With my homeschool group’s graduation ceremony behind us and the NCHE Thrive! Conference beginning tomorrow, I have been reflecting on how important both of these organizations have been in my own homeschool journey. I am in awe of how abundantly God has blessed both groups, with the number of families homeschooling in North Carolina exploding since I began twenty-five years ago.
I went to my first NCHE conference in 1994, a few months before we opened our homeschool. I am thankful that the weekend convinced my hesitant husband that homeschooling wasn’t just some wacky idea I had dreamed up. It gave him the confidence for us to try it for at least a year! For the next twenty-three years, the NCHE Conference was an annual must-do on our calendar. We considered homeschooling my career, and attending the workshops each year was part of my professional development.
Occasionally, we went as a couple, but more often, we toted the whole family along with stroller, backpacks, snacks, and coloring books. A few times it was a girls’ weekend, and later it was my teens and I who enjoyed the conference together. Some years it was like drinking from a fire hose, while other years offered me dainty sips, but I never failed to receive some wisdom, encouragement, and insight that helped me homeschool my five children with more joy and confidence.
In addition to the annual conference, NCHE provided resources that helped me tremendously as a support group leader when I started Lighthouse in 1996. Back then, NCHE offered brochures and a print newsletter, as well as phone calls about pending legislation that needed our attention. Now there is a website full of free information, as well as NCHE on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The NCHEAC is one of the largest homeschool athletic conferences in the country. The Summit for Teaching Exceptional Children, Capitol Fest, and field trips are other events provided by NCHE, which is a membership organization funded by us, the homeschoolers of North Carolina. When you join NCHE, you receive immediate benefits such as discounted group admission to NCHE activities. You also contribute to a long-term benefit: keeping this organization healthy and able to promote and protect homeschooling in our state. Your investment in NCHE, along with your investment in a local support group, is part of what makes North Carolina such an attractive place for families to homeschool! Enthusiasm and success breeds more enthusiasm and success when there is a strong network of both state-wide and local support! Local homeschool support groups are an integral part of that network.
If you feel like your homeschool experience is humdrum, perhaps the missing piece is a vibrant local homeschool community! Support groups that provide things like field trips, park days, spelling bees, and sports teams help our children find friendships and joy in their homeschool experience. Academic co-ops, mentoring, transcript help and mom socials provide much needed encouragement and support for parents. Although books, blogs, and Facebook groups have their place, real relationships with people who become your homeschool community are where local support groups shine. They give us a tribe where we belong, where our children can learn and grow in a supportive community, giving experiences that wouldn’t be possible within one family. If there isn’t a group like this nearby, perhaps you can be the one to start something in your area. That is what I did twenty-three years ago, and by God’s grace, our little handful of families has grown into a thriving association of 350 families. My best friends in the world are the homeschool moms in my support group with whom we have done life for the past twenty-three years.
A strong focus on cooperation, encouragement, and support is what has helped both Lighthouse and NCHE be the strong communities of homeschoolers they are today. My first grandchild is on the way, so I am still a member of NCHE and remain involved in my local group as an advisor and mentor! Whether you are just beginning or you are an old timer like me, your participation and investment in both NCHE and your local homeschool community will ensure that homeschooling continues to thrive in North Carolina.
Beth Herbert, who has been married to husband, Mark, for thirty-seven years, lives in Wake Forest where she homeschooled their five children for twenty-three years and co-founded Lighthouse Christian Homeschool Association. Now that the children are grown, she remains active in Lighthouse as a mentor and advisor and is eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first grandbaby this fall! In addition to encouraging homeschool moms in person and online, she chairs the Carolina Capital Homeschool Prom and enjoys baking, reading, spending time with her family, and a variety of creative and artistic activities. She does not enjoy housework.