Creating Community Education Classes and Events
Even though many of us homeschool as an alternative to the more common Authority-From-Above educational experience endemic to our culture, it can still be a challenge to break old habits when it comes to classes and other education-based programs.
As a co-founder and moderator of Bay Area Gifted Homeschoolers, we are not responsible for providing activities for the group, though we do our share of organizing. It’s our intention to uphold a unifying vision; we do not determine the rules of conduct or behavior for individually sponsored programs or events. We hope that our members will regard BAGHS as a point of contact, which allows families, groups and individuals free to connect and create programs and events, which meet their own needs and, while doing so, contribute to the greater good of other families in the group.
In the hopes of providing members (and other homeschoolers) with the means to create programs and classes, I’ve come up with the following suggestions and guidelines.
Any group member or family may offer a program or event to the rest of the group. It is the prerogative of the family or individual organizer to define the set of rules and behavior and/or ability guidelines for that specific event. This allows for flexibility and a wide variety of activities from which everyone may choose. Some more active members may be perceived as leaders, especially by newcomers, but everyone is equally welcome and encouraged to make an offering.
SPECIFIC LOGISTICAL “HOW-TO”s:
CREATING THE EVENT
A. Define the type of Event
i. Private classes are by invitation. The organizer of a private class gathers together a group of students based on shared interests or learning needs.
ii. Public classes are advertised to the group. The organizer should set clear standards on level, ability, age, performance and behavior expectations and open it to the group.
b. Field Trips. Field trip options are wide-open. You might choose from field trips, which are already offered through museums, government offices, schools or other institutions. Or perhaps you know someone who runs an interesting lab or business and can arrange for a private field trip.
c. Gatherings. Generally gatherings are social in nature, although there can be a purpose (as is the case with the Presentation Day Gathering). It’s nice to have occasional opportunities for the whole group to gather but you are also welcome to organize gatherings for a particular subset of the group.
B. Find a Teacher or Facilitator
The organizer might plan to teach the class him/herself or may deem it more appropriate to find another parent or a paid teacher or mentor to do.
C. Create Enrollment Guidelines
Decide for whom the class is intended and outline the ways in which you plan to identify appropriate participants. This is especially important for public classes. Possibilities include:
a. Academic level or ability-based requirements
b. Age Range. This can be problematic as organizers are likely to be asked to make exceptions. Be willing to consider the possibility but also be prepared to draw some lines in the sand if needed. There is no easy or straightforward answer. When in doubt, exercise kindness and diplomacy.
c. Membership requirements. Decide if it will be a members-only, open to specific enrollees, or open to anyone who is interested. It’s up to you but potential participants will appreciate knowing for whom the class is intended and with whom they might expect to be learning.
d. Other things you may need to consider are sibling attendance, carpooling info, and parent-participation or attendance.
D. Find an appropriate location
Possibilities include: your own home; a library room, which can often be booked for free (assuming the class is free); a park or other outdoor location; or a rented space in another business.
A. Sign-ups may be done by email in which case I usually request a clear subject title such as “January French Class”. You can also use Google Documents, which allows for forms, if you wish. If you are allowing for input from participants on time frame you may want to use a web application like WhenIsGood or Doodle.
B. Payment (if applicable). You might want to consider using Paypal although I personally prefer to ask for checks and then keep all information pertaining to a given class in an old-fashioned file folder. That way I can cash all of the checks at one time which makes financial tracking easier for me. Other organizers prefer to have registered students pay the instructor directly so as to reduce their administrative work load.
C. Email communication. I don’t yet have a good system for this. Does anyone else? I usually just keep a spreadsheet with all of the pertinent info for enrollees and then can cut and paste the email column in order to update participants. You may want to email participants:
i. Code of Conduct expectations. I’ve posted a sample of Code of Conduct, which you can use or edit to meet your needs.
ii. Reminders or changes as needed
DAY OF EVENT
a) Supervision. Depending upon the age of the students, you may want to request that parents participate in helping to supervise even if they are not needed as teachers.
b) Reminders re: Code of Behavior. I usually post something on the front door stating my needs from attendees and parents and I find that doing so works very well.
c) Be sure to request or assign jobs at the end of the event so that you are not stuck do all of the clean-up. It’s also a great service to our kids to be asked and expected to participate in some aspect of their education and helping to maintain or wrap up the space is highly appropriate.
Finally, remember that in spite of your hard work, there will always be somebody who feels that it should be more [fill in the blank] or less [fill in the blank] (eg. challenging, accessible, un/structured, younger/older, smaller/larger etc). Stay true to your own vision!
And if you’re on the other side of the equation and you don’t like a given aspects of any given activity please consider it as inspiration to offer an alternative.
Hoping this helps encourage other homeschoolers to organize and offer classes and events. In my world homeschooling is a misnomer as what I really prefer is the A La Carte design ability which individualized education makes possible.