1 Homeschool Life: Tyler Phaup



Welcome to VaHomeschoolers’ new blog series One Homeschool Life!  Each edition will highlight an inspiring homeschooler (or former homeschooler) we think you should hear about.  This month we shine the spotlight on Tyler Phaup; a former homeschooler from Beaverdam, VA.

Tyler, 19, has always had a fascination with building things– a love he inherited from his dad.  At 4 years old, he received his first Lego kit and found that building with them was a way for him to express his creativity.  That one kit was the beginning of a Lego stash that his friends thought must be the biggest in the world!  (And it just may be since that’s all he asked for every Christmas and birthday.)

When Tyler and his brother Ryan began homeschooling in 2004, their mom Karen wanted to ease the transition from public school to homeschool. One of the ideas she implemented was to coach a Lego Robotics team which included some of their public school friends. The team went on to become the Richmond area regional champions by earning the Director’s Award, the Robot Performance Award and a position to compete at the state championships at VA Tech.

Tyler and Austin building an FFL mission

Over the years, Tyler’s interests expanded, but Legos continued to be one of his passions.  In 2013, when Tyler began looking for summer employment, he heard about a robotics class conducted by a newly-created local franchise called Engineering for Kids. (Engineering for Kids introduces STEM subjects to kids between 4 and 14 using hands-on techniques.)  As luck would have it, they were in need of instructors and Tyler landed the job. For a teen who has built with Legos since age 4, learned robotics and computer programming by participating in two years of the First Lego League program, and enjoys working with children, the job was like a dream come true.  He’s been teaching computer programming and game design using Legos for just under a year now.  In addition, he’s also teaching aerospace, chemical, electrical, & mechanical engineering.

Tyler fully appreciates his good fortune.  “If you’d have told me when I was 12 years old that I’d one day be paid to play with Legos, I would have thought you were joking.”

Tyler still playing with Legos 800X600

By combining his favorite childhood past times with his desire to inspire the next generation of engineers, we think Tyler is a young man to watch!

If you know a homeschooler who you think other families would love to hear about, send us an email to let us know.  And if you have your own budding Lego engineer at home, don’t miss our current Facebook contest.  You could win a 4-pack of tickets to the 2014 Brickfair being held August 2nd & 3rd in Northern Virginia!







You Oughta Be In Pictures

Photo by Parrish Mort

Photo by Parrish Mort

Have you ever dreamed of seeing your photos in a published magazine or on the web?  VaHomeschoolers could make it happen! 

You’ve probably already seen our bi-monthly, full color, homeschool magazine VaHomeschoolers Voice (and if you haven’t, you should join VaHomeschoolers so you can get a free subscription).  Almost all the beautiful pictures are taken by photographers just like YOU. 

We are currently accepting photos for possible publication in our magazine or email announcements.  Our Voice Photo Editor, Michele Kendzie, has simplified the process to make photo submission easier.  Just click the link below that will take you to our photo archive site and walk you through the process.  Photos should be submitted full-size (full resolution) so they can be adjusted to fit to articles and announcements.

Our goal is to build an archive of homeschool-related photos, so even if we don’t use your picture(s) right away, keep watching for it in the future.  Any work we use will, of course, be credited. 

Don’t know what type of thing we’re looking for?  Here’s just a short list of pictures we’d love to see, but we’ll take anything homeschool-related you’d like to share.  (And while we love pictures of students, not all the photos need to include them.)

  • Seasonal photos with kids (especially for the magazine cover)
  • Field trips
  • Museums/landmarks/monuments
  • Toys & Games (classic or new)
  • Animals (Pets/Zoo/Farm/Wild)
  • Science/computer/technology items
  • Nature
  • Kids playing sports/exercising
  • Food/cooking
  • Art/Dance/Music
  • Holidays/Traditions
  • Camping
  • Kids doing anything homeschool-y!

Click HERE to see our photo guidelines and submit your pictures.  And before you go, enjoy a few examples of some great photos we’ve received in the past.

