Are you a homeschool family living in a small town? Are you a homeschool family living in a small town without access to a homeschool co-ops or group field trips? Do you feel alone because there are few if any other homeschooling families nearby? If you answered yes to any of these questions…welcome to my world!
I live in a small town in Kentucky. I am at least 1 hour from the closest shopping mall and 35 miles from even the closest Wal*Mart. There are no homeschooling co-ops near me and the other homeschooling families in the area keep to themselves. Did I mention that I’m very much an extrovert? Put this all together and let’s just say that this makes our homeschooling experience…interesting.
I admit it. I get jealous of my homeschooling friends posting photos of homeschooling co-op events, science fairs, group field trips and all those events that include families other than their own! What an awesome thing that must be to have access to something like that. At this time it’s not something that I am able to call my own. We can’t get together with other homeschooling families, because they just aren’t available.
So what do I do? I mean, how am I going to promote building social skills with other children, when there aren’t any other children around? How do I keep sane when I’m stuck here in the country day in and day out without viable options to spend time with other homeschooling moms????
1. Maximize Library Time
Our library is just 10 minutes away from our home and we have a Storytime every single Friday. This is our weekly chance to see other children. My oldest is older than all of the children that attend but he still enjoys it and he is very good with the other children and helps them as needed. My youngest is the same age as several of the other children and he enjoys having his library “friends”. We visit the library a lot. Even if you don’t live near a library, see if you can plan a regular trip. Find out if they have any programs for children. I enjoy trips to the library–they are like mom field trips!
2. Make Use of Social Media
Social media gets a lot of bad rap and it is easy to forget the pros of having the “world” at your fingertips. The greatest thing that I have learned is that social media makes it easier for homeschoolers to find each other. Whether living in the urban or rural areas, we all need to feel connected. No one understands homeschoolers like other homeschoolers. There are many groups on Facebook devoted to homeschooling. Homeschooling magazines like The Old Schoolhouse Magazine have Facebook pages you can follow and get all kinds of information pertinent to homeschooling families. Google + is another way to find homeschoolers. Blogging is another method of networking that is rich with information. There are some amazing homeschooling bloggers out there who really help encourage me in this path that our family has chosen. I have been incredibly blessed with some amazing opportunities to connect through social media with hundreds of other homeschooling families. While we have never met, we are all linked because we all experience the trials and triumphs of homeschooling.
3. Sign Up for Online classes and Webinars
There are some amazing resources out there for connecting to other studnets via online classes and webinars. Last spring, my eight year old son joined a free online Science class through Currclick.com. He had a real teacher and other students in his class, including his best friend who lives in Georgia! Knowing that he was participating WITH other children every time he logged on made him excited. We are currently joining in with weekly science webinars as part of Supercharged Science. This gives my son a “real” teacher for part of his education. I love it because not only is it great for him to learn other teaching styles, but great for me as it gives me a break from being teacher and sometimes I need that. Resources like this are invaluable in situations like rural homeschooling. I recommend Currclick.com as a starting place as they have hundreds of different subjects and a large collection of companies that offer online classes by certified teachers for reasonable prices.
4. Jump on Opportunities!
If you hear of events (through social media or blogging) where there are going to be other homeschoolers getting together, see if you can plan a way to be there too. I have learned that it’s worth the gas and time I spend to get my boys around other homeschoolers. I have a group of friends who homeschool together two hours away. They have created their own co-op of sorts. They are kind enough to let me know whenever they have a field trip coming up so that I can have the option to drive up and join them. We don’t do all of the activities, but the ones we do make a big impact on all of us. Not only do the boys enjoy being with kids their age who homeschool just like them, but I enjoy being surrounded with other homeschooling moms. We all come home refreshed and positive.
Another great opportunity is to find a way to attend a homeschooling convention. Regardless of which one you attend, it will be an incredible experience for you! I attended my first one last year and fell in love. I am eager to be at the GHC convention in Cincinnati next month! It is incredible to be surrounded by THOUSANDS of other families that are choosing the same path of education as you are. Chances are you will bump into someone else who is a rural homeschooler like you!
5. Count the Blessings
I have found that whenever I get frustrated with my location and lack of personal interaction, I have to back up and start counting my blessings. What do I have that others do not have? Let’s see. I have endless opportunities for nature studies. We can easily do astronomy when the stars shine like diamonds. Outside recess is awesome. We can include hands on subjects like gardening, animal husbandry, and other farm related subjects. I can find many other blessings from God in our homeschooling adventure. It really helps to put things into perspective and switch it from what don’t I have to what do I have.
By putting into action these five simple steps, you can make your experience in rural homeschooling a much more positive experience. It can be hard at times and yes, you might have the guilt that somehow you aren’t giving your children as good of a homeschooling experience; but, I assure you that the pros of rural homeschooling will far outweigh the cons in the long run!
Lisa McKinney has been married to the love of her life for 11 years after being transplanted from the city life in Washington state to the farm life in Kentucky. They have two amazing boys (age 8 and 3) and are relishing the country life. She enjoys bringing some of her family’s farm adventures to life on her blog Farm Fresh Adventures including posts about homeschooling, cooking, the farm and just life in general. She has a love for cooking, is a glitter junkie and a book hoarder/library stalker who dances around the kitchen to old movie musical soundtracks. The glass is absolutely half-full in her life and she thanks God for all the little things that He shares with her every day.