Friday, April 20, 2007

Planning a Homeschooling 101

April 20, 2007

I’ve had several emails about how to have a Homeschooling 101, so I’ll share here what our support group does. We started holding an annual Homeschooling 101 about six years ago, and it has continued to be an excellent way of providing information to potential homeschoolers in our area.

1) The first step is to gather a crew. You’ll need a leader and a few willing workers initially.
2) Pick a date that works for you and your crew. We like March or April because this seems like the time when parents are really thinking about the next year—and because our public schools do “Kindergarten Round-up” about this time. We’ve done weekday evenings or Saturdays with equal success. Whatever works for your crew is the best choice.
3) Have someone order (and store) catalogs. One mom called or emailed dozens of curriculum providers and asked for 30 catalogs each. She ended up with 2 full tables’ worth of catalogs, from the hefty Rainbow Resource to one-page flyers. The new Sonlight catalogs went like hotcakes!
4) Reserve your location. We have traditionally used a church; however, this year we reserved a room at our local public library for a nominal fee. We had our best turn-out ever this year, and I suspect that having the meeting in a neutral location helped.
5) Advertise—for free. About 3 weeks before the event, I send a blurb to our three local papers (one daily and two weekly). They post this in their “Calendar” section for free. We also send the announcement around to several homeschooling yahoogroups, both local and state-wide. Some years we have put flyers in the library and at local Christian bookstores, as well. This is the blurb I send to the papers:
“Homeschooling 101: Are you considering home education but don't know where to start? Blount Home Education Association (BHEA) will be holding its annual Homeschooling 101 seminar at the Blount County Public Library's Dorothy Herron rooms on Saturday, April 14, 12-2 p.m. This free program will present the basics of home education, including getting started, registering, choosing curriculum, socialization concerns, and much more. Curriculum tables will also be set up so that participants can examine various types of curricula. This seminar is free and open to the public. For more information, please call Sarah Small at ___-____ or visit BHEA's website at”
6) Ask for help from your members. We try to get 6-10 members to set up “Curriculum Share” tables the day of the event. Basically, they just bring a bunch of their materials and set up a table. After our Intro talk, they chat with newbies in a casual setting. No sales, just sharing. Often our current members will come just for this part of the session so that they can get their hands on specific books and talk to a user. This is always a highlight of the day! Not only do people get to really look at what homeschoolers do, but they get to talk to veterans—and find out that we’re not super moms. Just regular folks who educate at home.
7) Have your group’s membership person get information together: membership forms, nametags, brochures, ID cards, or whatever your group offers. Ask your membership coordinator to be there that day, or assign someone to man that table.
8) Enlist someone to present the Basics talk. More on that later.

The Event
1) Thirty minutes should be enough to set up, unless you need to set out tables, etc. (The library had this all ready for us.) Make sure the registration/membership info table is in an obvious place. We have people sign in, pay for membership if they wish, and give them the hand-outs. The can pick up catalogs at this time, too.
Our Hand-out packet includes:
* Outline of Homeschooling Basics Talk
* 50 Reasons to Homeschool
* List of Umbrellas (Church-related schools) in our area
* List of Resources for Homeschooling Information (not exhaustive, but includes a decent number of internet sites, books, and magazines);
* List of curriculum providers (obviously not an exhaustive list, but we try to hit “the biggies”);
* List of activities, services our support group provides
* List of possible field trips and opportunities in our area
* Article: Dispelling the Myths of Homeschooling

2) We start with a Homeschooling Basics talk. We cover: Introduction (including reasons to homeschool at); State Homeschooling Regulations; Approaches to Homescholling; Joining a Support Group; and Choosing Curriculum. This talk takes about 50 minutes. I take a very casual approach to this and ask for questions during and between each topic. Several of our veteran members are scattered throughout the audience and interject information as appropriate.

3) Curriculum Tables: After the questions seem to have stopped, we send people off to browse the tables for the next hour. This is when a huge amount of learning and networking goes on, as our members talk with new/potential homeschoolers in a one-on-one setting.

4) We were limited to 2 hours at the library, and this worked perfectly. In other years, we’ve had an all-day event in which we break for lunch and then have concurrent sessions in the afternoon. Our sessions have included: what to do with the little ones while you are schooling; what does a day in homeschooling look like; how to homeschool high-schoolers; discovering learning styles; how to start kindergarten, etc. This was also a wonderful approach to Homeschooling 101, but it does require a lot more work on the coordinators’ parts, more volunteers, and a bigger time commitment all around. This past year we’ve had monthly roundtable discussion groups that address these topics and others while we have coffee at Panera.

Offering a Homeschooling 101 is a fantastic tool to reach out to those considering homeschooling wherever you live. Anyone who has homeschooled for any amount of time has something valuable to say or share, and you never know who in your city might be searching for someone else who has chosen this journey!

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