Cracking Open a New School Year at the Childrens Museum in Richmond.
Photo by Michele Kendzie

Marine Science Camp Photo by Aynsley Kealiher

Marine Science Camp
Photo by Aynsley Kealiher

Making their own “thinking caps”
Photo by Amy Wilson

Rearing back for a shot on goal. Photo by Rob Vietmeyer

Rearing back for a shot on goal.
Photo by Rob Vietmeyer

Photo by Stephanie Elms

Photo by Stephanie Elms
Homeschoolers Climbing at Ginter Gardens Photo by Heather Smithson

Homeschoolers Climbing at Ginter Gardens
Photo by Heather Smithson

Learning to paddle a solo kayak
Photo by Rachel Roberts



Volunteer Spotlight on Duane Nathaniel

By DeeDee Sauter

“Bottom line– No excuses, just do it!”

Duane Nathaniel

Duane Nathaniel

Volunteers are the backbone to countless organizations. Without the steady influx of the energy and time of those dedicated to their cause, many of these groups, who exist to serve, would not be able to function. Every one of these volunteers is valuable, but some consistently shine, year after year, making them indispensable to the team.

Duane Nathaniel is one of those hard-working people whose yearly efforts contribute to the success of the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers annual conference. With the support of his company, Kalani Consulting, Inc. (KCI), Duane has provided all of the signs that guide us throughout the conference venue since 2010. He facilitates not only the creation of the signs but their strategic placement around the venue, guaranteeing attendees can find their way to sessions, exhibit halls and family programming.

Well before his integral assistance with the behind-the-scenes conference activities, he started as an onlooker in his daughters’ home education, which was initiated by his wife’s vision. His involvement was slow, but he is now fully vested in their success. “For my children, homeschooling and the associated activities such as conference have been a vital component of their life experience.” As Duane’s family continues in the homeschool environment, he has “grown to become more involved and more of an advocate than just an observer.”

It has been a natural progression for the family who schools together to volunteer together. In addition to being the “Signs Guy”, he has facilitated the procurement of projectors for presentations, and his company provided scholarships specifically for homeschool students in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Since the conference has been held at Glen Allen, KCI has also provided small gifts for the participants in both the Talent Show and the Arts display for many years.

Between his involvement with The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, supporting his children with their academic goals and his business, there is little time for anything else. When he does find a few spare minutes in which he can use his of creative energy, he “loves to cook interesting meals.” He is a strong combination of academic skills and extracurricular activities.

Duane has advice for those who are looking for opportunities to give back to the homeschooling community.

”Just contact the Organization and let them know you are interested. They will get back in touch and can help you work out the details of what you may want to do and try to match that to what they need. Bottom line – No Excuses, Just Do It!

His energy and support is infectious.

And for those who have an interest in signage, he has the perfect position for you. Because of Duane’s vision, dedication and support of homeschooling, he has been able to take one aspect of the annual conference and improve it to a professional level.  Duane is ”interested in working with someone to take over the role as The Sign Guy (or Guyette?) and allow him to do something else to support the Conference.”

“We have moved many of the signs from foam core, which was more fragile and showed signs of wear more quickly, to plastic corrugated material which stands up to re-use better. We also upped the level of the quality of the signs in terms of professionalism by using materials which make the signage look crisper. We have also added many more directional signs which aids in the traffic flow through the Center.”

As with any homeschool parent, Duane Nathaniel has multiple roles. Supporting his daughters’ educational needs by assisting the organization that consistently supports the rights of all homeschoolers is just one way of efficiently multi-tasking.

Fathers may usually be quietly supportive in the background, but Duane Nathaniel is an example of a dad who has been able to combine his skills and passion to help other families across the Commonwealth.


Model United Nations

By Joyce Rodgers, VaHomeschoolers Conference Speaker

Recently a friend asked me to share my experience with Model United Nations with the homeschooling community.  I have begun to write this so many times and constantly find myself at a loss, unable to encapsulate it all in a few paragraphs.  As a high schooler Model United Nations (MUN) wasn’t available at my school until we moved my senior year, but I eagerly joined the team that fall.  It is not an overstatement to say it changed my life.  In the midst of a battle with clinical depression in college, Model United Nations was an activity I opted for despite my inability to do little else.  So, when my middle school son was yearning for something to be a part of … something that was bigger than himself … I offered a Model United Nations class to him and his friends.  There were five of us that first year.  Six years later there are about 20 middle and high school students participating.  While my oldest has gone on to college to study international relations and education, two of my younger children have since also become Model United Nations enthusiasts, or as I call them MUNsters.  Model United Nations continues to impact my world, and has greatly enriched the lives of my children and students as well.


