There’s no better place for a heart to wither and a mind to shrink than within the four walls that make up a home. Those four walls may be quaint and humble or they may be extravagant and luxurious, but a common bond is shared in that those four walls contain a mother and her children. It is all too easy for a homeschooling mother to feel lost and lonely there amidst the noise, love, chaos, and busyness. I have felt that lostness and loneliness before, and I’m sure you have, too, at some point. I’ve also been gripped with the fear that my children would miss out on key opportunities or heaven forbid be “messed up” if I wasn’t sure to take the proper measures to socialize them according to societal expectation. The Lord designed us to need and desire community. He knew it would help us become better people by pouring into and investing our gifts and talents into someone else and by allowing others to pour into and invest in us as well.
…and frequent change of thought, and the society of other people, make the mother all the fresher for her children. But they should have the best of their mother, her freshest, brightest hours… ~ Charlotte Mason Vol 1 p18
If you are in community already, at what lengths did you go to attain or acquire it? Have you ever sacrificed a great deal in order to have community even if that community didn’t invest back into you in the ways that you or your children needed most? Have you persevered within a community that didn’t hold the same ideals or beliefs that you had, but you just couldn’t let go because that driving force of belonging kept you there? What about that driving force of fear…has it kept you there before? I ask you these questions because they are questions I’ve asked to the girl standing in front of my mirror. I’ve had to recognize that although this homeschooling journey can seem to be a lonely road, it doesn’t have to remain that way. And it is certain that there are others in my area and in your area who feel the same way but just don’t know what to do about it. So that’s the purpose of this post. Well, two purposes really…1. To recognize your need for community and 2. What to do about it if you’re not naturally the party planner/social butterfly type.
Because I am naturally the party planner/social butterfly type, I chatted with several wall-flowers/introverts/side door gals to help me understand some things that could help equip others to “get out” there and form a community. Now, I’m not talking about starting a once a week, full day Charlotte Mason co-op unless that’s your cup of tea for a place to begin. Haha! I’m just talking about getting one or two other mommas together to start working on your “momma community” and then maybe branching out to do a Natural History Club with those moms and their children. This is exactly the thing that I’ve recently done. I’ll tell you all about that at the end of the post. It has been an answer to prayer! It wasn’t just my prayers that were answered, but those in the group said that they had been praying for the same thing…community! If you feel the little tug in your heart, do it! Go for it! The Lord will bless your efforts and obedience.
Do you know that I am extremely introverted? Holding CM meetings, going to conferences, and talking on the podcast is actually painful – at first. But then I get caught up in the flow of the extroverts and I can manage. Anyway, all that so you can encourage the introverts among us that great things can be accomplished despite this aspect of our personality. ~Nicole W.
So let’s hear from these pretty wall-flowers and see what wisdom they have to share. And even if you are extroverted, and it wouldn’t necessarily be out of your comfort zone to start a group, there are nuggets of gold for you to find here, too!
If you consider yourself “introverted”, what are some steps you took in order to get a small CM community formed in your area?
I feel like God nudged me out of my comfort zone. Everything happened very organically. I have read through several of Charlotte’s works. I was beginning to read through Volume 6 and was talking about it with two friends who didn’t know each other. Both of them were interested in reading with me, so I thought, why not do it together? Both of the ladies are Soiréers, but aren’t as active online as I am. I’m hoping to convince them to go to CMI with me! ~Amanda K.
I searched FB groups for CMers in my area, then PM’d or engaged within the group, made an event and invited. ~Jennifer B.
There was already an established CM study group, which I was a part of. But, after starting Year 1 with my oldest (twins), I realized that I was letting go of some of the things that we all loved and were staples in our Year 0 – Nature Study, Artist and Composer study, and Hymn and Folk songs. So, I ran my idea past a few of the moms in the group, then announced that I’d be starting the co-op in January (which was our Term 2 that year). ~Cherridon A.
