Friday, 26 September 2014

Home Ed groups - then and now

I've been home educating for over 20 years now. I'm not saying that makes me any kind of expert or anything but I have seen quite a few changes, especially in regards to local groups.

15 years ago, I knew of only 3 Home Ed groups in our region that I could take my son to, each one meeting on a monthly basis. Two were in our local town and one was on the other side of Leeds and involved a train and two buses to get there. The two local groups consisted of the same four or five families - one was an art group and the other was a social meeting in a small room provided by the council (other families occasionally turned up there too). There were very few children my son's age  at these groups and it was a struggle to get him to go sometimes.  Luckily, he understood that I needed to meet with other home educating parents and he would agree to come along. There were occasional trips to theatres and workshops, but communication was often sparse. We sometimes missed them because the only way to find out about things was down the phone tree (which often didn't work) or through a printed monthly newsletter. There were no yahoo groups that I knew of and definitely no Facebook. Not that it would've helped anyway as we had no internet and neither did the local library.

This week we went to a new local group in a local park. I'm really not sure how many families were there as some sat in the playground, others played cricket on the playing field and more were sitting in the room that was our official meeting place. I reckon there were at least 18 families who had travelled from different parts of West Yorkshire to come to play in the park. Most of these we see regularly at one group or another, some were new families with younger children just starting out on their home ed journeys. The group had been organised through yahoo and Facebook. No phone tree.

It really struck me how different it is (and how old I am) for HE families nowadays. Every week there seems to be a new group being started in areas where none have existed before. Every week there are new workshops and trips being organised by parents all over West Yorkshire. My children were playing in the park with friends that they have known since birth, with children that they see two or three times a WEEK at different groups and with new friends. The world seems full of home educated children today whereas 15 years ago, I had to search the EO contact list to find the very few other local HEors.

This experience made me determined to organise groups and trips myself so that my younger children wouldn't struggle with isolation in the same way my eldest son had done as a teenager. I never envisaged the growth in the number of HE families that I have seen, nor did I envisage the way the internet would change the way that we communicate. Back then, I was inspired by an American HEor living in Leeds who put tons of energy into organising groups and activities. She showed me what was possible, how trips could be organised and how groups could be set up and run. Consequently, along with other local HE parents, I have organised trips, set up groups and met some fabulous families. I have many people to be thankful to, and for, on my HE journey, but that American mum stands out in my memory. Wherever you are in the world today, Judith Shalkowski, I thank you. You were an inspiration :)

Cycling at the new HE group in the park


  1. What an awesome blog post :) so interesting to hear about what groups were like when you first started. I think the only thing I find now is that in smaller groups there can be a degree of unreliability meaning you can turn up and no one else does...that happens very very rarely though.

  2. That's true. It can be a bit hit and miss sometimes. Some groups take more pre-planning than others and sometimes, if there are costs to be considered, it can be worth getting payment up front. I've also found over the years, that the busiest meetings are usually in September and January :) Thank you for your comment x

  3. Hi! I am also in West Yorkshire and we are just starting out(my oldest is due to start school next September). I am on the Facebook group and love how busy and friendly it is, there is so much going on locally and I even organised one meet and hopefully will be organising another soon x

  4. That's great Emma :) It can seem really daunting at first to organise groups and trips and it's not always easy getting enough people to make it viable. It's fantastic to see so many groups now in West Yorkshire, I think you could most probably go to one pretty much every day of the week :) Thanks for commenting x

  5. Such a brilliant overview! Isn't it amazing how many parents are choosing this option now. Your post will really help to raise confidence in the fact that people don't HE all alone! :)