Networking or Supporting?

I’ve been pondering this question after a series of less-than-positive e-mails surfaced recently in our homeschool’s group Yahoo loop.    Apparently there was feedback from several people (who no longer participate in the group) that our group, now 60+ families, was unwelcoming and unsupportive to new homeschoolers.    The question posed by the member who surfaced this issue was, “What message are we sending to new homeschoolers?”    Among the various responders was one question that I found intriguing.   This particular respondent asked the group, “Are we a group or are we a support group?”   I chose not to further what became a heated debate, but the question made me think about how we approach people who are new to the homeschool environment, whether we are in a group or interacting as individuals.

 

I am convinced that there are several errors in judgment we make any time we interact with new homeschoolers, and though I mean well, I’m guilty of all of them at any given time (by the way, this is my partial off-the-top-of-my-head list):

 

  1. Assuming that people already know what they need to know
  2. Similarly, assuming that people know what questions to ask (and consequently not offering any additional helpful information)
  3. Assuming that everyone is computer savvy and knows how to access information (how many times have I said to a new homeschooler, “Just go to the HSLDA website.  You can Google it if you need”).
  4. Projecting our household needs, convictions, and concerns on everyone else
  5. (the opposite of #s 1 and 2) Being the homeschooling “expert”, to the point of overwhelming and/or demeaning the effort of a new parent who’s just trying to get started

 

I remember being a homeschooler of only several days when I attending an area meeting with another more seasoned mom.   When I introduced myself to the group and mentioned how long I had homeschooled, one “veteran” questioned, dripping with cynicism, “So, did you go with all Bob Jones or all A Beka?”  After a moment’s trepidation, I was able to collect myself and respond that I was using a CM approach, to which she seemed genuinely shocked.   Inside, I was somewhere between incensed and crushed, thinking that the comment implied that I was too dumb to do any homework, and that I didn’t know any better than to proclaim myself a homeschooler and head immediately to the nearest packaged curriculum vendor.   Thank God that I’m too thick-skinned to be anything but momentarily shaken by comments like that.

 

As I thought about these assumptions, it occurs to me that these are the same errors we make when we miss the chance to share Jesus Christ with a new believer or an unbeliever.   It all boils down to one thing: being too focused on self to understand and then meet (or at least attempt to meet) someone else’s needs.   The great evangelist Billy Graham once stated that mass crusades, to which he dedicated most of his life, don’t have the power that a one-on-one conversation has to change a life.  

 

So with all of this said, I thought about at least a couple of new homeschooling moms who’ve come into my life recently.   I need to apologize to them, largely because I was so busy sharing my relative “expertise” until I didn’t listen, and I probably overwhelmed them in trying to lay out for them all of their options.   I also thought about what support will look like from me having considered all of these thoughts:

 

  1. I will take the time to listen.
  2. I will ask if there is a need that I can help meet.
  3. I will ask if I can pray with them right there, not later.
  4. I will share our school days from my heart, not the “heady” conversation that I can quickly jump into.    This requires that I relate experiences where I leaped, where I laughed, and where I cried.

 

More importantly, I will do these in the order listed above.   God bless you today.

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10 comments on “Networking or Supporting?

  1. bubbebobbie says:

    You know this is the second post I read today about "Groups" and both were in a negative light. I have never belonged to one, but I am thinking maybe there needs to be a description or like some home fellowships, just state this group is closed. I don't understand nasty. Is it because they are not like-minded?

    On A lighter note, I am loving your curricula. Thank you so much.
    Because of Jesus, Bobbie

  2. LadyPoet33 says:

    I need to say Thank You! I've been dealing with the same thing in my area.

    Many new and veteran homeschoolers are using the state funded K12 curriculum. I hate it. lol But, I am finding that my opinions (really just questions if this is the best idea) are not received well. I am actually getting "hate mail" because I question it.

    Maybe I need to step back and think of how I felt when I began homeschooling. I wished for something like that…however, I am so glad that it wasn't available. Because now I have so many other options available.

    I love nature walks, and nature notebooks, and great books! I am glad for my knowledge, but maybe I need to unsub for awhile. Hubby is worried by the hate mail. LOL

    LadyPoet33

  3. AHappyHome says:

    I understand all of that! I continue to attract discouragement from people around me with regards to "how in the world" I can "do all that", but my best answer is that the Lord always is faithful to provide for my needs, even if it is a nap (for *me*!!)

    One helpful thing I was able to do for a new homeschooling family was to buy them a subscription to The Old Schoolhouse magazine for a year. That was appreciated, and I felt there was plenty of ideas in there to glean from, even those that for my family would not work. I think I would do that again if another family embarked on that adventure.

    You've always been an encouragement here! 🙂
    Blessings,
    Keri

  4. geeterbug5 says:

    Great post. I am glad I never ventured into a group. By the way I think it will be next year I try your cirriculum, my boys are only in 1st and 2nd.
    Many blessings to you.
    Lorri

  5. bubbebobbie says:

    I am writing you to let you know, I have an award for you!
    Because of Jesus, Bobbie

  6. chelelew says:

    Hey – I "randomly" found your blog tonight. I've enjoyed what I've been able to read so far. I've linked to you from my blog so I won't lose your address. I might want to chat a bit about how you homeschool as we are a family of vanilla (me and DH), Caleb is AA and Joshua is ?? ~~~ again, can't wait to have more time to really read the rest of your posts.
    ~~CheleLew~~ at Hearts of Grace Acedemy

  7. SongOfTheSagebrush says:

    I love the encouragement I received as a new homeschooling mom from a seasoned homeschooler who listened, encouraged, and who sometimes liked my ideas as well…thanks for a great post!

    Blessings,
    Anne-Marie

  8. srostollan says:

    I stopped over from chelelew and happened upon this post! Amen! I find that our home school group truly need to work on what their purpose for being a group is. When I was new to the group, I loved that we had some things for the kids and once-a-month meetings for the parents. Those things are still there, they just have not been "developed". I feel that we are not utilizing our resources to assist everyone.

    I agree with your summation that we assume that new homeschoolers know everything they need to. There are a very small group of new homeschoolers who have done a lot of research but the majority are still in limbo!

    Thanks for a great post!
    Stephie @ inspired

  9. SuzyScribbles says:

    I saw your blog name about chocolate, so I hopped over to see what it was. An amazing entry and so true. Nothing about chocolate, of course, but that didn't matter. I agree. It is so easy to "assume" and we forget our own first years. Another common error (on my part): I assume because I homeschooled my daughter that she must know how to homeschool her own children. Nope. I need to be patient and treat her like a brand new homeschooling mom, like she is.
    thanks for the reminder!

  10. jmccumbers says:

    Wow, I'm glad I took time to look around your blog a little bit. It is certainly something to give a lot of thought to.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog! I've only been blogging since late August, so this is my first template change. I do have some other ideas though, so I'm sure I'll change it again. 🙂

    I've already made 3 new srapbook pages on my new desk! I'll post them when I get a chance.

    Speaking of getting a chance, you seem to be an extremely busy lady. No wonder you don't have much time to scrapbook. I read your 'about me' paragraph and was overwhelmed. I don't know how you do it!

    Many Blessings,
    Jennifer

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