As homeschoolers, we are blessed with a plethora of opportunities for our students.  Academic oriented clubs and teams abound.  Model United Nations is one of these fabulous choices.  While it is impossible for me to label the “one thing” I love about Model United Nations for students, I can say that something that amazes me each year is how it seems to be able to meet so many students where they are and take them further than they knew they could go.  MUN offers a unique combination of communication/language, social studies/geography and interpersonal skills.  Students will sign up feeling confident in their ability to research or their geography skills, but nervous and uncertain about writing or speaking.  Sometimes we have students join who are academic whiz-kids who struggle to speak or lack confidence socially.  We’ve had athletes, dancers, “bookworms”, musicians, rebels, missionary kids, prodigies, struggling learners, spectrum kids, lonely kids, loud kids – we’ve had so many kids walk in the door.  All of them arrived feeling “different”, but at the end of the year they were a part of the team in every way any member of any team would be.  They leave feeling validated in their strengths and more confident in their previous weaknesses.

Jeannie MASUN

No matter where the kids begin, by the end of their first year they have had their eyes opened and become substantially aware of the world around them.  Many of the students have studied world cultures and religions.  They often can run off a list identifying government types, continents, and international capitals.  However, it isn’t until they participate in an activity like MUN that they have an understanding of the complex issues facing the world – facing kids their age in other countries.  Through participation in a program like MUN, students truly become global citizens and find it hard to ignore life beyond the walls of the US.  Many, if not all, of the kids who have come through Model United Nations have considered or are pursuing international studies/missions or travel as a result of their experiences.  The added bonus is that parents by connection gain a new awareness and knowledge of the world.



In addition to all of the impressive transcript ready skills they gain in writing, speaking, world cultures and current affairs, kids learn skills that they can use wherever they end up in life.  They will gain the ability to understand the needs and hopes of others they work with, and how they can work cooperatively to best meet their own goals as well as those of others.  That is a skill that will make them a better neighbor, friend, spouse, employee/employer – or diplomat.

UVA 2013


Model United Nations isn’t the right option for every kids, but it is a good fit for more kids than most realize.  It fuels my passion to see kids laugh, bond and build lasting friendships while arguing opposing views on topics that curl the hair of most adults.

2011 MUN Team GSMUN


Joyce Rodgers, Executive Director of the Athenian Academy, has had the opportunity to work with children from a variety of backgrounds and abilities. She also homeschools four children who are both gifted and struggle with their own learning obstacles. In 2008, she founded the Richmond Enrichment Studio Model United Nations Team, now the Athenian AcademyModel United Nations Team, with five ninth grade homeschoolers. This team has grown to about 22 middle and high school students and has attended Model United Nations conferences at esteemed universities as well as at the United Nations in New York City. The team most recently won the 2013 George Mason University Secretary-General’s Award. Working with so many different students in a variety of subjects, Joyce is convinced that their capabilities consistently exceed what they anticipate they can achieve. It is her goal is to engage students in such a way they realize their potential so that they can chase whatever dreams their hearts yearn for.  Don’t miss Joyce’s conference session S1.2 Holistic Learning Through Model United Nations.  See the VaHomeschoolers website for more information.

My New Year Wish for You

Parrish Mort, Cartersville

parrish crop

My hopes for you in 2014  -

dos and donts


do 1  see the appreciation in your child’s eyes for your willingness to support them where they are – even when they are angry at you for the extra math problems.

dont 1  doubt that it matters.


do 1  delight in and value your child’s gifts.  Every child has them; they just look different on each one.

dont 1  compare your child to others.


do 1   have faith in yourself.  No one is perfect; no one has all the answers.  Every day is not a great day, but you love your child, and by homeschooling you have committed to doing what you think is best for them even when it is hard.

dont 1  sell yourself short.


do 1  recognize that questioning homeschooling, and how you homeschool, is healthy. The questioning helps you to refocus thus making your decisions and actions stronger, more effective, and more loving.

dont 1  overthink it.


