How To Build Your Homeschool Community: Angelena Stowell
Find the right co-ops, support groups, enrichment programs or extracurricular activities for your family!
Appears in this episode
Shanxi: Hello, this is Shanxi Omoniyi, host of MPE’s “Homeschool Hints” podcast to encourage you wherever you may be on your homeschool journey.
In a previous episode, Angelena Stowell discussed planning and organizing your homeschool year. Today we’ll discuss how to build your homeschool community and different ways to do so, from homeschool co-ops and small groups to enrichment programs and more!
Angelena: I guess the last thing I would say as you prepare for your new school year is, think about adding a community for yourself. Not just for your children, but for you as a mama too, and you needing support and encouragement from other women.
Shanxi: Yeah, let's talk a little bit about co-ops and groups and enrichment programs. And I just want to throw out a few definitions here because if you're new to the homeschool world, you may be hearing some of these words and they may not make a whole lot of sense.
So I'm just going to explain briefly how MPE kind of classifies co-ops and enrichment centers. These are very loose definitions, but I would say a homeschool cooperative, sometimes called a co-op for short, is a group of parents coming together to teach their children a subject or a range of subjects. And in this setup, parents are usually the teachers. They'll share the responsibility for teaching some or all of the subjects to their children, and typically they'll stay for the whole teaching time with their children.
Now on the other hand, homeschool enrichment programs tend to be drop-off centers where parents can leave their children for a certain period of time. The teachers could be homeschool parents, they could be retired or current licensed teachers. It could be a range. And parents are still usually involved in running the enrichment center to some degree. And also, costs of enrichment programs tend to vary widely, especially if you're participating in, you know, one class versus multiple classes. And the more parents are involved, the less expensive it can be. There will often be maybe discounts or scholarships for volunteers and so on and so forth, so yeah.
Angelena, what have you found helpful in picking or considering these different options?
Angelena: Okay sure, we’d have already started homeschooling Lola - so she's my senior this year and the one and our child that we started homeschooling with -immediately our friends were able to help us, introduce us to like, a co-op. And so we've been a part of a co-op that we absolutely love, we have every year. It is, parents participate, they are teachers as well, and that's an entirely other aspect of the homeschool community you might not even realize that is so rewarding.
So not only are your children going somewhere and developing relationships with other students and other children their age and peers, but then you develop these relationships. We're always thinking about our kids and really on the back of our minds is like, oh wait, I'm gonna make friends too. So it's been fantastic. I've met some of the most amazing men and women, you know, that share the same visions and desires. It's a wonderful gift that you get given whenever you join a co-op. So that's been very good for us.
And then within that co-op has come many other things like friendships outside of co-ops, starting groups, clubs, things like that, or even just the encouragement and resources that another family can give you just from within the community.
And not just at my co-op, but really within the, I think, the homeschool community here is very eager to help you find what helps your home. Like, what's good for your home and your style. Yeah, it's just very rewarding and has this beautiful complete feeling to know that you have people that support you right and that …
Shanxi: You're not alone?
Angelena: Yes, loneliness, yeah. I could talk about that for sure. I know that there are other enrichment opportunities like Christ Prep, which for like, athletics, that's been a fantastic avenue as well.
Shanxi: There's kind of like a group for everything. There's one designed for full-time working parents who also want to homeschool. These are all available on MPE’s website if you just want to go browse for co-ops, enrichment programs. We have a list that's updated regularly.
Angelena: And just like you said, enrichment. I know this is not necessarily like within that, but enrichment days like, there are so many enrichment days across the Kansas City area for different things, like Nelson-Atkins. And I mean, everything has an enrichment day. So those are fantastic to put on your calendar as well, and sign up early too because they fill up really fast.
But there's all kinds of homeschool, like, opportunities to prepare for your school year to just add in that you can prioritize instead of having to try to fill up your calendar. Don't do that. You don't have to do that. Yeah, you don't have to fill everything up There's some beauty and in that peacefulness, and just having flexibility and spontaneity. Those things are very good to have, and keep it simple.
