives

This website is worth a look around! It is a potpourri of articles, information and hidden treasures.

One page is about Saxon Math and has short, interesting opinions from different viewpoints.

Great stuff! :-)

Helpful Tip

Traveling with Children

Courtesy of our winning website, here are some fantastic tips for making an on-the-road family vacation more bearable!

Click the following link to read:
Traveling with Children

Last Issue's Reader Question

Starting a Local Homeschool Social Group

"I live outside a rural town, with the majority of children going to public school. My son went to public school up through last year, 4th grade. We are in our first year of homeschooling this year and he is an 11 yr old boy, an only child. We live in the country, so there are no children for him to play with. Our town doesn't have a local support group. I've found a group that is 45 minutes away, which we have joined, but that isn't convenient at all for us. We just can't afford the gas to go to the functions. We do go to co-op on Mondays at this group, and field trips, but it's getting to be too expensive with the cost of gasoline.

I know in that in two towns which aren't very far away there are several homeschool families, so the idea of creating a closer group is one that can work, but the problem is -- I'm shy. I don't know where to start, what kind of things to say, do, etc. I do know that I will put up signs in the post office, some local gas stations, the library, an ad in the paper for starters. But when I schedule a meeting, I have no idea where to start. I do know I would like to get together once or twice a month for playdate type stuff, and I'd like to be able to schedule a field trip each month.

I hope and pray that I can get lots of useful ideas from you all." -- Jamie

Our Readers' Responses

"Jamie, your description of your situation is very similar to mine. There are three families in our county who homeschool. The nearest support group is ninety miles away. You might chuckle if I tell you how blessed you and I are!

Since you live in the country, there is likely a great deal to keep your son busy. And I'm talking about being productively busy, not just keeping him entertained. Think about gardening, lawn care, carpentry or woodworking, and possibly raising animals.

Surely in your community there are a lot of volunteer opportunities. You don't have to go to the city to find lonely widows or shut-ins. His social life will be much richer if it is spent in seeking to serve others, not just to find fun for himself.

Your life need not have the distractions of feeling as if you have to go to all those meetings. You can stay home and get a lot of things accomplished. It's very difficult to justify the cost of driving to support group events. When selecting a support group activity, first ask yourself what benefit your family would gain from it. Then estimate the cost in terms of money, time and the things that aren't getting done at home while you're away. Then ask yourself whether you could provide the same benefits for your son at home, or closer to home. You'll likely see that many of the support group events aren't worth it.

Sometimes support groups have some of the same problems as the public school -- harmful peer influences; mothers who haven't overcome their own peer dependency; sacrificing many of the benefits of private tutoring; excessive time commitments; etc.

Can your husband take your son with him to work occasionally? You can teach your son a lot, but only his dad can teach him to be a man. If your son finds comeraderie with his father, he won't need much time with other boys.

If you really want to start a group, I would suggest offering something that supports the parents, not a whirlwind of activities for the children. If parents are encouraged and helped in their efforts, they in turn can do a better job of nurturing their own children. How about a monthly meeting where moms and dads listen to recorded messages by good homeschool convention speakers? How about compiling a catalogue of resources that the families have available for sharing with each other?

Field trips are better when it's just your family. The child will learn a great deal more if he isn't tempted to socialize with the other children. Likewise, the parents.

Keep in mind that most homeschoolers have been where you are. They are eager to meet new homeschoolers and eager to help them. They are greatly encouraged when a new family joins their ranks.

One more bit of advice which is not relevant to your question: When children have spent some time in the public school, they have often been hurt by their experiences, both academically and socially. If your son has struggled with his schoolwork, or if he has been the victim of bullying or ridicule by other children or teachers, he will need time to heal. A good rule of thumb is one month for each year the child was in school. If this applies to your son, please consider allowing him four or five months to recover before plunging him into a full academic or activity schedule. Spend lots of time with him, reading, playing games, working together, doing crafts, cooking, taking walks, talking, or other things he enjoys. Stay away from electronic stuff. Right now he needs his parents way more than he needs other children.

I'm so glad you're keeping your son home. Enjoy the journey!" -- Mary Beth


"Hi Jamie -- I would check with your local 4H office. They have great free stuff you can use to start a group. People call the 4H office looking for groups so you wouldn't have to go out and 'recruit'. You can pick from all kinds of things from the home, to farming, to financial. There is something for everyone in 4H.

