Last spring a friend shared with me that she and her husband were considering educating their children at home next year. She said that she had spoken with, not one, not two, or even three, but four veteran homeschool moms about different facets of her children’s education—four. I wasn’t even one of them! My heart swelled with pride as I thought about what a vital role mentoring plays in the homeschool community. At the end of the day, nothing will ever replace one person just being thread-bare, face to face with another person, and the other person saying, “I know. I am right there with you. Let’s walk this road together.”
But wait, there’s more!
My friend who was considering homeschooling told me that she found an amazing curriculum. When she told me the title, I had never heard of it. This is our thirteenth year homeschooling, and I really thought I had seen every curriculum ever. As she went on and on about how much she loved this curriculum (which debuted in 2019), I discovered three reasons why veteran homeschool parents need to spend time with new homeschool families.
- New homeschool families are often passionate. While it is common for some people to wade into the waters of home education with understandable trepidation, other people have a type of zeal that veteran homeschool families may have lost over the years. It’s akin to older married couples hanging out with newlyweds. In the same way that a new bride thinks it is adorable that her spouse can’t hang up a towel without her, the new homeschool teacher may cherish how much her children depend on her or relish how much time they now have together. It is refreshing to see!
- New homeschool families bring their gifts to the table. My friends (the new homeschoolers) have zero experience teaching in a classroom, but both parents have a masters’ degree in science. On top of that, they have experiences from all around the world. They are brilliant, and they are about to bring some serious expertise to the homeschool community.
- New homeschool families bring a new point of view. Many new families have no idea about homeschool culture, and frankly—it’s awesome. They notice things. They ask questions. They make suggestions for how things could run more efficiently. It would behoove experienced homeschoolers to go ahead and make up our minds that we are okay with change. New perspectives offer us the opportunity to grow, to be gracious, and to get rid of things that are weighing us down. Waves of change are necessary to keep our groups from becoming outdated or fruitless.
May I share something? It’s about time some new faces showed up on the homeschooling scene. Veteran homeschool parents are going to be so much better for it. Our experiences are going to be richer. Our relationships will be deeper. Our education will be more well-rounded. There are tons of excellent teachers out there, and they come from a variety of industries. They are equipped with exactly what our children need in the 2020s, and they bring to the table exactly what you and I need to sharpen us into better teachers.
Have you ever thought about that? What is sharpening you into a better teacher? Are you still teachable? One of the greatest things about NCHE is all of the resources that are available to help you grow as a teacher. The NCHE website alone is a great place to dispel hearsay and get the facts about home education in North Carolina. Additionally, Thrive! Conference recordings offer wisdom and practical application from local and national speakers—most of whom are also homeschool parents. The NCHE Blog offers insight into hot topics in home education in real time. NCHE online support groups are an easy way to talk through homeschool life with other homeschool families.
Yes, new families can learn so much from the NCHE community, but they also have a lot to offer the existing homeschool community. As you engage new homeschool families, I hope you are telling them about the value and benefits of joining NCHE—not only for what they can glean from experienced homeschoolers but for what experienced homeschoolers can glean from them. Letting new homeschoolers know that you believe that they have something valuable to bring to our community is a major reason that people feel welcomed. It is also a serious boost to their confidence. The impact of different families coming together for a united purpose and to focus on what we have in common is needed in our culture more than ever.
As much as things have changed in the last thirty-five years of the modern home education movement, or in the last year, some principles are unchanging. Family friendships have always been crucial to the health of the homeschool community, and they always will be. Friendship is organic. It is living. It must be nurtured and tended. It’s always growing, and there is a wide variety! Making new friends takes time. It can be awkward to invite people you do not know very well to join you in your homeschool journey, but it’s worth it. And it’s necessary. We have to be willing to step outside of our comfort zones if we are going to grow.
When co-ops and field trips return this fall, there will be so many new families to befriend. I hope you are looking for them. My friend and her husband will be two of those new faces; they decided to homeschool this year! I send my friend regular texts to ask how she’s doing or if she needs anything, and I hope she will also be welcomed by you in other homeschool groups. Here’s the kicker—my children and I checked out the new curriculum my friend introduced to me, and we liked it so much that we decided to use it in our own homeschool next year—first year homeschooler for the win! And, I learned something new—so veteran homeschooler for the win! When we listen to one another and learn together, we all win.
“Good friends will help you until you’re un-stuck.”
Sarah Hicks is a teacher. She is grateful for and indebted to the homeschool pioneers who welcomed her to the home education community over a decade ago. She enjoys helping others learn about the rich history of home educators.