Keep it absolutely simple like just, you know, even if you're not sure on a co-op, but you do want them involved in an activity where they're around other kids, find a homeschool group by looking on, likem Facebook. I found one that way whenever we lived in DC. We didn't know anybody in the area and I knew, okay, I'm gonna have to find a group.
So I started researching and looking and just kind of waiting for something to pop up. I ended up having one, I'm still friends with these women today and absolutely adore them. They will be friends forever, that's the kind. And it's a crazy thing, I could go off on a tangent just on women and friendship and how God is so good. Where you don't expect Him or where you don't expect maybe, your needs to be met or even entertain that idea, right? But He shows up in the least expected ways and He knows better than we do and gives us, you know, more than we could ask for, and I'm just so thankful for that.
But as a result, we had a group I found on Facebook, so do that if you can. And going to events is another fantastic way. Absolutely go to the MPE events, meet other moms, connect with them, put yourself out there. Ask somebody even if you're not comfortable with maybe saying, you know, Hey I want to - put me in the right direction - but find maybe somebody that you can connect with, whether it be a mentor, reach out to somebody on MPE’s website that they can mentor you, to help you find a group or help you find people.
We have things that are aimed towards that with Mom to Mom, the GROW events. Those would be a great way to be able to connect with women on a smaller scale so you're not only getting this wonderful encouragement, you're also relationship building. That's what it's about. It's about building friendships and taking that as your ministry and then pouring it back out into your own community with where you're at.
Shanxi: I don't know about you but I've never met a non-busy homeschool mom. It seems like they always have so many things on their plate, and I'm always, like, intimidated - feeling like I'm not nearly as busy as that mom. Is there something wrong with me? <laughs>
Angelena: No, there's not. You got it figured out if you're not busy. <laughs> Yeah, we all have our own busy, don't we? I can remember a time - it must have been whenever I had two children and not four - but when the girls were younger and maybe they were in school and stuff, where I would gauge my day by how busy I was. Like a reward for success of the day, like, oh, I was busy today, like I had this and this and this to do.
I do not look at it that way anymore. Now, I look at it as like, I'm happy to do the things I do love. I want to be happy with the busy that I have. I don't want it to exhaust me. I think if it starts to exhaust you, there's a re-evaluation that needs to happen because then you're going to get unhappy. And then the rest of the home is going to be unhappy, and you're going to miss the joy that you should be able to find in your home.
And there's many difficulties that can, I think, side-rail that, but they can be overcome too.
Shanxi: When you first started out, was community a big issue in your mind as to, you know, how will my kids get socialized and those kinds of things?
Angelena: Yeah, and that was a concern. I mean, I think that that is one of the main concerns within homeschool is from outsiders: how is my child going to socialize? And I think you know everybody that's been homeschooling - whether you were doing it for one school year or for many, many years, you know - that is so silly because we are very socialized. We're overly socialized.
But I think that that is in the parents’ hands. It has everything to do with how your parents can steward that time with you and show you how to connect with people. And there's more than one way with that. You don't have to be, you know, showy and over - or you don't have to have tons of friends. I think you can develop from there. It's a wonderful thing to be friendly with everyone and to be approachable in those things, and those are qualities that you learn and that stuff.
Shanxi: I know you mentioned the Mom to Mom coffee Gatherings. What is that about?
Angelena: Yeah, Mom to Mom coffee gathering is based off I Thessalonians 5:11. “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another just as you also are doing.” Like most of the things I feel for the moms within the homeschool community, it's about encouraging each other and building community.
And so the Mom to Mom is going to be something that is localized for your area where you might have several different - we'll have several different coffee shop dates where groups of women can get together and on a regular basis in their neighborhoods and their neck of the woods. And they're part of Kansas City and surrounding areas where they can meet on a regular basis and share with each other their hearts and their homeschool journeys and get all these things. All these things we're talking about can happen right there in that little pod, a group.
