What does come to mind when you think of the "average" homeschool family? Do you think of the family with 12 children driving around in a church van? Which by the way there is nothing wrong with driving : ) Or do think of the family with 2 children one boy, one girl, mom stays at home while dad goes to work? Do you think the family must have a lot of money to homeschool? Do you think that they homeschool because they live in an area where the school are bad?
The truth is there is no "average" homeschool family. The face of homeschooling has changed over the years of the homeschooling movement and is growing by leaps and bounds. There are many different types of homeschool families. We have what people consider the more traditional family with 1-3 children with the mom staying home and the day going to work. We have the larger families with 5 or more children and some even larger families with more than 10. There are homeschool families where both parents work. There are families who homeschool that the dad stays home and the mom works. There are single mothers who work and homeschool. There are grandparents who are raising grandchildren and homeschooling or even aunts and uncles sometimes. There are blended families with step-children homeschooling.
In addition to all of these different types of homeschooling families, there are also so many different methods and teaching ideas that make each homeschool family unique. Some follow traditional classroom type education. Some follow a classical education. Others may do unit studies or use a literature based curriculum. You also may have eclectic homeschoolers, unschoolers, and those who do online schooling.
With so many different types of homeschoolers with different needs, it can be hard to find your place in a homeschooling group. While many groups will welcome any new homeschoolers, some are very specific as to who can join. Even in the groups that welcome everyone, it can be hard to find one that offers activities and support that fits your schedule and priorities in your homeschool.
Before deciding to become part of a group, contact one of the leaders of the group and ask questions. What kind of activities do they offer? What ages are allowed to participate? How often do they meet? Do they have meetings for the moms and the children? Where are they held? Is there a fee involved in joining the group? Are younger non-school age children welcome? What is the belief system and goals of the group?What are the requirements to join? Can you visit a meeting or activity before paying (if there is a fee)? How many families are involved in the group? What are the average ages of the children? Also, if there are any special needs for your specific family situation or one or more of your children you need to ask about those as well. For example if your child needs to be in a wheel chair is the place/places activities will be held handicap accessible.
Many groups also have websites or facebook pages that you can check out. This can give you a visual picture of the types of activities and field trips and rules/membership requirements of the group.
Do you have to be involved in a homeschool group to successfully homeschool? No. Homeschool groups can be a great way for homeschooled children to do activities, field trips, and have cooperative learning experiences as well as a way for homeschooling parents (grandparents, aunts, etc..) to get the support that they need. But, there are many, many ways to participate in fun, educational activities (4 H is a big one for our family) without having to be a part of a homeschool group. And there are lots of ways you can find and get support and encouragement (like reading homeschool blogs!) without having to be a part of a group. Also, many times if you can find a few like minded homeschool friends that want to get together for activities and field trips or just have a play date, you can do these things without having to have an organized group.