I’ve invited seasoned homeschooling mom, Caroline Collie, to share how women’s ministry leaders can provide extra support to the increasing number of homeschooling families this fall. – Cyndee
Life can throw us a few curve balls at the same time. Am I right?
Back in 2013, my husband and I had a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and a four-month-old, and I unexpectedly lost my Dad. While in the throes of settling his estate, another big curveball came flying our way: We felt confident we were being called to homeschool our kids.
With zero friends in my small town planning to homeschool, I had to learn the ropes on my own – fast.
This global pandemic has thrown a similar curveball at millions of families around the world, and many are responding by choosing to educate their kids at home this fall.
So what can we do as leaders and ministers to serve this growing population of families for whom school will be happening at the breakfast table this fall?
A Trend on the Rise
The National Home Education Research Institute reported that there were about 2.5 million homeschool students in the United States in 2019. That’s about 4% of school-aged children.
The elephant in the room: those numbers are likely to skyrocket as parents are forced to choose between the complicated risks of in-person learning, the frustrations of screen-based distance-learning, and the new set of challenges presented by homeschooling behind Door #3.
As a lay minister and homeschooling Mom of four, I have some ideas to empower you to think about how your church or ministry can serve homeschooling families well. And great news: many of them might cost you little more than a change of mind and an open door.
Six Simple Ways to Serve Homeschooling Families This Fall
1. Include homeschooling kids “just like everybody else.”
If you’re talking about a back-to-school event, small shifts in your language choices can make homeschooled kids feel included. Some kids are excited about doing school at home. Others feel a great loss that back-to-school looks so different this year.
If your church offers free school supplies at back-to-school time, welcome homeschooled kids to the table, too. When you’re praying for kids at the beginning of the school year, use words like “Kids going back to school or starting a new year of school at home…” so that both groups feel included.
A friend shared that her minister had prayed specifically for homeschool kids when praying for kids going back to school one year: “I’ve only had this happen once for my children, and they really noticed and appreciated it!”
2. Take Childcare into Consideration
When I began homeschooling, I couldn’t participate in events during the day unless they included childcare. Suddenly all the Moms of my son’s former preschool classmates seemed so free, and I felt hard-pressed and isolated.
Moms with older students often face a common struggle: they want to attend an event, but their fifth-grader does not want to be in the nursery with babies and toddlers. Consider opening a separate room for older students where they can bring schoolwork or play. If a high school-aged homeschooler is available to keep an eye on them, that can be a fantastic win/win!
Childcare can be a costly and difficult aspect of hosting an event. Know that those few precious hours each week give a homeschooling Mama who is with her children all day, every day a break. They are a huge gift to her weary soul.
3. Think About Homeschooling Moms When You Plan Events
Along those lines, remember that, especially in middle and high school years, homeschool Moms often have lots of schoolwork to do with their kids and don’t have the flexibility to attend weekly events during school hours. An early morning or evening offering can be a big gift.
4. Consider Older Homeschooled Kids
People sometimes assume homeschool families want to be isolated. In most cases, homeschooling Moms are hoping for their students – especially older ones – to find opportunities to learn and grow outside the home. Ask an older homeschool student to help in the nursery at the weekly women’s Bible study. Let a homeschooled high student help in the church office for a few hours a week. If there are a handful of homeschooled teens or tweens in your church, I guarantee there will be at least one among them with the tech skills to run your Sunday slide show like a pro.
5. Create a Unique Space for Homeschool Connections
Another friend led a ministry created specifically to encourage homeschooling Moms. Once a month, on Friday mornings, her church opened up their gym for homeschooled kids to play and have fun together, while the Moms met for a time of encouragement and fellowship. For some of those Moms, that was one of only a few connections they had outside their home other than church on Sunday morning.
Creating something specifically for homeschooling families is a beautiful way to say, “We see you. You are a part of the church, and you matter.”
6. Open the Doors… Wide
After a couple of years of homeschooling on my own, I spent a year participating in a homeschooling community called Classical Conversations. The community was a huge gift to our family, but the location was about an hour away, so it was difficult to feel like we could create lasting relationships (i.e., schedule additional playdates) during the week. I decided to start my own CC community in my little town, and my church was immediately, hands-down, graciously willing to hand me a key and let our group meet there.
When our group grew too large for the number of classrooms at my small church, another church in the community opened wide their doors — and their big, long hallway of Sunday school classes that are not in use Monday through Friday.
That one day a week where homeschool kids get to learn and play together, and homeschool Moms get to connect and encourage one another is a lifeline. Churches around the country have been willing to open their doors to homeschool communities like ours — many doing so absolutely free of charge — and I can’t say enough about how much the willingness to share speaks to love and unity in the body of Christ.
Homeschoolers cannot connect without a space to meet.
Before your church says a quick “No way” to the Mom at the other end of the phone asking about a space to meet, know this: I was that Mom when we outgrew the space my church had to offer. I prayed and prayed and called church after church, and I got some pretty abrupt no’s before I finally heard a yes.
Homeschooling families do not need to be seen as a “problem” or a competing ministry at odds with the church. Many homeschooling parents see their efforts as a calling and a ministry and long to raise children who will serve God, be leaders, and influencers for Christ around the world.
We are on the same team!
The church does not need to take an official stance on homeschooling to love and welcome homeschooling families.
Like me, many homeschooling parents are responding to a deeply personal calling and trying to educate their children well while facing the challenges of family members and a society that thinks it’s a strange choice to make. (To put it mildly.) A little acceptance can go a long way!
Also, like me, many homeschooling parents are believers who have a strong desire to grow their children up in an atmosphere of faith, with a firm understanding of the Gospel.
Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 NKJV
If you’re not sure how to dive in, the absolute best way to move forward is to ask questions. Ask for a show of hands of homeschool Moms at your next ministry meeting. Or, hop on social media and ask questions like these:
- Homeschool families, how can we serve you this fall?
- Homeschooling Moms, in what ways might the church be helpful to you this year?
- Homeschoolers! The church is considering opening our doors for a once-a-month meet-up to let the kids play together while the Moms have a time for fellowship. Comment if you’d be interested in attending an event like this!
As Mother Teresa put it, “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love…The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.”
Speaker, Writer, Homeschooling Mom
Caroline Collie is a homeschooling Mom of four kids born on three different continents. She is married to her South African Hero Hubs, Mark, loves Jesus and dark chocolate (in that order), and writes to encourage people on journeys toward deeper faith at carolinecollie.com. She is currently offering an online course called How to Crush it as a Newbie Homeschooler to serve families who’ve had homeschooling suddenly thrust upon them this fall.