Why did you initiate this?
I just saw a need for local CM moms to get connected in our area. Various classical methods and traditional homeschooling methods are huge here. I wanted to find other homeschooling moms I could resonate with. ~Amanda K.
I wanted connection with other CMers as well as a forum to read and discuss her volumes. ~Jennifer B.
Well, I was looking for accountability. The first term of Year 1, I was so focused on getting in the readings that I had let the riches slip by… So, I figured that If we were meeting weekly with a group, we’d be more likely to actually do them! ~Cherridon A.
With a large family with a span of ages (now 21, 19, 18, 15, 13, 11, 6) we had a lot of needs to meet. We moved often and felt the urgency to plug in quickly. I found finding homeschoolers and inviting families over to meet together regularly gave each of us a sense of belonging and helped us to not be lonely and feel isolated. Developing friendships takes time and commitment. ~Sydney D.
What led you to realize you even had a “need” for community?
I’m active in several CM groups online and have been reading and learning as much as I can. I wanted to have like minded people I could turn to in real life. ~Amanda K.
I saw that our schooling wasn’t as lovely as I wanted it to be, and that I knew it could be. I had the study group for me as Mom, but my children also needed the interaction with other like-minded families. ~Cherridon A.
What did you find challenging or difficult in reaching out to others?
I am not an extrovert, nor am I a very confident leader. Having a few ladies partner with me was huge. ~Amanda K.
Honestly, this wasn’t very difficult for me. I had the study group moms to talk with about it. They helped to spread the word to their home schooling mom friends. ~Cherridon A.
What were some things you did that proved to be successful in reaching out to others?
We had a kick off meeting in August. I knew that one of the former members of the AO Advisory lived within an hour of me. She didn’t know me at all, but I Facebooked her and asked her if she would be willing to come and speak about Charlotte Mason to us. To my surprise, she was honored and delighted!
We used the website Charlotte Mason in Community to help phrase our invitations, and then we spread the word via Facebook and the local homeschool moms email list. I had about 10-12 ladies show up at Panera to listen to a presentation about Charlotte Mason. Several others wanted to attend, but were not able. From that group, we had about 6-7 ladies who wanted to do a monthly meeting. We are utilizing Brandy Vencel’s “Start Here” study guide to study through the 20 principles laid out in Volume 6. We have a two tiered approach– some ladies are only reading “For the Children’s Sake” by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. Others are also reading relevant passages in Volume 6. It makes it so that people can study at the level they feel comfortable with.
We’ve met about three times since August– attendance dipped during the holidays, but I’m hoping that come next month everyone will be back in a groove and ready to engage. But even when there’s only 3 or 4 of us, the conversations are rich. ~Amanda K.
Surprisingly several showed up and keep showing up. I serve wine and appetizers, but I’m sure it’s CM they come for. ~Jennifer B.
Find something that you want to do with your kids (nature outing, book discussion, recitation/presentation, science experiments, Shakespeare, etc) and invite others to join. Make a short term commitment – plan to meet for 8 weeks or so… enough time to connect but not forever. Then you can decide on a plan going forward.
Keep it simple – if you meet at your home, serve water, buy or bake something or find something already in your cabinet… have everyone bring a snack to share… or have no food. Don’t worry about your house being perfect. Pick up what you can, enlist your kids to help, and welcome others into your home.
For a nature group, you could start just taking your own kids. Then invite another family or 2 and get regular about meeting, develop a core group and then open it up to more people. Or just put the invitation out there and see who comes. If you keep the times/days/location regular, the families who aren’t able to make it every week can feel comfortable being there when they can. ~Sydney B.
What would your advice be for others who are a bit apprehensive to get out of their comfort zone in order to begin a community?
