Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Happy Birthday to Us!

Today was the 10th birthday of our local HE group. I was so busy that I didn't take any photos - nor do I have any photos of our first meeting. We also did Christmas crafts and played some party games. (I love the Hokey Cokey - it makes children smile).

It was a very busy session with lots of new families and old friends that I haven't seen for a while. It was lovely to see everyone there sharing memories and looking at old photos, including three families who were at the very first session, us being one of them.

The theme of our first session was Bats. We did some craft activities and had a speaker come from the Bat Trust. Some of the older children can still remember him :) The craft activity I took was making bat mobiles with coat hangers, brown card cut-outs of bats and cream card cut-outs of moths.

Whilst looking through old photos to take today, I came across the original guidelines for our group and was surprised to see just how much it hasn't changed. We had to add a few more ground rules and put up the price when we changed venues and the children don't wash up any more, but other than that, it's still pretty much the same. Sadly, we did lose the closing circle somewhere over the years but opening circle is still an important part of the day as is the communal meal and constant supply of fruit for people to snack on.

I remember the discussions and planning meetings we had at first, how we decided what was important, how we found an affordable venue. We don't have planning meetings now, but we do vote on the themes that we will cover and use email to organise related trips.

I've really enjoyed this group over the 10 years. I've made some good friends, met some interesting people, had a lot of fun, stressed about what activity to take, played, sang, danced, cooked, painted, crafted, seen children grow up, eaten lovely food (the shared meal is so important and probably my most interesting meal of the month), learnt loads, covered topics I would never have thought of (Toilets) and developed skills I didn't know I had.

I'd just like to say 'Thank you' to everyone who came today; to everyone who has ever been to our local HE group, even if they only came once; to everyone who has ever brought an activity to share; to everyone who has brought food to share - especially food that I would never dream of cooking myself; to everyone who is, and has been, involved in the organising. I'd like to say thank you for the support and friendship I've found in this group and thank you for the ideas and inspiration.

I'm really looking forward to more good food, good friends and interesting topics over the next few years :)

My top 10 tips to starting up a local HE group :)
1. Find some like-minded parents and share the load;
2. Decide what kind of session you want - purely social or learning activities?
3. Find a cheap venue, preferably with storage - church halls and scout huts are often a good bet, especially as they're likely to have outdoor space too;
4. Pick a regular date - once a month works well, it allows for other activities to happen, nobody feels overworked, and people who want to come don't keep putting it off till 'next week';
5. Do some fundraising before you start to give yourselves a cushion - a sponsored walk and jumble sale worked for us;
6. Ask parents to donate any unused art materials, pinnies, cooking equipment etc.;
7. Buy a teapot and cosy :) ;
8. Communal meals are great :)
9. Work out a fee that will cover costs - we started out at £2 for the 1st child + £1 for each sibling age 3 and up. We now charge £2.50 and £1.50 respectively.
10. Take photos - lots of them!

I'd love to hear of other peoples experiences when it comes to setting up and running Home Education groups. What tips would you add to this list?

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