do 1  have faith in your child.  Believe that if you provide the guidance, they will eventually do the rest.  Trust they will read and figure out long division.  Know they will be good citizens and independent thinkers. It just may be on their timetable, their way.

dont 1  rush the timetable or force the method.


do 1   take the time to celebrate each teachable moment.  Remember to stop and observe the lizard sunning on the stoop, marvel at the magic of yeast dough rising and look up the answers to the question your child posed.  Throughout the day we are offered chances to grow personally, intellectually and in our relationships

dont 1  miss the chance.


do 1  recognize the floors will always need vacuuming, there will always be laundry and getting dressed is overrated.  Take the time to live in the moment with your children.  They will move on to other passions before you know it.

dont 1  miss the moment.


do 1  remember how fortunate you are to be able to home school your child – that it is legal and that it is an option for your family financially.

dont 1  judge others who are not as lucky.


do 1  support VaHomeschoolers this year with your time, talent and treasure.  We need all three.

dont 1 think it doesn’t matter or it can wait.  Give your support today.



Best Card Trick Ever, or Algebra Without Tears

From the blog:   

Poached in Salsa

Appreciating the usual, embracing the new

by Louisa, a link to her December 4, 2013 blogpost.

I am not, and have never been, pop culture’s idea of the homeschool mom: sit the kids at the table to work through lessons, have them do chores to keep the house spotless, make three healthy meals a day to support mental and physical stamina. I mean, I try, but let’s talk reality. And how far I have fallen. These days, I have farmed out both math and French lessons to the girls’ favorite teacher. Want to guess who it is?
Hello, iPad…..


FREE Upcoming, INTERESTING Online Classes

By Amy WilsonAmy Wilson 2 (2)

If you’re like me, you may have heard so many acronyms in your lifetime that you no longer have space in your brain to manage any more. But, maybe before you ran out of mental real estate, you managed to store MOOC, which stands for Massive Online Open Course. (If not, I just gave it away.) Depending on whom you ask, MOOCs can be considered either a blessing or a curse – or both – to higher education. For homeschoolers, they offer one more tool in the toolbox, available for us to consider as potential ways of expanding learning opportunities in our families.

coursera-logo (2)

Coursera is just one of many sources for MOOCs, and it is the one my family has used most so far. My children (ages 12 and 14) and I have taken several Coursera classes together, on subjects including philosophy, physics, computer programming, history , literature, and art.  Our reviews have run the gamut from “great additions to our homeschooling experience” to “mediocre” to “complete flop.” Many were interesting and accessible to both of my learners, while others were too intense for my middle schooler, and a few were too much even for me! Since the courses are free, we take what we can use and ignore the rest. The classes that are not a good fit, we simply drop.

I will be presenting a session on MOOCs for Homeschooling Middle School and High School at VaHomeschoolers’ 2014 Conference and Resource Fair, so please join me if you want to learn more. In the meantime, here are three Coursera classes coming soon that look interesting to me. Take a look at the Coursera website for more choices.

Introduction to Astronomy, Duke University (Starts December 2; 12 weeks long)

In this class, we will be studying, quite literally, everything in the universe.  It  starts with “classical” astronomy, describing the night sky and organizing what we see as was done in ancient times.  We will then embark on a journey, starting here on Earth and progressing outward, to study the solar system, the Milky Way galaxy, and the wonderful and strange objects we observe in deep space, such as black holes, quasars, and supernovae.  We will end with some discussion of what scientists know today about the universe as a whole.  Along the way we will introduce some of the methods, theoretical and experimental, that have been used to understand all of this, to include Newton’s laws, our understanding of light and matter, Einstein’s theory of relativity, as well as Galileo’s telescope and WMAP  (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe).

The Modern World: Global History since 1760, University of Virginia (Starts January 13; 14 weeks long)

This is a survey course in modern world history for students, beginning or advanced, who wish to better understand how the world got to be the way it is today. In order to understand modern history, a global perspective is essential. This is true whether you are interested in economics, warfare, philosophy, politics, or even pop culture. This course can therefore be essential for students in many fields, a base equipping them with tools for lifelong learning.

It is tempting to think that if we can just understand the big patterns, we don’t have to get too caught up in the details. In this course, though, we care about chronology. We care about individuals. Without some careful attention to sequences of cause and effect, without tracing how big changes come from the choices made by particular people, history can turn into just a series of descriptions, a somewhat tiresome recitation of one fact after another. Beyond just offering a set of remarkable stories, this course offers training in how to analyze a situation and how to think about explaining change.