Pray about it. God started to surround me with like-minded friends and it happened very organically. It was all Him. Also, I’m not a naturally organized person. I found having an outline to be helpful. Charlotte has this amazing thing in each book called “Contents” I take her detailed list and try to summarize or narrate each point as I read. This gives me an outline for what to talk about during the meeting. Of course, I want to encourage women to read Charlotte’s works for themselves, as we each select different ideas which speak to us and shape us. But it’s helped me guide and direct conversation. ~Amanda K.
It’s no biggie. I’m the #1 biggest introvert, but when we are all there for the same purpose all shyness goes away when the warm faces show up at the door. ~Jennifer B.
Just go for it! Talk to one home schooling mom friend at a time, and get their feedback on interest. Don’t worry about logistics, either…make use of free community resources! We meet at local parks for nature walks, and at the library once a month for Recitation and Handicrafts! ~Cherridon A.
We’ve been homeschooling for 17 years now and I am comfortable starting groups and opening my home but I haven’t always been. I also have found that when I am in a routine of having people over regularly my house stays cleaner. Some groups have worked better than others in various seasons of life. This year I organized a book club and it completely fell apart. Not one family could make it on the day of the event! Oh well. I will do something else another time. Meeting with/leading/working with others can be challenging because we are all sinners. Be gracious and kind and work through the difficulties and challenges. This time with other families is such a blessing in the long run. ~Sydney D.
Those were some truly wonderful things to hear! I’m confident that you can gather some ideas from what they shared and implement them into your specific situation.
I can share with you a few things that I’ve done in getting my local group started. Back last summer I told a few friends about an incredible Charlotte Mason resource, A Delectable Education podcast, and later invited them to discuss CM’s Home Education book with me at my house once a month. The ladies at ADE recommend to me that they suggest to anyone wanting to form a study group to begin with Volume One, so that’s what I did because they certainly know better than I do where to start and how to do it! I put our information on www.charlottemasonincommunity.com to help others find us, and I started a closed Facebook group so we would have an easy place to communicate about the study group and Natural History Club.
The Facebook group also serves as a place where I can post files such as our schedule and reading guide. I came up with a monthly plan for us and found a free Discussion Guide online that uses the questions straight from the appendix of CM’s book. We called our study group Restful ReadAlong thanks to my friend Jennifer B. letting me use the name she coined 😉 As an additional resource for our Restful ReadAlong Schedule, I went through the ADE podcast episodes and tried to coordinate them as best I could with the monthly reading assignments. The monthly reading assignments are listed out per week and they come from the Volume One Discussion Guide at My Soul Doth Delight, and we usually take about 4 weeks worth of reading for our monthly meeting. It has been such a joy to join together and discuss what we’ve read and talk about how we are trying to implement that into our homes. It’s been really neat to see that it’s not just about academics but ALL of life!
We knew from the beginning that we wanted to start a Natural History Club, but it took me a couple of months to get it going. We keep is SUPER simple. Meeting once a month has been a good start for us, and we meet on a Friday afternoon at 2:30. I required that everyone read this article by Dr. Carroll and Andra Smith before joining the NHC. You can find Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature of Study online or purchase it from Amazon. It is a wonderful and thorough tool in helping the mother educate herself on things in the natural world. (Be sure to read the first chapter…it’s NOT to be skipped!) It is also helpful when you need to choose a topic of discussion/object lesson. For instance, this past month we studied twigs/winter trees. I used the HoNS to read a bit about it so that I would have something knowledgeable to share with the group before we went on our nature walk. I only chatted for a few minutes about twigs and winter trees, and the purpose of that was to draw their attention to what we would be studying. The goal of this is to increase the power of awareness, increase the skill of observation, and record that you were present in God’s glorious creation…achieving a perfect painting/sketch in your nature journal is NOT the goal! Listen to episode 41 and episode 42 for some fantastic encouragement.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below, and I’ll get respond as quickly as I can. My heart is to equip you with ways to fulfill that need of community that we all have. It can be done! It doesn’t have to be scary and overwhelming! Pray about this need and ask the Lord to use you and come back here and share with us how He does just that!