Pragmatic homeschool parents spend a lot of time thinking about "socialization." Concerns about ensuring children know how to "get along" with non-family members can motivate parents to sign up for co-ops as much as academic ambitions.
But here's the thing: some co-ops and traditional homeschool learning communities are challenging for some working parents.
Co-op and other learning group organizers usually expect a parent to always be in attendance, and some may turn away substitutes like grandparents or nannies.
This topic came up today in a conversation today and, to be honest, I'd never really thought about it much. I mean, I work from home but my work is also portable, for the most part. Yet some working homeschool parents find themselves needing to stay in an office or business and must rely upon someone else to do the shuttling and to help manage school work. (That's a common solution, in fact, as mentioned here.)
On the one hand, I understand organizers wanting to have a parent on hand to supervise kids and keep trouble-making behavior to a minimum during class time. On the other, I think there's a conflict at root here between old school homeschoolers (primarily faith-based folks who believe parents should be hands on with education) and new school homeschoolers (a mix of faith-based and secular parents who, for whatever reason, need to keep working).
In large metro areas with a vibrant, diverse array of options for homeschoolers, exclusion from one group is just an excuse to find (or start) another one. But for families out in rural and small-town America this could be tough to take because it feels a bit judgmental, even if it's not intended as such.
It's no big secret that some homeschool communities can be insular and prone to "icing out" questions and objections from newcomers. This makes it harder for dialogue and progress. And that's truly unfortunate because, as our child matures, I'm finding common ground--as a working homeschooler--with moms who are ready to go back to work.
Surely there's room for growth here? A way to nurture strong communities, good academics, and learning spaces where parents with diverse needs can be included?
For working parents who find themselves in the situation of being excluded, you'll have to take a hard look at the motives for group participation in search of alternative options. Academics may be addressed via online curriculum or classes and social opportunities can be found in play groups, churches, and even eclectic choices like game nights at comic book stores.
For existing groups who'd like to open up options for parents who must work, it might be worthwhile to revisit the "whys" of the rules that exclude participation. Rather than just keeping things the same, consider getting input from members on what might make for some middle-ground solutions. (SurveyMonkey.com is a handy tool for this, especially if you want to collect data from members anonymously.)
I'd really love to hear from more people with different perspectives on this topic.
Drop a note in comments if you'd like.
Pamela Price is the author of How to Work and Homeschool (GHF Press, 2013). Find and follow How to Work and Homeschool on Facebook.