By Renée Gotcher
This weekend I attended my first board meeting for our local homeschool support group, Homeschoolers of Castle Rock. I recently accepted the board positions of Membership Coordinator and Web Admin (yes, I’m a perpetual volunteer), and with a few other board members besides myself transitioning on and off the board, it was time for a critical meeting of the minds over coffee.
If you’ve read my blog posts before, you might remember that I just started homeschooling last year. So you might be wondering, how does a newbie homeschooler make a valuable contribution to the administration of a homeschool group supporting 50-plus families?
I asked myself that very same question. After all, the board was composed of veteran homeschooling mothers who’ve homeschooled some or all of their children from the start — some have already graduated several students! What could I possibly add to the wealth of wisdom already being provided so gracefully by these women?
True, I’m a homeschool graduate, so I was slightly ahead of the curve. But as I mentioned in a recent post, I didn’t feel remotely equipped to be a successful homeschooler. I leaned heavily on these wise women in the summer months leading up to our first homeschooling year. And I honestly do not know where I would have ended up had they not graciously taken me under their wing and patiently mentored me throughout that first year.
Don’t they remember how our conversations were peppered with my constant questions? Didn’t they see me at every monthly meeting, hungry for more information and lingering until we were kicked out of the library? Did they miss the clues that I needed them much more than they probably needed me?
Yet they asked me anyway. And although I was initially insecure about accepting such key responsibilities, I agreed. So this Saturday, I found myself seated around the table with these wise women, hashing out important group agenda items for the remainder of this school year, and wondering what — if anything – I could contribute to the conversation.
No surprise to me, one of the biggest issues on the agenda was how to best meet the diverse needs of our group without adding yet another coordinator of something. As it is, our group is low on volunteers this year (shedding some light on the question of why I was asked!) and composed of fairly independent families who are happy to do their own thing and plug in when the activity suits them. Yet there still exists a need to provide a backbone of support through avenues like field trips, guest speakers, an interactive Web community, and occasional enrichment opportunities.
When you think about it, homeschool support group is a bit of an oxymoron: We choose to homeschool so that we can independently make decisions about our children’s education, and yet we inherently desire the support of others to inform, encourage and assist us.
In today’s homeschooling world, that support ranges from one extreme to the other. You can join a support group that almost takes the place of a traditional school (with shared curriculum, co-op teaching, etc.), or you can join an umbrella group that simply keeps your paperwork on file for state legal requirements. Or depending on where you live, you may not have to join anything: You can simply file notice to your school district, and you’re on your own from there.
Our group falls somewhere in the middle: We don’t require anything of families that join, other than filling out an application (so we can verify that they are indeed a homeschooling family) and paying a nominal fee for a year of access to the resources on our Web site and any activities we host. As such, we tend to attract families who appreciate that level of independence — and as a result, needs don’t always match up with necessary volunteers. Is it even possible to make everyone happy in such a diverse group, with so few willing to take an active role in the solutions?
This is a question that isn’t easily answered in an afternoon over coffee and snacks. In fact, I’m not quite sure that it’s something we can ever address to the total satisfaction of every family in our group.
However one thing did become clear to me that day. I know that through this small group of willing women, we will continue to fill the most important support role: Mentorship. As long as we have Godly women like these caring board members available — women who are willing to open their hearts and share the ups and downs of their homeschooling journey with newbies like me or veterans who are struggling — we can meet the most critical need of homeschooling moms.
Last year when I joined this group, I thought I needed information and activities. But what I really needed was a mentor. It wasn’t enough to find answers to all my pressing questions and concerns — though much of the advice I received was invaluable. I needed camaraderie. I needed a community I could belong to in this new world of homeschooling. And I feel eternally grateful to have found exactly what I needed in our group. No field trip or guest speaker could have given me the confidence I have today.
Now that my cup has been filled, it’s my turn to be “poured out” for others. I look forward to seeing how God will use me in these roles, and I am honored to have the opportunity to pass it on!
— Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She currently resides in Castle Rock, Colorado.