Mentoring and support groups are a great way to meet other homeschoolers in your area. They give parents an opportunity to ask questions and get answers from reliable sources. These groups have a variety of different children who are different ages. Therefore, the parents of such children are able to mentor new mothers or fathers in their next step if they need any help. Will and Sue enthusiastically recommended the mentors they and their children had had throughout their homeschooling journey:
When going about on different camps or outings, the other parents really do become mentors to the children and that’s really valuable and is the beginning of a relationship that extends into the children’s lives. Mentoring can be a tremendously important when they go off to study or move away from home, to have these stable adult contacts in their lives year after year, who are interested in their lives. Mentors are there if they need help, advice, wisdom, prayer support or whatever it is. It’s a relationship of trust. Its’ been a support for us and an encouragement for our kids to have these other people. They’re all very different, but they’re all able to contribute in their own way. To have that continuity is special. For instance, we held Jono when he was a baby, and now Jono is married and he has babies of his own.
Veteran homeschool parents in home groups find themselves becoming mentors to new homeschool families. As a new homeschooler, and one that wishes to continue homeschooling without burning out, it is vitally important to become involved in a home group, as these are the basis of training and support in the home. Experienced homeschool parents take a role in educating and initiating new families into the routines of life as a homeschooler. For instance, if parents are not sure what to do for high school, another parent/s in these groups may suggest helpful ideas or explain how they did it. In Canberra, for instance, there is a secular group (Home Education Network Canberra and Southern Tablelands or HENCAST) and a Christian group (Christian Home Education Canberra or CHEC). This is just the beginning of the groups available, especially with the advent of Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites.
Homeschooled children also benefit by the influence of older mentors in their lives. These mentors can often be a generation or two older. They can be grandparents, friends or other homeschooling parents whom the homeschooled children spend time with. When asked if he had any mentors, homeschool student, Ben replied:
Yes, I did, especially when it came to building. I have three or four friends now who are 60 years old and onwards. Some have even passed on now. They taught me heaps and heaps. I spent a lot of time in people’s garages, tinkering away with a bird cage and all kinds of things. The mentors sat and spent their time with me. The grandparents were also pretty good. I spent a lot of time in the shed doing metal work… welding up bits of tractors and things like that as a child. My parents would be inside with the grandmother while I was spending time in the garage with granddad.
Homeschooling magazines and website are also other great and supportive resources. The Home Education Network Otherways Magazine gives parent’s a great opportunity for encouragement and advice in their homeschooling journey. Each issue is delivered quarterly in the mail (or alternately it can be downloaded online). Subscribers can also access all back issues printed. These publications are great for answering the plethora of questions the homeschool mum or dad has, as well as raising other issues close to their heart.
Facebook groups are a great way to ask experienced and fellow homeschooling parent’s questions. For instance, the last three posts in the ‘Homeschool Australia’ forum group I participated in have been:
o Can anyone recommend movies based on historical events? Preferably Australian but not too bothered. – 51 responses
o My 12yr old has totally thrown his sleep cycle out of whack. Today he didn’t go to sleep until 8am. So not much learning is being done because when I’m asleep he is awake and when I am awake he is asleep. How can I fix this? – 27 responses
o Just wondering what outcomes I can meet with a hip hop workshop my 12yr old, year 6 son is doing? It involves composing a beat, adding extra instruments to it, writing a song and performing it. He also does hip hop dancing, aboriginal dancing and learning about the history of rap/hip hop music. – 4 responses
The range of questions, as can be seen, are as wide-ranging and frank as can be. Many parents would discover the answer to their own questions via these forums. This particular group has over 2800 members and is closely monitored by a few administration members who ensure the group stays on topic. Most groups in Australia are closed groups, and require prospective members to tell the administration a little about themselves before they join, in order that vandals or anti-homeschooling activists do not join.