Imagining Other Earths, Princeton University (Starts February 3; 12 weeks long)

Over the past two decades, astronomers have discovered over a thousand planets around nearby stars.  Based on our current knowledge, it seems likely that there are millions of stars in the Galaxy that host Earth-sized planets in Earth-like orbits. What is the range of conditions for these planets to host life? In this course, students will engage with a wide range of concepts in astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology and physics with a focus on developing the background they will use need to think further about this profound question. We will explore the origin and evolution of  life on Earth, particularly in extreme environments, the properties of planets and moons in our Solar System,  the properties of stars and the newly discovered extrasolar planets.

Course assignments include two short papers describing proposed space missions to study nearby planets and to search for extrasolar planets and a final paper. In the final paper, students will have an opportunity to invent their own planetary system and describe it in terms of either the astronomy of how it was discovered, the properties of their planet and its host star, or the biology of life in the system. Papers will be circulated and evaluated by fellow students as part of the learning experience in the course; this will provide opportunities to develop students’ abilities to think like a scientist by applying principles of scientific thinking, to learn new ideas from other students, and to creatively make new connections across different sciences and parts of the course.


Missing out on our Facebook Posts?


by Ann Clay

Are you a Facebook fan? VaHomeschoolers has been managing its own page since March 2009. Now well into our fifth year, we are posting a lot more!

Due to the growth of our organization and the interest in homeschooling, we now post several times a day! In addition to this blog, we tell you about upcoming events and classes, and share quotes and thoughts about parenting and homeschooling. Members can contribute photos and stories about their experiences.

Some of our followers are having trouble getting our updates. That is, they have ‘liked’ our Facebook page but are not seeing our daily posts in their News Feeds.  We’re here to help you with your settings so that you don’t miss any or all of VaHomeschoolers’ information.

First, go to our Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/VaHomeschoolers

Now move your cursor to the right center part of the heading, just under our ‘cover’ photo (the big photo we put at the top of our page). There is a box that says either “Like” or “Liked.” If it says “Like” you have not yet liked our page, and you will not see any of our updates. If it says “Liked,” that means you have already liked us. However, liking us is not enough!

Either way, go ahead and click on that Like (Liked) box. If you just let your cursor hover over it, you will see a drop down menu. You will see this list:

  • Get Notifications

  • Show in News Feed

  • Settings….

  • Add to Interest lists…

  • Unlike

Go to the second item on the list, ‘Show in News Feed.’  Click on that phrase so that it shows a black checkmark to the left of it. This means that every time you open your own news feed and scroll down,  whatever we post on the VaHomeschoolers Facebook page will be in your list, or feed.

Now, go back again to the Like (Liked) box and go to the third item on the list, ‘Settings…’ You will get another drop down menu. Your choices are:

  • All Updates

  • Most Updates

  • Only Important

Unless you click on ‘All Updates,’ you are not going to see all of our posts.  Make sure that there is a black checkmark to the left of ‘All Updates.’

Finally, go  back to that Like (Liked) menu one last time and click on ‘Get Notifications.’ You may see a black checkmark to the left of it. If you don’t see that black checkmark, click on ‘Get Notifications.’ That means that you are asking Facebook to send you a notification whenever we post something on Facebook. You can see your notifications on your own News Feed in the blue bar at the top. There is a little world icon. If it has a red box with white numbers in it, that means you have new notifications.  Click on that icon and you will see a list of all the notifications from your friends and other pages you have liked.

You’re still not done! Even though completing these steps will increase the possibility that you will see our posts in your feed, the best way to ensure this is to actually visit our  Facebook page and post on it a couple of times a week. When you ‘Like’ one of our posts or comment on one, Facebook’s algorithm will learn that VaHomeschoolers is very important to you, so it will send you more updates.

There’s another really good reason to actually visit our Facebook page.  We are not the only ones who post to our page. Anyone who is on Facebook can post there. Subscribers ask questions, suggest field trips and classes, and share blog posts and articles. Sometimes we re-post these items under our own name, but it’s not always possible. You will not see any of these posts unless you visit our Facebook page.

