Over many years of interacting with other homeschoolers, I developed these personal rules for operating within the community. Perhaps you’ll find some of them helpful in creating your own list of relational rules.
You don’t have to hang out with people you don’t like, just because they are homeschoolers.
Take time to get to know people before you leap into commitments with them. Watch how they interact with others, including their children. Spend time mostly with those who are reasonably compatible, and with whom you are largely comfortable.
Find friends and start your own circles, but be open to newbies.
You never know who may turn out to be a good friend. In addition, new members keep a group going strong, because a closed group eventually dwindles as members move away, finish homeschooling, or head in other directions.
Remember that a good group experience includes give and take.
Don’t overextend yourself; that only leads to resentful feelings of being unappreciated. Likewise, be sure to give something back, as you can, so you can feel good about your contribution to the group.
Understand that large groups of any kind will have more complicated dynamics.Smaller groups feel more personal and are often easier to navigate. While homeschoolers seem to be ever better at accepting differences in homeschooling methods, strongly differing parenting styles are a more challenging obstacle. Any large group will include those with marked differences in parenting style. Still, large groups can be a great resource for field trips, classes and other activities, as well as a place to meet potential new friends.
Set up your group activities according to their importance to you and stick to your vision.
Learn to say “I’m sorry you aren’t happy with what I am doing. Perhaps it is best that you create your own such-and-so.” Sometimes it just takes time to find the right sort of group or sub-group to suit your individual needs. I move in several circles-varying in size and intent-some of which overlap, and others that don’t. Were I to draw a representation of this on paper, it would likely be reminiscent of the surface of a pond during a light rain shower. Homeschooling allows you to create whatever pattern of circles best suits you.
Accept that groups may come and go.
Homeschool groups form and disband depending on the individuals’ needs. Each serves its purpose and can be enriching, but they will end as the participants’ needs wane. When the door to one opportunity closes, it provides the freedom to open other doors.
© 2002, 2005, 2010 Shay Seaborne. All rights reserved. Originally published in the newsletter of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers