Our Homeschool Friends Camping 2015
A few years ago after many failed attempts to find a homeschool community where we really felt at home, I started a group on Meetup for families who have gifted kids. I cannot begin to tell you how many park days I dragged my oldest to when she was in 7th grade - only to have her sit with her back turned to everyone - headphones on and a sketchbook in hand. No matter how much I loved the other moms, somehow she just knew that she wasn't home.
Originally my group was just for me to have a way to talk with other parents who were also raising these unique, often intense, asynchronous learners. We would meet at a local cafe and share our stories over dinner. It was so reassuring to my husband and I to listen to each person relate such similar experiences and it helped us to not to feel so alone. As the year went on though it became obvious that in order for my kids to really thrive, they were going to need to find that same sense of belonging that I had found with these other parents.
I'll never forget that first park day when my oldest wandered off with this sweet tween girl who had taught herself to play the ukelele and then later when she got in the car and told me with a smile on her face... " mom I made a new friend" . I could hear the emotion beneath her words that said- I finally feel accepted and understood. I have come to watch this happen time and again in the group and every single time it warms my heart, Parents will bring kids to our park days who have rejected many other groups or have struggled to find like minded intellectual peers in school (and beyond) and then "it happens'. It is a magical thing when kids feel that very thing my daughter felt, sometimes for the very first time in their lives!
Often times, I am contacted by other parents who don't live close enough to visit our group about how they can start their own. I was lucky enough to organize a successful membership organization for many years long before I started homeschooling, so I thought I would write a top ten list of my best tips to help you get started. If you love the idea but don't want to start your own- look in your area to see what already exists. There are many groups on Meetup, Facebook, or even Yahoo. There are also online groups if meeting in person isn't possible and some have ways for kids to connect online as well.
Top Ten Tips:
1. Decide why you want to start a group .
Is this group just for parents or will you have activities for the kids as well? What are you hoping to get out of your group? How committed to getting this group started are you? Organizing a group takes a lot of time and dedication- figure out what is driving you so you can stick to that goal.
2. Figure out what kind of activities will you host.
Park Days, Field Trips, Campouts, Parent Workshops, Moms Night Out, Bookclubs, Classes, The list of possibilities is endless.
3. Choose which days you will meet.
In my experience groups fail to gain momentum because they are inconsistent. Consider deciding to meet on the same day every week for several months at the same time so that parents can plan for your events. For example- my parent workshops are on the 3rd Sunday of the month in the evening. Our park days are every Friday. Field trips are on Wednesdays. We meet at the same time with rare exception and families plan their lives around our events.
4. As the leader - attend every event.
As the organizer of the group you will need to be at all of the events. This can get quite exhausting so be certain to only choose events that you would be happy attending even if no one shows up. It is hard for a group to get off the ground if new members show up and no one is there.
5. Consider charging dues.
In my experience people are more committed to the groups that they pay for and gifted groups are no exception. Perhaps offer a free trial period after which you ask for an annual dues. This will attract members who value what you provide, weed out those who are not willing to get involved on a regular basis,
6. Decide on a forum
Personally I love using meet up because initially it markets to those interested in your type of group which gains you members right away, it is so easy to use, member dues are easy to set up and charge for, and scheduling events and keeping track of RSVP's is a breeze.
7. Pick a name for your group.
I think it is easiest to go with your city so people can find you
8. Market your group.
This one can be challenging for people but honestly- there are families out there right now that are desperately seeking what you have to offer. Consider marketing on homeschool forums, through friends, or through local professionals who specialize in gifted.
9. Be an advocate and don't be afraid of the word gifted .
I feel strongly that we must be advocates for our kids so that they know that being gifted just means it is how you are wired so I don't shy away from the word which is not always easy for people. It doesn't mean that we think our kids are better than anyone else. It means that they have unique needs and go through the world a bit differently than others. It is true that some people have not always been kind but the joy I get from watching my kid thrive in this community far outweighs any of the misunderstanding and I find that using the word gifted in my group name helps people find us. .
10. Above all have fun!
Enjoy the process and have fun!! Our gifted community has been the biggest and most unexpected gift for my family in our homeschooling journey. I wish you all the success in starting your own thriving group!