Seems like an awful lot of trouble, doesn’t it? Just remember that Facebook is a business, and although free to all users they do have options which encourage us to purchase  advertising to boost the visibility of our posts. Although this would make it easier for you to receive all of our posts on your News Feed, VaHomeschoolers would like to use that money in ways that more directly help you, our members, so we don’t want to pay Facebook if at all possible. By going through the steps above, you won’t miss anything, and you’ll get all of our updates , at least 5 per weekday.

When you have set your settings the way you like them, please share this information with your other homeschooling friends who use Facebook. Thanks for taking the time to do this. You won’t be disappointed.


Nature Apps for Homeschooling

submitted by Stephanie Elms, Annandale

What could be better or more convenient than having access to multiple field guides or star maps when you are out and about? Digital nature apps allow you to carry a variety of field guides with you at all times. The digital aspects of these guides make them extremely interactive, providing not only the traditional text and photos, but also audio and video. Add to that, robust search capabilities and even social sharing options and you will quickly see what great educational resources these can be.

Audubon Guides

The National Audubon Society offers 23 nature apps covering birds, mammals, butterflies, fish, insects, spiders, reptiles, amphibians, owls, mushrooms, wildflowers, and trees as well as regional guides. These guides are extremely extensive and are wonderful tools for exploring the world around us.

From the website:

The Audubon Guide apps use updated and expanded content from the authoritative National Audubon Society Field Guides to cover thousands of plants and animals. The apps include more than 8,000 professional color photographs, over 2,300 bird songs and calls, thousands of range maps, in-depth species descriptions with updated information about behavior, habitat, the natural history of plant and animal families and species, extensive reference material and much more.

Available for iOS/Android/Nook/Kindle for $4.99-$9.99 (keep a lookout for frequent sales)


The iBird series of apps provides you access to a wealth of app options to enhance your birding experience. The apps provide photos, illustrations, audio bird calls as well as a huge amount of information about the birds and their habitats.

Available for iOS/Android/PC/Kindle for free – $19.99.


Leafsnap is an app developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution that uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves. Containing beautiful high-resolution images of leaves, flowers, fruit, petiole, seeds, and bark, Leafsnap currently includes the trees of the Northeast and will soon grow to include the trees of the entire continental United States.

Available for iOS for free.

The Night Sky

The Night Sky app allows you to point your device into the night sky and identify the stars, planets and satellites overhead.

Available for iOS/Android/PC/Mac  for free or $.99

Star Walk

The 360-degree, touch control star map displays constellations, stars, planets, satellites, and galaxies currently overhead from anywhere on Earth.

Available for iOS for $2.99

Google Earth

Google Earth lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean. My kids love seeing other parts of the world through Google Earth.

Available for IOS/Android/Mac/PC for free.


Read the previous posts in this series: 

Stephanie Elms is constantly trying to find that elusive state of balance in her life while enjoying her two energetic yet vastly different boys. You can read about their ongoing exploits on her blog, Throwing Marshmallows. Stephanie also volunteers as a member of the VaHomeschoolers Board of Directors.



Finding Your Tribe: Fitting in and Finding Your Place as a Homeschooling Family

Submitted By Janell E. Robisch

The challenge of fitting in is a global one. Whether young or old, most people naturally seek out a group of like-minded folks with whom they can talk and share their lives and experiences. Even in a pre-made social structure like school, children and school staff can face a lot of difficulty finding a group of individuals with whom they feel comfortable. Homeschoolers are no different, and they face the difficulty of being physically spread out and initially disconnected. No one plops every homeschooler in a region together in one room or building and says, “Here are the other homeschoolers. Go find a friend.”

New homeschooling parents may find this a particularly vexing problem as they try to establish a community for their children, who are often fresh out of school, while simultaneously trying to figure out which style of homeschooling is best for them and which materials and curricula work best for their children.

Where Is Everybody??? Finding a Community

Your first and hopefully easiest option is to see what’s already out there. The Internet, while not a perfect solution, is a lifesaver in this regard. Through places like The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, Yahoo! Groups, and Facebook, you can connect with other homeschoolers in your area and maybe even get a feel for them before you attend your first playdate, park day, or class. I’m sure it was much harder to connect with other homeschoolers before the Internet unless you already shared another community, such as church. Religion, by the way, definitely plays a part in finding your homeschooling community. There are distinct groups of religious, secular, and inclusive homeschoolers out there, and ending up in the wrong group, even temporarily, can be uncomfortable at the least and a downright bad experience in other cases.

