In five years of homeschooling, I’ve seen a lot of homeschool groups. Co-ops, playgroups, field trip groups, interest-based groups (science, nature, art, history, music, particular sports, etc.), moms’ support groups, and online groups.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about homeschool groups, it’s that homeschool groups are either growing, or dying. If it looks like stagnation, you’re just watching a slow death.
Sometimes it’s been frustrating to watch a really great group fizzle out, or a group with high potential just never take off. It happens to so many groups that I’ve come to see it as part of the natural cycle of groups.
Every homeschool group experiences churn. Member turnover. Even very well-established groups need to bring in new people. It’s normal to have new people coming to a group and old people leaving. We left some groups that were perfectly fine because they just didn’t work out for us. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it was just random things like the group changing its meeting day, or I had to change my work schedule and couldn’t make it any more on the regular day. Sometimes we just had something else to do that day. Or, I got tired of driving really far to get to the group.
Your group will not stay well established if you don’t welcome new people and incorporate them into your group dynamic. You probably don’t want new people changing your group dynamic a whole lot…you just want them to fit into your existing dynamic.
So…that’s a big problem with existing groups…how to attract new people who will fit into the existing dynamic.
Then you have new groups who are trying to get off the ground. You don’t even have a group dynamic yet, but you can have a vision of what you’d like it to be.
So…new groups have a similar problem…how to attract new people who will help create the dynamic you want.
This is the part where I start praising the person who I will call “The Diane.” She’s a bundle of all the Dianes and Diannas and Deannas that I’ve ever known. Have you ever known a shy Diane/Dianna/Deanna? I’m sure there’s one out there, but I’ve never met her.
The Diane doesn’t have to actually be named Diane, of course. But, whatever her name is, she’s got to embody the spirit of The Diane.
Every successful group that I have seen has at least one person who acts as The Diane. If you don’t have someone filling that role, you end up with new people who feel rejected.
The Diane is outgoing. When your group is at a park and it’s open for new people to join, The Diane is the one who can spot people looking around. She marches over and introduces herself and the group. She probably introduces all of the rest of the people in the group, too.
The Diane is the one who has a strong understanding the group dynamic. She is clear about what the group is for, and what it is not for. She’s not mean about it, but if you don’t fit in the group, The Diane is going let you know. Did you come to a group for high school kids, but your children are ages 2-5? The Diane is going to chat you up, then suggest an alternative group. “You might love that other group,” The Diane says, “they’ve got lots of kids.” Or maybe your children are attending virtual public school, and you want to join a co-op. “We can’t allow public school students to attend our co-op,” The Diane explains firmly, “we’re not judging you for educational choices, we just think it’s a liability issue.” The Diane doesn’t mess around, but she’s not mean. She’s got tact.
One thing is certain: The Diane is vital to the group. If the group only has one person who is The Diane, and The Diane leaves, then your group will eventually die. Quickly or slowly…it’s on its way out.
If you’re in a group you love and want to keep going, and The Diane is missing…then one of you needs to step up to the plate and fake it. Be The Diane. We’re not all cut out to be The Diane for very long, so if your group loses The Diane, look for a new one. There aren’t that many Dianes in the homeschooling world, so treasure the ones you have.
Sometimes you can’t replace a Diane that quickly, and your group falls apart. Or you keep trying groups but there are no Dianes there, so you feel awkward and it’s not working out. Or you’re desperate to have a group, so you keep starting groups that fail because you are not a Diane and you can’t find one to help you. Don’t despair! There are socialization alternatives. Try these 13 HOMESCHOOL SOCIALIZATION IDEAS.