Creating Your Own Opportunities
Vicki Bentley, HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens Consultant
We lived out in the country during our homeschooling years, so I understand how difficult arranging home education activities can be, especially if you don’t have a family large enough for built-in sports teams or your own Bible quiz league! When we bring our kids home, we need to provide opportunities for our children to feel connected. A local support group can usually meet that need, but what if your group doesn’t seem to offer what you are looking for? Or what if you don’t have a group near you?
We have a list of suggested activities for groups in the Practical Helps section of our Group Services website. But you don’t have to be the leader to do these; just invite folks from your local group or local area to join in!
For example, my family coordinated a game night once a month, giving the teens a safe environment to gather for board games, chatter, and snacks each month. It was very informal—we just announced a date/time and asked kids 13 and up to bring a soda and snack and their favorite board game. Sometimes we threw on a pot of hot dogs or fired up the grill. Since we lived "out a ways," we invited whole families, but the parents and younger kids congregated elsewhere, so the teens didn’t feel that they had to always be in the midst of the adults. That level of trust (with oversight, of course) led to their including us—kids vs. parents—in many of the games.
At Christmas, we invited everyone to our house for gingerbread house decorating. I had picked up a bunch of those house kits on sale for $2 each the previous year so I provided a baker’s dozen (or you could tell everyone to bring their own). I mixed up a huge batch of icing, and we built the actual houses in advance so the mortar could dry overnight (year two we simply hot-glued the houses together!). On decorating day, folks brought gumdrops, M&Ms, Twizzlers, sprinkles, and other decorating candies. They made their houses as families, then while the houses dried, we ate Christmas cookies and sang carols.
The next year, we hosted "Christmas around the World" and asked each family to bring a dish from a specific country and share some traditions from their selected country. Some students went so far as to dress in the traditional garb or to bring a small gift representative of the country. And one family, whose children are all preschool age, had recently moved from San Antonio, so they shared southern Texan traditions, since "some folks say Texas is its own country anyway." We enjoyed many regional treats, including tamales from Mexico/San Antonio; pizzelles, biscotti, and lasagna from Italy; and Swedish meatballs served by Isabella, dressed in her handmade Saint Lucia costume!
Socialize Your Studies
One mom invited middle school and high school kids to read a book in a specific genre, then come to her home to talk about the books they read. Nothing formal—she didn’t even make them stand up to tell about their books. It was simply conversational, in the living room, followed by snacks. The genre changed each month.
If there’s a field trip you are interested in for your kids, set it up and invite a few others to join you—since you were going anyway. If you do an experiment, post to your group’s email loop to see if anyone wants to join in.
Focus on Fellowship
Not every event must be educational. Have a family to supper or lunch or dessert. Invite a child or two for a play date or park day. If it’s the moms who are craving fellowship, consider a covered-dish breakfast once a quarter or a moms’ night out. The goal is to build relationships.
Also, look for needs within the group to help meet. Plan service opportunities for the kids or families. Need help finding a local group? Check out our support group listing, or consult your state organization’s website for a list of local groups.
One local group gathered to decorate cookies—which they promptly ate—and to make Christmas cards. The next week, they took those cards to a nursing home, where they sang carols for the residents in the dining hall, then visited as they distributed the cards. After their ministry time, they met at a local lunch spot for “socialization.”
Capitalize on Community
This doesn’t always mean you have to plan things, either—you can simply piggyback on other activities. For example, maybe a local choral society is putting on a community sing event of Handel’s Messiah. Invite a few families to go, too, and then maybe meet somewhere afterward for hot cocoa. Or if a local museum is having a homeschoolers’ day, publicize it and offer to carpool or caravan, or meet with your picnic lunch there. Find the dance school or tae kwon do class or swimming pool or recreation league event that is homeschool friendly and let folks know.
Just small things. But they add up to big opportunities!
(Adapted from the June 2012 Toddlers to Tweens newsletter)