Fall is here, school beginnings are over and our homeschools are (hopefully) humming in a sort-of smooth routine now. Did you connect with other homeschooling families the way you hoped you would? And did your park days pan out and create meaningful, lasting friendships for your kids? Chances are, it's a little too early to tell.
But don’t fret. The seeds of friendship you planted in summer will definitely bloom if you keep at it. Fall is a good time to join in on the last big bursts of gathering before winter sets in. It often takes continued interactions with new acquaintances for our friendships to become more deeply established.
Here are a few tips to help you as you enjoy autumn in Utah before winter hits. Several of these come from a presentation I shared with my fellow HHU director, Anna Mock, in our May 2022 workshop of “How to Build a Community Around Your Family’s Needs.”
Forge Your Own Path
Part of creating a homeschool that works for you and your family is knowing what is coming up. A homeschool year has different rhythms depending on the season. If you’re new to homeschooling or new to homeschooling in Utah, here’s a heads up on how fall and the lead up to winter often look in Northern Utah for my family. (If you’re in Central and Southern Utah, please add your insights in the comments below!)
During the fall season, you are going to see a last big rush to hold large group gatherings outdoors. Pumpkin patches and hayrides will fill your month if you allow them to. Last minute Night Games, Mom’s Night Outs, Halloween and let's just include a few winter activities to look forward to: Christmas parties as well as campfires are total possibilities. Some moms will start asking around on Facebook or on their local email group or Groupme chat if there are families interested in creating a LEGO, board game or slime class to meet their kids’ social needs during the winter after this last big push of fair weather fall get togethers.
As an aside, it is very possible that your area is not accustomed to holding these events in your area, or perhaps, the previous generation of homeschoolers is moving on and there are less activities in your area. Homeschool Hub Utah is here to help you with finding and creating events for your area. Please reach out to us at email@example.com if this is you. We have resources and experienced homeschoolers in your area who would like to meet you and who would like to help!
But Wait, Let me Back Up!
Yeah, that’s enough mention about winter. We’ll get there soon enough, that’s fodder for a future blogpost. Let’s talk some more about fall and opportunities for building friendships right now.
What needs does your family still have for this school year? Does one child still lack a close friend? Does another child desire opportunities to hang out and learn math with like-minded buddies? Do you as a parent need to connect with other homeschooling parents?
Many families have different needs at different levels. The way to meet these needs can start small, such as looking or creating within your family or neighborhood. Perhaps your 5 yo daughter wants a dance class and you know her cousin of a similar age would love to learn with her. Or perhaps there are a lot of other boys and girls her age in the neighborhood who might want to join in if you were to propose a class.
Maybe you need a larger friend group for your 8 yo son who doesn’t make friends easily, or for your teenager who is a social butterfly and the more friends the merrier. In our case, my husband has begun working from home and, while he considers himself a homeschooler of 5 years, he doesn't know one single homeschooling dad. He needed a greater connection, and for him, it came in the form of a larger group.
Larger groups can be found or created as a club or as a larger community event, ranging from simple to complex events. Another example from my experience? Maybe your son wants to ice skate but that’s not something you do as a family due to your spouse’s back troubles. That’s the perfect opportunity to join or set up a youth ice skating event for your area.
And thankfully, as my friend Rebecca Stromsdorfer likes to say, we are “managers of our children’s education," and we can find an opportunity that already exists, or, if you have the drive for it, you can also create an opportunity to meet your family’s needs.
Find an opportunity
In our day and age, Google has trained us parents in the basic ways of finding nearby events. A simple Google search, however, will not necessarily yield the results you’re wanting since homeschoolers tend to be a more private bunch.
However, I’m a professional would-be-researcher, so you’re in luck.
The following is a typical route I would follow to identify opportunities near me for what I’m looking for. The most obvious way to find something is to talk to friends who are well connected. If you have that outlet, by all means, go that route! The following route is for those poor souls, like me, who are not well connected and so we need to scour the internet as much as possible to find the one thing we need so we don’t have to create it ourselves!
In Person Events and Classes
[Shameless plug]: HHU Marketplace page for your region. Many businesses and providers are submitting their information for classes, programs, professional services and more to our website so you can find what you need much easier.
A general event search on Facebook.
All possible FB groups that encompass your area. You’d be surprised how many local events for your area are advertised in a large FB group like Utah Homeschoolers Network.
All local libraries' events pages. For example, I recently discovered that the Uintah County library has a homeschooler group that meets regularly at the library!
Events webpage for your area. Search by both county and city. Don’t forget to search nearby cities, as well. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with in an area where you thought nothing was going on. UtahValley.com, NowPlayingUtah.com, VisitSaltLake.com, DavisCountyUtah.com, Explorelogan.com, VisitCedarCity.com, SGCity.org, etc.
Recreation Center Calendars. This one might be a surprise to many, but in more rural areas, as well as a few more developed areas, the recreation centers provide spaces and classes for homeschoolers. For example, homeschoolers in Fillmore, Utah have a regular swim day at their local recreation center. Many families who lived in the adjoining area had no idea this existed and were so happy to learn about it! Don’t miss these opportunities! (BTW, this event is not listed on the Rec Center's calendar. Be sure to ask the desk attendants if they know of any homeschool activities that happen there.)
Online Events and Classes
In our post-Covid age, doubtless you know of so many online options now for your kids. Let me mention, however, a few you may not have heard about.
Udemy.com, Skillshare.com and Coursera.com. These are the adult versions of Outschool.com, classes for adults to teach serious skills. I have benefitted from these, as well as many teens who know what they want to learn and are willing to dive in.
Writing Classes: IEW.com, NightZooKeeper.com, Bravewriter.com. Teaching writing can be daunting and challenging. Many homeschool parents I’ve spoken with love these live programs.
Outschool.com. I can't mention this in passing if you haven't heard of it. My kids have found classes they were needing on here when I just couldn't provide the same thing for them at home. We found a LEGO master on here when my sons just needed some expert teaching.
Create an Opportunity
So you didn’t find what you wanted. So, create it. And do it on a scale that you feel comfortable with. Invite a few friends. Post your specific details to a homeschool group. And create it to fit your needs. Keep these tips in mind:
Balance Kids’ Interests & Yours: Plan something that both of you are interested in.
Get Firm Commitments: Ask parents to commit something, either $, time or resources, so they stay involved.
Team up: Know your limits and ask for a parent to assist or to co-plan with you.
Extend Personal Invites: I find phone calls to close associates and friends make the biggest difference. If you can’t call, a personal text is almost as good, and sometimes better if they have lots of littles.
Plan What Matters; Leave the Rest
Record their Contact Info Right Away: I have lost several opportunities because I forgot to record their phone number or email right away. Don’t make my mistake!
So, if these tips have inspired you to create, I want to pass on a spreadsheet that I received from a generous homeschool leader in my area, Heather Wiseman, who kindly taught me through example how to organize a largescale homeschool event. Here’s the link. And if you have questions on how to utilize it, please reach out and we can talk.
Enjoy Fall! And may it be as pleasant as possible for you and yours!
Britany Sproul was a teacher for three years before she felt called to try homeschooling. Without knowing the "why" behind it, she plunged in with both feet—and quickly discovered her young family's need for community while homeschooling. Since then, she has helped found the Lighthouse School co-op, led several clubs around her kids' passions (Pokémon, Lego STEM, Robotics, and more), and organized various community events for homeschoolers. She currently serves as Co-Executive Director of Homeschool Hub Utah.