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When They're Too Old
for Park Day: MOOS
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In the Beginning. Remember when you were new to homeschooling, feeling confused, overwhelmed, apprehensive, or just plain scared? You packed the kids into the van and headed to park day. While your little ones played in the sand, you shared with the other moms - encouragement, tips, methods, successes, vision, and hope. You left park day more confident and better equipped.
If you're approaching the last phases of homeschooling, you might wish you had the same kind of support. I assure you, you're not alone.
Worry. Homeschooling had a huge growth spurt in the mid 90's, so huge numbers of families are now reaching the junior high years. If you're in that stage, you're probably worrying about how to homeschool high school. So much about that stage is so different from what you know, you sometimes feel like a brand new homeschooler all over again.
Support. You need support like you did in the beginning, but where do you find it? Your kids are too old for park day, your local group is geared toward younger families, and you are way too busy to start a teen co-op. But you need support from people in the same boat.
Solution. How did our local group fill that need? Five of us who still go to park day decided to meet for Mom's Night Out once a month and see what developed. We call the group MOOS - Mothers Of Older Students (some say it should be MOOSE - Mothers of Older Students-EEEK!). The results were amazing.Method
As we discussed our options, we knew one thing for sure: it had to be easy. No one wanted the burdens of leadership, and no one wanted the work of arranging a co-op. So we designed the group to be extremely low-maintenance. So low-maintenance that it virtually runs itself.
- Communication. I created a Yahoo group for communication (set-up took a whole ten minutes). No more newsletters, no phone trees, no lost e-mails. We can all post messages to the group and we can all read each other's posts. We arrange meetings there, announce classes we hear about, post useful web sites, and share Sally's peanut butter cookie recipe.
- Meetings. We meet the first Monday of every month for Mom's Night Out. Since most of us don't have the space (or inclination) to host 10 visitors, it's usually at a restaurant or church room. After we open in prayer, I stand up and say, "Who's gonna' handle the next meeting?" That's usually the extent of my "burden of leadership." One mom volunteers, and another says she'll assist. The host's duties? Find a place and make necessary arrangements, and choose a topic. At that meeting she makes sure that we start and end more-or-less on time, and that we stay more-or-less on topic. That's it!
- Topics. At our first meeting we brainstormed meeting topics and listed them on our Yahoo group. We add to that list as ideas pop up. The meeting host can choose from that list or do something different. She doesn't have to give a "presentation" on the topic. We all bring our knowledge and input. She just steers it a bit and tries to keep us on-track. We plan to have a speaker a few times a year - typically a wise peer who has already graduated a few kids. We buy her dinner as payment.
Our list of potential topics includes Credits & Transcripts, Record Keeping, Brainstorm Field Trips, Teaching What REALLY Matters, etc.
The results have been AMAZING!!! I originally thought the group would be a forum to share knowledge and information. It has gone far, far beyond that. The simple process of getting together and communicating seems to be the catalyst. Conversations give birth to ideas, and ideas give birth to activities. When we chatter together we uncover similar needs, and then we look for solutions. Because we're a group, we're able to do things that we couldn't accomplish individually.
Nuts & Bolts
- Kids. Someone said we should get our kids together. So at each meeting, after we decide who will handle the next meeting, we ask who will handle the next Big Kids Outing. Two moms work as a team. We keep it very low-effort - so far they've done a nature hike, bowling, and a movie night at someone's house. The fact is, all these kids really want is to be in the same room together. The "activity" just provides an excuse.
- Classes. Several moms feel inadequate to teach writing. When we discovered that we shared the same regrets, one mom found a teacher and she arranged a weekly writing class. Next year I'll probably arrange a weekly biology lab and we'll hire someone to do the messy stuff with the kids. Note that this is not a co-op. When someone feels a need and finds others with the same need, they pool resources and start something. It's all very, very grass-roots.
- Here's the Clincher. Back when we drifted away from park day, we lost touch. We'd hear about friends putting their kids into public high school, and we each started to feel like we were the only one left. Now all that has changed. We had EIGHTEEN moms at our last meeting! (Remember, when about five of us started three months ago, we thought we were the only ones.) Instead of feeling like the last remnant, we now have a whole support group filling the same role the park day moms filled way back at the beginning. I'm not alone anymore.
One Final Word
- Communication. I'd really, really recommend you use a Yahoo group. It facilitates communication so much better than regular e-mail.
- Focus. Our focus is "high school and beyond." We try to always remember our focus. Our primary mission is not about parenting teenagers, arranging a social group for our kids, or getting a night out with the girlfriends. It's about homeschooling high school. You usually start pondering high school when your kids are in about 7th grade. So we limited our group to families with kids in 6th grade and up. If I had it to do over, I might recommend 7th grade and up since moms of 6th graders are in a different phase.
- Who. We've chosen to limit membership to those already in our local support group. That means we personally know everyone who wants to join, we keep it local, and we know we'll be with like-minded people. The local group knows we are a sub-group to them, not a breakaway group. If serious problems ever arise, we'll probably rely on the recognized Leaders of the local group to help resolve matters.
- Age. For the Big Kids Outings, we remind everyone that this is for kids in 6th and up, except for the hosts' younger children. We decided that given our goals for the outings, we want to enforce the age limit.
I earnestly exhort you to consider starting a MOOS-type group if your area doesn't have anything specifically for this stage. The rewards are manifold. After every meeting, I've gone home thoroughly blessed and feeling like I really can do high school. And that I want to.
I know you're too busy to be in charge of something. No problem! You can set it up to virtually run itself. We did! Call it what you like; configure it how you wish. You might think that not enough older kids are homeschooling in your area. You'll be surprised. When word gets around, they'll come crawling out of the woodwork! What's more, the very existence of such a group will encourage many to continue homeschooling through high school. That means that simply having the group will help populate the group!
The Almighty has blessed our MOOS group in ways I never expected. May He bless yours likewise.
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If you have any ideas to share, e-mail me, Paula H