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Find and create group activities

Step 3 of the Ten Steps to Successful Homeschooling
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When others learned of our homeschooling, the question we were asked most often was how we planned to “socialize” our child. In sixth grade my son asked to return to school for that very reason. (In those early years of homeschooling, there weren’t as many kids in the community, which now is saturated with active groups. Where my older son found only a handful of homeschooled kids his age, my younger son found packed classes and groups, and today the NYC homeschooling community continues to increase with groups springing up in many neighborhoods.)
– Laurie Block Spigel, from Education Uncensored

In NYC, NYCHEA publishes a monthly newsletter with field trips, classes and group activities arranged by and for homeschoolers. In Westchester, there is a group called Tri-county that publishes a small newsletter. Most support groups offer group activities, especially sports. Other groups that homeschoolers have enjoyed include boy scouts and girl scouts, 4H Clubs, youth groups at local churches, synagogues and community centers, and little league. Local libraries sometimes sponsor book clubs and chess clubs.

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See also:

Email Lists, Newsletters, etc.

These can be a great source of support, especially if you are in a distant location. Some homeschoolers’ e-lists are for local groups, some are national or worldwide. Some e-lists serve groups with special interests and needs, such as kids with disabilities, highly gifted kids, or families with a particular religious focus. Any e-list subscriber can post a question or comment and every other subscriber receives it in an email. Ask a homeschooling question and receive a dozen varied responses the following day!

  • This website offers a newsletter, with thoughts on topics of interest to homeschoolers, classroom and parenting tips, road and field trip suggestions, recommended books, and more.
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  • In NYC there is a local e-list for members of NYCHEA called the chialist. Contact NYCHEA for membership information.
  • The TAG Project, Families of the Gifted and Talented, runs several e-lists for highly gifted children. One parent’s review: "This is the list I turned to when my 9-year-old wanted to know more about particle physics. Within half a day I had eight people reply with recommendations about what particle physics resources their children enjoyed at that age! I can't imagine another list where I could even *mention* that my 9yo was interested in a topic like this. But on TAGMAX it's completely normal."
    See and click on Mailing Lists, then on Subscribe.
  • The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum is based in California, but covers the entire US.
  • Gifted homeschooling in New Jersey .
  • Gifted and Homeschooling blogs from around the world .

To find an e-list right for you, try Google Groups, or Yahoo Groups. Do yo have an e-list you would like to recommend here? Please send an email.

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Creating group activities

This can be as simple as having a party and inviting your friends over. The Bronx group of homeschoolers started because a few families met and expressed a desire to have their children play together. They started meeting once a month in a local park, moving into parents’ homes during the winter months. Soon other parents found out about the group and wanted in. It became just as important for the parents to have a support group as for the kids to have social contact.

The founders of the group searched for a large enough space to accommodate the additional families. Over the past ten years, this group has rented or received donated space from: churches & synagogues, retirement homes, community centers, apartment building common rooms, the Ethical Culture Society, the public library (reading rooms for classes), and other public spaces. When renting space, they usually found that $5 per family would cover the costs. Ten families would end up donating fifty dollars for the two hours (or so) that they used the space.

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As the children grew, their needs changed. A play group was no longer enough, so the parents created a series of “fairs”. This not only provided social opportunities, but also helped them to share group educational goals that gave the kids a chance to build self-esteem by presenting in front of the group. They started with a math/science fair, and after several years they developed a monthly series of incredibly successful events. The history/geography fair became a “who am I?” game with costumes, music, food, and more, making for some unforgettable presentations. December became a solstice holiday food festival where everyone brought in a traditional food to share and discussed its meaning in their heritage. One child’s idea was the animal fair, where kids brought in pets and pet stories and everyone had something to share. So much fun! They ended the year in May with a talent show (the arts fair) where kids could sing or dance or act out a skit or show a painting or any form of creative expression. Parents came up with more ideas like celebrating pi day on March 14 (3.14). Kids would determine the area of pies and then eat them at 1:59 (3.14159... get it?). This was another opportunity for a great bake-off, with everything from pizza to pumpkin, making an educational event with a party atmosphere.

Monthly field trips were chosen by a different parent every month. That parent would think of what they wanted to do with their child, and select an age-appropriate activity that dovetailed with their own current curriculum. It might be a park ranger activity or a museum trip or one of many educational field trips available throughout the city (see What’s Free or Cheap in NYC? for lots of ideas). They would email the group with the idea and whoever was interested would reply. Costs would be split among the participants of the field trip. Usually about half of the group participated in the field trips, depending on the child’s interest and schedule availability. These field trips happened only because there were enough interested parents and children to make them happen. (Not every trip was a success; some never crystallized because of lack of interest.) The Bronx group flourished only because its members worked hard at it.

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In time, as the children grew, parents hired teachers or volunteered to teach a class themselves. Six or eight kids would cluster around a kitchen table or sprawl on a living room floor or meet in a library reading room to do a science lab or take a cooking class or discuss the Constitution or have a book club discussion. Teachers and tutors can be found by calling personnel depts. and student employment offices in local colleges, educational depts. in local museums, posting ads in your local places of business (my favorite math tutor had an ad on the neighborhood bakery’s wall), asking at the libraries and community centers, and by word of mouth. Many homeschooling support groups have lists of recommended tutors and teachers. Costs for materials and instructors were divided by the number of participating students.

Don’t wait for someone else to create group activities for your kid. Make them happen now! Volunteer to teach something you know and love (knitting, sewing, photography, origami, poetry, stamp collecting) or hire a teacher for something you can’t teach yourself, perhaps science or language or art. Why not create your own book or film club? Encourage kids to nominate their own choices and then lead an interesting discussion. Start off slowly. Schedule a single workshop, or perhaps a series of five or ten classes that meets once every two weeks instead of every week. If it works well you can always increase the number of classes, or extend the course for another ten weeks. Find the space to host the classes (maybe a participant has a big enough room to donate for the hour or two) and choose the time of day that works best for you. Advertise your class (course title, instructor, time and place, and cost per child) in your local homeschool newsletter and post it on their e-list. You and your kids will be having educational parties before you know it!

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This is Step 3 of the Ten Steps to Successful Homeschooling
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