Another idea would be to go to the library and talk with the librarian. She can post something and get the word out for you. I would see if there was a room you could use there as well. You can also meet at a park which is easy and free. You just might be the person to begin the homeschooling movement in your area. Have fun and enjoy it!" -- Bonnie in Florida


"We relocated to a new state four years ago and had a bit of trouble finding/meeting homeschoolers in the area. I put a simple blurb in our subdivision's newsletter for interested homeschool moms to join me for coffee. Eight moms came that first day. Little did we know the plans the LORD had for us! We had not planned on starting a formal homeschool support group, but over the last 3 1/2 years we have 'evolved' to almost 90 families. I think the key for us has been to know our focus and vision and STICK TO IT. It is important to know what you want so you don't get sidetracked by all the other possibilities. For us, our heart is to support and encourage homeschooling moms. If they feel encouraged and equipped to homeschool their children, then the kids are benefiting as well.

I would encourage you to step out and give it a try. I don't think you have to know 'what to say'... just be real. Our first get together was not a 'meeting', but a time for coffee and meeting new friends. Introduce yourself and your family and give the other ladies the opportunity to do the same. The rest will take care of itself. Chances are many of the other homeschool moms in the small towns around you are struggling in similar ways and need a group to offer encouragement. Maybe they've even thought of doing something similar, but are afraid to give it a try.

'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me'... even start a homeschool support group!

Please feel free to contact me personally if you have questions.

-- Angela, http://www.the-potters-hand.blogspot.com/ and http://selahntx.com/


"When I began our group (150 families strong now) I got myself an email address and started collecting moms. We are a ministry, not just a homeschool group -- so we are about God's business. Which means we minister to our moms, take care of each other and try to be where ever God is working. For instance, if one of our missionary families is trying to provide gifts for an orphanage, we all try to help them do that, etc. We provide dinners when someone is sick, we answer questions when people are struggling and we donate to help the single mom who is struggling. Basically, whatever it looks like to help make our homeschoolers' lives easier, that is what we do.

We send out any email that the moms think will be of value to the other moms -- whether it is 'Today is buy one get one free at Baskin Robbins', 'I'm going to the park -- Anyone else want to go?' or 'Does anyone know a good cheap plumber?'. Cool web sites, devotions and silly jokes all go through the ministry email; we found that especially our moms out in the country rarely saw another adult and depended on even the silly stuff. The email is nice because everyone can participate whenever they want, without taking time off from their homeschooling.

We started a library where the moms can donate their old curriculum to benefit the next family. We take donations for the books. The amount is between them and God because some can afford $50.00 and some only a quarter.

We pray for each other and are starting a group to pray for each of our kids by name as they grow and learn.

We have a formal dance once a year (so our kids are well rounded and learn that there is a time and place where it is appropriate to dress up and have good manners) and we choose and make our own music CDs. It's cheaper than a disco and we don't have to worry about inappropriate lyrics. We also allow some of our more talented homeschoolers to provide some of the entertainment for the evening.

We deal with several churches -- one provides a gym for the dances for very cheap; one gives us a classroom and room for our library and others host classes. If you are a Christian, I would encourage you to go to your church home and ask for prayer support. See if they have an extra room they would give you or share with you for meetings or classes. If we find someone who wants to donate their teaching gifts back to God for free, we have a class. If one of the moms wants to go to the zoo, she sets up a field trip and we get the word out for her.

We also have what we call 'spa day' which is all about uplifting and ministering to the moms. We have two moms who donate their time and talents each month to give pedicures and haircuts to the group for free. We make it a pot luck and the moms chat and relax while the kids play like crazy with each other. We also have a 'homeschool movie day' where we show educational or biographical movies.

On our web site we have private pages where kids can say 'I babysit' or 'I mow lawns' and where our homeschoolers with businesses can list them so we can try to support them. We have an internet recipe program that the group shares. We also post devotions and have a 'getting started' page where, in addition to homeschooling 101, we list other support groups as well as HSLDA links, etc. We also meet with new homeschoolers personally, to try to give them some homeschool philosophy as well as the knowledge that there is a real person there to support them. And most importantly, what we, as people of faith, want to be teaching our kids -- teaching the whole child and not just academics.

God bless you as you begin this journey."

-- Deb, Vista Hills Homeschool Ministry in El Paso, Texas


"Jamie -- I can understand how you feel being shy myself. Here are a couple of ideas.