Toni Popoki Reed, a homeschooler from San Diego, California, told me that as an atheist/agnostic family, they had trouble fitting among religious homeschoolers in their area; they were sometimes asked not to come back to park days, and sometimes they “just got tired of being asked to various churches.” On the other hand, those who homeschool for religious reasons might feel persecuted or out of place among a more secular crowd and might prefer to seek out other homeschoolers who make religion and worship a core part of their study. Finally, there are inclusive groups where everyone is welcomed and hopefully respected whatever their viewpoint. These groups try to find a happy medium where anyone can join and hopefully find children and parents that mesh well with their own families.

If the Mountain Will Not Come to Muhammad…Creating Your Own Community

Unfortunately, the world is not a perfect place, and finding a community can be a challenge. Religious issues, homeschooling philosophy, and family issues can all be barriers in finding the right fit.  Sometimes, geography also stands in the way. In my small town in the Shenandoah Valley, the homeschool population has been small but steadily growing over the nine years that I have lived here. I have found myself driving at least 45 minutes the majority of the times we meet with other homeschoolers. For us, it has been worth it, but a lack of time and money and kids who get carsick are many factors that make this a less attractive option.  The “over-flexibility” of some homeschoolers can also cause problems for those seeking out a new community. Who hasn’t shown up to a homeschool park day or field trip—or several—just to find out that no one else showed up? Repeated instances of this can sour anyone’s attitude.

Gleamer Sullivan, a homeschooling mom from Grottoes, found herself in a similar situation when her children were young and her oldest was just reaching schooling age. Despite joining a co-op and going to every park day and swimming day she could find, Gleamer found that it was not enough to meet the needs of her very social and outgoing daughter.

At some point, Toni, and Gleamer and I all came up with the same solution: We started our own communities.  I started a homeschool co-op, which struggled on for about a year. I can’t say it was completely successful. I found that my small town community still wasn’t large enough to support it, and geography proved too large a barrier to many of the out-of-towners that were driving in. Also, meeting the needs of the various age groups and different needs of the children was somewhat of a challenge. However, I know many who have formed and maintained successful co-ops. Toni and a friend of hers started their own all-inclusive homeschool park day.  They have earned a reputation for being open and respectful among other homeschoolers and their group draws in families of all faiths and those with no faith.  Gleamer took it one step further and, with her husband, started Raw Learning, a private democratic school and homeschool resource center. It allowed her to give life to her learning philosophies while providing her children (and others) with a consistent community of children and parents who could grow and learn together over the years. For her, it has been a successful endeavor that is now starting its fifth year.

Climbing Out of the Box: Expanding Your Community

You may at some point, especially as your children get older, find it necessary to take the word homeschooling out of the whole community equation at least some of the time. Your friends and your kids’ friends obviously do not all need to be homeschoolers. My children and I have made many friends (even some who are homeschoolers!) through the dance, gymnastics, and martial arts classes offered at our local gym. Scouting, 4-H, and other “after school” clubs remain another option. According to Toni, “While we continue our exploration of our world through unschooling more and more, we have found less time for the homeschooling community and more for the world in general. In a sense, our community went from a limited amount of a subgroup within a group that is already an alternative way of living to a bigger group of just regular people who happen to value education as a way of life.”

Go Online or Get Out of Town

Finally, when all else fails, at least we have the Internet. In those periods when it seems like it’s impossible to find a group or even just a few like-minded homeschoolers, your virtual community can keep you sane, offering a place to vent your homeschooling difficulties and to find ideas for learning.  Also, consider alternate ways of socializing, such as finding your child (and maybe yourself) a pen pal whether online or through snail mail. Having a pen pal in another region or country can be an enriching experience for all involved and can broaden the horizons of any family.

As far as our family goes, we are still working on finding a permanent community, but fortunately, we have many tethers and many friends in our area, even if they are spread out a bit!

 How did you find a place for you and your children? Leave a comment and let us know!