Church Sponsored vs. Local Support Groups for Homeschooling
Homeschool church support groups and community homeschool support groups have different benefits.
Instead of deciding whether or not to join the local homeschool support group or the church-based homeschool support group, choose both. Both kinds of groups offer a different level of homeschool support, and both are valuable for practical and social purposes. A church-based support group offers a spiritual connection with other families and children who share your religious beliefs, while a community support group offers diversity and a chance for kids to interact with other homeschoolers who may or may not share their religious background.
Homeschool Support Groups
Families join homeschool groups for a variety of reasons. Social interaction is often cited as the number one reason, but a homeschool support group serves other purposes as well. A support group can offer families the impression of credibility. Sometimes well-meaning strangers are comforted knowing that a homeschooling family is part of a group. While many of these “What about socialization” questioners probably couldn’t guess what goes on in a support group, it’s a vague enough answer to a question they haven’t really thought out and it can very well end the conversation without anyone squirming away.
Surely, comforting others isn’t a major reason to join a support group. Luckily, there are field trips, interaction with other moms who share similar life experiences. Simply having a friend who understands the trials and tribulations, as well as joys and milestones, is an important feeling.
For the children, in addition to casual regular social interaction that may or may not lead to lifelong relationships, there’s a sense of solitude that exists when one feels he may very well be the only child on the planet not attending school. Joining a homeschool support group gives children a group that they can relate to, in one aspect of their life. They may not have much else in common with the other children, but at least they’re not the only kid on the planet who doesn’t have to change in gym class or ride the bus at the crack of dawn.
Church-Based Homeschool Groups
A homeschool group at church is different. Many religious families have chosen to homeschool so that they can ensure their child has a solid grounding in the family’s faith. When several families of the same faith are keeping their children from public schools, they share a very strong bond. Discussions about curriculum, literature, media, and other influences are weighted with more credibility between people with identical core beliefs.
Additionally, the value that families assign to friendships with children of families who share the faith is different. Many parents feel safer when their children have friends whose values and beliefs are the same.
Finally, a Church-based homeschool support group can be an outreach for the church’s ministry efforts, an extension of the Sunday School curriculum, using church facilities and resources for homeschooling. Some church-based homeschooling groups offer weekly or monthly co-op classes and draw upon the ministry team for kids programs, like mission work and evangelism.
Benefits of Community Homeschool Groups
A local support group for homeschooling is often secular in nature, enveloping all homeschoolers in the community. When families join these groups, the intent isn’t simply to make homeschooling friends of the same faith. Often made up of more families than a church support group, a local group often offers larger field trips, group activities like picnics, team sports, co-operative classes, park days, scholastic book orders, graduation ceremonies, and sometimes even scholarship funds.
Since a local support group is “tied to” the community rather than a church, it tends to do more community service, instead of ministry. Families may end up feeding the homeless, cleaning up a park, collecting donations for food or clothing, or walking stray dogs at the pound. Joining a local support group can help give families the opportunity to teach citizenship by participation.
Religious families living in a community that offers several support group options may want to consider joining both a church-based group and a local homeschool support group. Some of the activities may be the same, like field trips to the post office, but the diversity of people in a community group is an asset as much as the shared spiritual connection in a religious support group.