I think that's going to be so fantastic. It's a huge thing to be able to have a community that's within driving distance.
Shanxi: Yes you know, or even walking distance.
Angelena: Absolutely yes. Within walking distance. Since we've moved - we used to live out pretty far - we would drive everywhere and I never complained about it, and I liked it. But I always wanted to be closer, and my husband complained about it because of gas, right? I mean within reason, totally understandable, you know.
It's difficult when your lifestyle is not where you're living, right? But it's great whenever you are because now like I'm five minutes from everything and it's just - I have more time for people and I find myself being in like, just naturally, I'm able to be involved more in my neighborhood and my community and this longing that I had, like for different things, like that are met because I have established a group where I'm at like.
I want to work for where I'm at. I want people around me to be able to have a place to feel like they belong, right? And so that is what the Mom to Mom is like, it's a gathering area. We want to build friendships that branch off and then whenever somebody has learned that that works a certain way, you can take that and make it unique to your own home so then you have a group for something or whatever, right?
It's just this never-ending root system that just completely goes out and can encourage other women I know.
Shanxi: Also the GROW homeschool workshops. That's a relatively new initiative. Can you tell us more about what a GROW homeschool workshop looks like?
Angelena: Sure, yeah. The GROW events are - so on a workshop basis, what it's looked like has been more like a conversation. It's very similar to like, being able to spend time in a small groupm and we usually have, like a speaker or two that will share. Maybe they'll share their testimony or they'll share some of their experiences. There's different topics that we touch on within the workshop. Then you get resources I believe as well. There's usually resources that are very useful. I'm sure there will be other women and hopefully there's other women that have, like this completely knocked out of the park, and they want to share their ideas. I think that's fantastic. Come to the table, share the table with us, and let's just share our tips and our tricks. Like, let's do this together. We can work it all out.
That's the other awesome part of this entire journey, is that we are doing this as a community and wanting to help one another.
Shanxi: Do you have anything that we've maybe missed or haven't touched on, either in preparing and organizing for the school year or just in building community with other moms, especially if you're starting out and this just seems overwhelming?
Angelena: Yeah, and it is totally is. I get that. Again, like I would just say, start small like little baby steps. Baby steps to the bus. Tiny steps. Sit down and at least allow your time - find some quiet time, I think, is the best way to do this in the beginning to start is set aside some time for yourself.
Write down simply on a pad of paper, you know, I'm gonna homeschool this year so I need to make a list for yourself. Just the things that are priorities for you and your family.
If those priorities involve building community, like, know that that is something that you can completely do and you don't need an army to be able to do it. You can do it yourself, too. You can start small, but you do have to initiate it. You can initiate by - and if you're not comfortable with Facebook, which is completely fine. I know lots are not and I respect that.
You can reach out to MPE or come to a mom's gathering and we will help you. You can reach out to me on Instagram too. I'd be happy to help you if you want to go on a hike with our hiking group that we have. We have all ages come. I'm happy to invite you. You can come. You can start somewhere. You can get some more encouragement, yeah, just reach out and I’d be happy to - should I get my email address? Is that okay, is that allowed?
Angelena: Because you might not have Instagram and I don't, you know, but like, it's up to you. So my email is my name - it’s firstname.lastname@example.org and you can email me. And I'll be happy to assist in helping you with any questions you have or if you just want a friend, or if you just want to be encouraged, that's what I'm all about.
And that's what we want to do, we want to help. I want to help you guys and help any family and friends and the body and community of homeschool in the Kansas City for …
Shanxi: As long as you're here, of course.
Angelena: Yeah, yeah.
Shanxi: Thanks so much for listening. We hope you are encouraged in your homeschool journey.
Please continue the conversation with us on our website, midwesthomeschoolers.org, or email us at email@example.com. We're also active on social media if you'd like to connect with us there. Thanks to Kevin McLeod of incompetech.com for providing this royalty-free song Wholesome, which is licensed under creativecommons.org.