First, go to your library and speak with the librarian and see if she knows the homeschool families in the area. Tell her you are interested in meeting up with them and give her your contact information. Do they come for story time? Then you can make your trip to the library on the same day to meet them. Also, putting up fliers is a great idea too. Keep it simple at first -- don't jump in with both feet to start this huge support group. When you meet a mom or two just keep it simple and say you are interested in getting a few local homeschool families together for a field trip or activity. Schedule a time to meet and let everyone give input and share their ideas. You may find one of the moms is more outgoing and would be willing to take the lead.

Start simple -- decide if they would like to meet once a month or every two weeks. Try a simple get together at someone's home to let the kids get to know one another, or a simple trip to the bowling alley. Then you can grow from there. Let each mom be responsible for setting up a field trip and rotate the responsibility; that way it isn't too much work for one mom.

Some ideas for support group get togethers besides field trips could include an art show, a science fair, a 'Trip Around the World' (where each child does a project on a country, makes a dish from that country to share, etc.). Parents, siblings, and grandparents can come -- let everyone contribute to the expense as far as drinks, cups, plates, etc. Another idea would be a 'Back to Homeschool' get together -- maybe a picnic at a park to kick-off the new school year. Even if you meet up with one other family to start, it is a start -- and by word of mouth, plus your fliers, you should be able to get this going. I hope it is successful for you!" -- Kris


"Jamie -- here in a rural part of California where you have to drive to get anywhere, we have several local homeschool groups organized on Yahoo Groups. It's a free service that allows members to post messages for the whole group. One or two people usually moderate the group, answering membership requests and watching that nothing inappropriate is posted. We live halfway in between two groups and participate with both occasionally. You might go to groups.yahoo.com and do a search on 'homeschool' to see if you can find an existing local group to join. If not, set one up! You can create calendar entries for recurring or special events with reminders to go out to all members via email. People often post questions, answers, field trip ideas, invitations, curriculum either for sale or free, etc. It's a great way to connect with others. Have fun!" -- Melody in CA


"It takes courage to put yourself out there and initiate contact, so blessings on your efforts! I'm also an innately shy person, so I understand the challenge.

My suggestion is to advertise/coordinate a homeschool field trip co-op. We were involved in one this last year for the first time and it was great! Each family that signed up was responsible to plan one field trip during the school year, then all the families involved got to attend all planned trips. The members of my group signed up for a particular month, so for instance I had October and planned a trip to a museum. That's all the effort I had to put into it, but my kids and I got to attend about 12 different field trips during the school year. The only coordinating was initially assigning the particular months to families (sometimes we had two families in a month and they had to coordinate their dates with each other), then having an e-mail contact list to send out notices of the field trips with the details.

The advantage to a co-op, rather than just doing family field trips, is that you can get into places that take 'school groups' but wouldn't necessarily allow a family to tour. For instance, we got to go to the local bank, the local newspaper, a fiber arts center, the police and fire stations, etc. and got treated just like any other school group.

I realize your main question was how to get connected socially, but for a shy person like myself, I've found that something like a co-op or other organized opportunity is a more comfortable way to meet people than all meeting at a park and being expected to just 'visit'. Small talk is not my forte! :) But in a situation like I've described above, chatting naturally occurs and playdates and other get-togethers naturally follow with those families you may click with." -- Shana


"Jamie -- Starting a group can seem like a daunting task, and no matter what your intentions, it may never look exactly like what you've pictured; don't let that stop you. If you are feeling the way you are, be sure that others are feeling the same as you. Set up a time, a place, and have a list of things you'd like to see happen. If you are hesitant about speaking in front of a group, jot down some questions for everyone and get people talking about what they would like to be a part of. You don't have to be the lecturer as much as the hostess. If possible, set up a circle of chairs for everyone to encourage participation.

I will warn you that field trip planning for a group can be a large undertaking, so you may want to suggest that each parent plan at least one trip, so no one is overburdened. Support groups should be just that, a support. An encouragement for parents and children where you will be uplifted and relieved to spend time with likeminded friends. Blessings on your endeavors!" -- Bonnie H.

New Reader Question

Alternative Speech Therapy Suggestions?

"What is a good way to treat severe speech disorders in children? I know the public schools offer free services and we have gone that route before, but then they started wanting to 'approve our homeschool curriculum' and suggested that we put our daughter in an all-day daycare where speech 'professionals' could work with her. Obviously, as homeschool parents, we were not too thrilled with these recommendations and interference into our homeschool program. So, we pulled her out. But insurance doesn't cover private speech therapy and it is so expensive. Any other ideas?" -- Christina in Texas


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