Monday, May 05, 2014

Inquisition Monday: Homeschool Classes

Last week I got this question.

I follow your blog and was wondering how you found out about all the cool classes Margaret is in.
This is kind of a big question because I find out about classes in lots of different ways and all due to community. We're lucky that we live in a large metropolitan area. More people = more homeschoolers in the area = more classes/groups/support.

When I first wanted to connect with the homeschooling community, I did a general search for homeschool groups in Oakland, and a search for Yahoo groups in the Bay Area. If I were searching now, I'd probably increase my search to Google groups, Meetup, and Facebook Groups.

With my initial search for Yahoo groups, I found like 5 various Bay Area ones. There's a lot of overlap between them all, but they all seemed fairly active and so I signed up for the emails. Through those initial yahoo groups, I get emails from other homeschoolers who are sharing classes that their kids are in. It's actually a lot of email, but I skim it for "Oakland" or "Berkeley" or other close cities and ignore the rest. I you are in the Bay Area, there are a lot of homeschoolers in the South Bay and Peninsula. I see "San Jose" and "Santa Clara" listed a lot.

It's through those yahoo groups that I found the Lego classes that Margaret took.

Also, as I go through those emails, I note if there is a cool class, but it's offered to an age or grade level above where we're at. If it's run by a company (for example, the Lego classes were by Play-well), I go to their site and "pin" them to a Pinterest board, noting the age/grade level. That way, when my kids get bigger, I have places to look for other interesting classes.

In the midst of the initial search for homeschool groups, I found 3* groups that meet in the Oakland area for park days. I tried each out and chose one to keep going to based on distance from my house and day of the week.

I started going to our homeschool park group years ago. My kids made friends with other kids and I also hear about homeschool classes through word of mouth. For example, I discovered Hacker Scouts/Curiousity Hacked because it was founded by one of the moms in the homeschool park group we attend. She advertised it in a few of the Yahoo groups, too. This is also how I've found out about the California Academy of Sciences homeschool days. Check out museums to see if they host homeschool days!

California Academy of Sciences Homeschool Day!
Another really great resource for homeschooling connections is the HomeSchool Association of California. It has a page about how to legally homeschool in California, and that's how I found about charter schools with independent study programs. Then with that knowledge, I asked around to my park group and found out which people used those and the pros/cons of signing up with different schools. We chose a school that gives less money, but doesn't require as much busywork as another. There is even another school that gives even less money than ours, but to make up for that, they have a very strong community and offer cheaper classes through the school. In California, you are limited to charter schools that are in your own county or are in a county adjacent to your county, so I think we have just those 3 charter school options.

Through the park day group, I found out what other kids with the same charter school were doing and that's how we got Margaret in clay classes. She got to be with her park day friends and use similar funding amounts.

If you can find your state's homeschool coalition, they may have information about ways to homeschool and you might find resources like that. Or they may link to emails of people who are involved with local groups.

Another great way is to go out in public and run into other families who have kids at the store/park/post office/etc during school hours. I haven't found a lot of people that way, but I've come across one or two.

Lastly, I found her Waldorf Kindergarten class through our neighborhood email list when one of our neighbors was looking for more kids for a class. Our neighborhood has both a Yahoo group and a Nextdoor group.

Another way is to start your own classes or ask someone. I imagine if I wanted my kids to do a bike maintenance class, I could ask a local bike shop if they would do something for a class. I've seen other homeschool parents set up fire station field trips and science museum classes that way.

As I write this, I see how long this is and it might look like it's a lot of work do to that. But really, I just put my feelers out there- sign up for all the email lists, get connected with my community. I don't read everything- just skim for key words. I always read the library's newsletter for events and check community bulletin boards. And things come my way. It's just about being aware of events.

Search out classes like this:

  • Yahoo/Google/Meetup/Facebook homeschool groups
  • Local museum homeschool days
  • Your state's homeschool coalition
  • Libraries/bulletin boards
  • Social media- search Twitter or Pinterest for #homeschool or #yourcity'sname 
  • Make your own

I hope that helps! Really, finding the local park day group has been the best resource because from there I hear about the state coalition and charter schools and other community events.

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