The potential of community

Second post in a four part series.

Most of us enter the good and worthwhile endeavours of our life ignorant of the commitment required to stay the course.

We start full of enthusiasm and hope. At some point we realize that to follow-through on this thing is going to take everything we have. And we may re-evaluate at that point, is this thing I've committed myself to worth it? It might not be, good things do end and good things sometimes, heartbreakingly, become bad things. But the things that stay the course, the things we want to make good in our lives, will take everything we have to give, and then some.

Homeschooling through high school has been like this for me. Same with marriage and mothering in general. I feel called to do this and I can't imagine living any other way. But it takes everything I have.

"Called" is one of those weird words that begs a defintion. For me being called to homeschool was a heart's desire to share life with my kids, my strong belief in the importance of relationship, and a vision of "togetherness" for our present and our future. All of that is paired with a strong philosophical bent to individualized education and a stubborn "I'll do it my own way, thank you" (the G-rated version of what I really feel somedays) attitude towards the system.

Here's how I've experienced and observed life: it's going to be hard regardless of the path you choose, regardless of where you're called. Pick your hard. And be grateful everyday that the hard choices most of us make are not deciding which child will eat today.

The hard I choose right now is the work to build and maintain community for my kids. Hard does not mean bad, it means self-discipline, courage, sacrifice, service, etc.

I think homeschooling through high school in Quebec is a hard path, but it's ours. I can't imagine a life different than what I have. I truly had no idea what I was getting into all those years ago when we decided to homeschool through high school. But no one does.

It's also entirely possible I'm just tired. But I don't know how you get to this point not tired. Every homeschooling-through-high-school mother I know is tired. In truth, every parent I know is tired.

This is a good time to introduce you to our homeschool co-op, since most of the tired parents I'm referring to are from co-op.

Our homeschool co-op is a labor of love; love for God, love for our children and love for each other. And like all good love, it's hard work.

I'll remind you at this point that everything we do for our kids, as Quebec homeschoolers, is independent of local or provincial jurisdiction. There hasn't been a lot of oversight but nor has there been any support or access to resources.

Our homeschool co-op has existed for about eight years. The group has grown through the years and evolved in form and function. The amount of effort that goes into running a group of 40 homeschool families, with a highly engaged and strong committed core of probably 15-20 families, is mind-boggling.

Co-op is a bit of a misnomer for our group. We are a group lead by three homeschooling moms, a self-appointed and self-selected executive committee who make the major decisions for the group. On top of homeschooling their own children, they work the equivalent of unpaid part-time jobs and bear an incredible amount of responsibility. Way more than I would ever be willing to accept. These women are a gift to their families and our community. We wouldn't exist they way we do as a community if they did not have a calling to do this work.

When I think about how many problems exist in the world and all the ways in which we need to heal, restore, repair, bring peace and justice to our neighborhoods and society, I look at the capabilities of this particular group of dedicated and Christ-inspired families and I have hope that change is possible. A different kingdom is real.

I don't write about problems in the world-at-large because that's not my schtick. But I'm aware that as I'm writing about my "hard" life as a homeschooling mother and commenting how tired I am at this stage of parenting, other mothers are making impossible choices for their families, they are bone tired and weary.

My own struggles with financial loss and strain, the angst of children growing up, midlife crisis and inevitable regrets are nothing compared with the pain and suffering some people experience. I know this.

But I have seen something of the potential in dedicated parents, committed to providing the best they can for their kids, working through hardship in marriage and family life, motivated by their love for God, following the work of Jesus Christ in the world, empowered by the Spirit, that gives me hope.

Being a human can be so hard but it is our togetherness as humans, our collective power which somehow becomes more than the sum of the parts (I believe that's the Spirit of Christ in the world) that helps us bear our pain and loss and helps us rise above circumstances, truly changing our lives and the lives of others, for better.

God, I wish I knew how these small-scale principles could change policy and bureaucracy. My own calling has been to my children, my husband, my writing, and the communities we live in; and in that work, in my one small life, I have experienced the power of small groups to affect change. How to scale this to governments and borders, policy and politicians - I don't know.

What I do know is that people working on the ground level, in their families and small groups can do amazing things. I've learned that largely from being a part of this homeschool co-op.

To be continued...

« The necessity for homeschool community
Committing to the group ~ Our homeschool co-op drama production »
  • Sarah M

    Sarah M on July 9, 2018, 4:57 p.m.

    What an amazing gift to have such a wonderful co-op, and that it's geared towards high schoolers to boot. For as many HSers are out here in BC, there is, as far as I know, no co-ops for high school aged kids. Really, even the one-day-a-week hybrid option sort of ends after 8th grade. High school is mostly online, and that seems so isolating, or parents are done and they go to traditional high school. I'd like to HS through high school, I'm just hopiung my current co-op will go through those ages, too!!


    • Renee

      Renee on July 9, 2018, 5:06 p.m.

      I think we do it because we have to :) there is no system-supported/funded online option here for kids. I have a cousin-in-law who teaches with Christian Heritage Online School, which offers provincially funded courses, assessments and provincial diplomas to homeschooled students. These are the options that Quebeckers only dream of :)

      I know some families in our co-op would love this option and I personally would do this for Brienne, if we could (her needs and learning desires/goals are different than for L & C). As long as we could still have a regular group gathering of some sort I think that would work for us.

      Perhaps some of those online schools offer meet-ups, live online classes and other IRL support that feels less isolating. I don't know. I do know I wish we had more options where we are but that we are very blessed with the group we do have!

      With the population (& proclivity) of the lower mainland there's got to a group of homeschooled high schoolers gathering somewhere...


      • Sarah M

        Sarah M on July 9, 2018, 8:54 p.m.

        Yes, that's true, but the hybrid options (brick and mortar, 1 or 2X/week) really function more like an actual school day. My kids did it one year and were exhausted by the end of each day (they promise 3-4 subjects completely done for you in those 1-2 days depending on the school), so we've found co-ops are so much more our style. I'm on the steering committee for our town's (and surrounding areas) homeschool support group, and haven't heard of any co-ops that have kids older than gr 7 (!!) in them, so that is awesome that there's such a great cohesive community out there.

        Mostly, you sort of see the same people who join learning groups, or the hybrid classes or the field trips that you sign up for, but not with the same group of kids year after year, week after week. A lot of people have been telling us that they're searching for community. I don't think much can really replace grass roots community where people need it and decide to make it. It's ownership and that makes it stronger!

        I won't lie, moving from NE to WA (where you get a bit of funding, mostly for the equivalent of a few books + workbooks) and then to BC, it's like walking into Disneyland as far as the funding goes. We know and love HCOS (Heritage). We've used them as our umbrella school for almost 5 years now and they have been very, very good to our family. I usually joke that they should pay me a recruitment fee because of how much I love the staff and how many families I've 'brought over' . :)

        Really enjoying this cool to see a few years ahead!


        • Renee

          Renee on July 9, 2018, 9:02 p.m.

          You said: "I don't think much can really replace grass roots community where people need it and decide to make it. It's ownership and that makes it stronger!"

          You're right. The kind of options you're describing being available/known in your community are "institutionalized" homeschooling almost. Where parents rely on the state-funded homeschool resources instead of public schooling, but in doing so you don't build the same sense of community, since you're still relying on an institution/bureaucracy to provide the resources. I have no criticism for that, it's just an observation.

          There is something about grassroots movements, in all spheres of society, that provide a different type of community-building environment than institution-supported community. Which is an interesting discussion for me in general, not just as related to homeschooling.


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