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mamaraby
07-22-2011, 08:39 PM
Short version: I've been trying unsuccessfully to get a secular group started since November

Long version: I started a secular support group in November, primarily through a Yahoo Group. We had a number of members sign up right away and then it tapered off. The Yahoo Group has never been active.

In April, instead of joining the state-wide homeschooling advocacy group, I put the money towards a six month Subscription to start a Meet-Up group in tandem to the Yahoo Group. I was hoping for a platform more conducive to an IRL group as well as the possibility for greater visibility. I posted a flyer locally and had some success attracting a few members.

Both groups are pretty much silent. I have planned field trips and playdates and had my family be the only ones to attend. I have tried scheduling a planning meeting/get to know you event and attended that by myself.

About a month ago, I posted to our Yahoo Group asking the members there if there was still an interest in the group. I figured it was possible that it could be one of those "nice in theory" sorts of things, but maybe there wasn't really a need for a group like ours after all. There was a short-lived furry of activity as members insisted that they wanted to continue on...and then back to the silence.

I have tried starting discussions to help members get to know one another with very little response. I have solicited member feedback on activities or dates of activities with little response. Basically? I'm talking to myself even though there are 13 other families that consider themselves members.

The owner of the Yoga studio I go to just graciously offered to list our group in her newsletter and post flyers on her bulletin board. Another teacher at the studio offered to spread the word as well. This leaves the possibility for more exposure, but I wonder if we'll end up with more people...and still little participation.

I realize that starting the group will require I take initiative for basically everything, but I'm beginning to wonder if this is worth it. How do I translate interest into participation? How long would you hang on before throwing in the towel and admitting it was a nice idea, but not really needed in the area?

Please, tell me your group went something like this...and how you got past it.

mommalee93
07-22-2011, 08:51 PM
I have tried unsuccesfully to start groups for playdates and what not, never homeschooling stuff as their is a nice group in my area. Why don't you ask the 13 or so other people what tiem works best for them. Are you having too many meetings? Are you in a large area??

Where I am their are a large number of homeschoolers, most are not secular. The one very active group here is inclusive and not religiously based although they talk about some of it at their meetings it is more like "what curriculum are you using to teach about history and is it christian based". No preaching. They have one monthly meeting and then they have several (sometimes more than one a week) activites. It is such a large group that not everyone attends everything.

However if you live in a rural area that only has 13 homeschool families you are in for an uphill climb.

h5rus
07-22-2011, 08:54 PM
I just started a secular homeschool group and like you I am noticing a supposed interest (due to members joining) but not much in participation. I've been posting and posting and emailing people individually and nadda. You can drag a horse to water, but you can't make it drink it! It's frustrating but I am continuing to go on because I have out of 11 families that joined (with 18 kids between all), three families (5 kids) that are interested in participating (thusfar!). We may be small, but my hope is we grow in time!

Good luck to you!

mamaraby
07-22-2011, 09:36 PM
Too many meetings? I don't think so...I had tried to plan something once a month at the beginning - over the 9 month life of the group I had a total of five or so events planned and attended on my own. I have one Playdate planned (with the date picked by the three members who voted in the poll) in August. I have suggested we try to get together to plan things as a group plus a (Not) Back to School picnic in Aug/Sep. I've been asking for input, but as I mentioned, I'm either getting no response or very little.

h5rus - We're not that far behind you at two (our family plus a friend of mine). I guess the most frustrating part is that I didn't start the group until I had more conversations than I could count with people who had been members of the local "inclusive" group, but felt out of place.

The local homeschooling environment trends almost exclusively Christian. In the "inclusive" group it seems to me that most connections are made at one of the two co-op groups in town. One is overtly Christian in name, but the both have conservative Christian doctrinal statements that would exclude the kinds of classes our family would be interested in.

I've had discussions with the leader of the "inclusive" group (an acquaintance of mine) who confirmed that I wasn't crazy in my experience of the group. She's honest in that the other group really is a Christian group and that there are likely others out there like our family, but they're not "out" as it were.

Hence my wondering if there really isn't a need at all. Maybe our family really is alone in the kind of group we're searching for, but how do you for sure come to that conclusion.

lilypoo
07-22-2011, 10:09 PM
I have to recommend Meetup.com. It's not free but you can find great coupons and specials if you search online. I started my group there in August of 2009 and we do indeed get a lot of members but only about 10% participate regularly, and it's the same 10%. I have no idea why--I do have a hypothesis that homeschooling parents often want to belong to a group as a "cover" for those who might criticize their choice to homeschool. I moved my group off Meetup.com to Yahoogroups and it all but dissolved. I took it back to Meetup.com six months later and it's finally getting going again. I schedule a LOT of activities, even if I am not interested or know I won't go. I also make it VERY clear that I cannot attend EVERY activity (not attending everything is something I am criticized for, often, by some of the members). I make sure we have a variety or meeting times as well--some members are morning people and others aren't. Personally I don't like to take the kids out to activities until after they've done some schoolwork so I'm not a fan of meeting regularly at 9am. ;)

laundrycrisis
07-22-2011, 11:36 PM
I have also been involved in attempts to get groups going. One thing I have noticed is that when the schedule is left open for events to be scheduled at random times, it is very hard to get much participation at any event. I think homeschoolers get into their regular routines and get very busy with their own stuff and their closest friends and it is hard for them to make themselves available for a random one-time activity. It also seems to be difficult to get people to participate in a group that isn't already active. In contrast to this, I have seen a regular repeating activity that is firmly scheduled for a set day and time start small but grow in participation as the word spread and people saw it as something they could count on and planned it into their calendars. It might help to pick a regular time, ie every other Friday afternoon, and announce that the group will have some sort of simple event that allows for interaction that is regularly scheduled. I would try to get the word out that this regular event will be taking place, even outside of the membership of the Yahoo or Meetup group.

Another thing to consider is whether the group is by definition secular or inclusive. I have only been in one group that defined itself as secular and it did not stay together. In that group, I met a couple of ladies who privately told me they weren't sure what to make of the "secular" name; both of them regularly attended church but not evangelical churches; they did not feel they fit in at all with the religious homeschool groups; but were afraid that they might be out of place in the secular group due to their church participation. They both wondered if the group was perhaps only intended for atheists. The groups that define themselves as "inclusive" and not have having a religious orientation so that everyone is equally welcome are I think more comfortable for moderately or very slightly religious people.

lilypoo
07-23-2011, 12:16 AM
Laundry makes a great point--having a schedule that doesn't vary a lot seems to be crucial. For instance, our morning plark days are every other Tuesday. Our afternoon park days are every other Thursday on the alternating weeks. Always same time, same place (except for our bad-weather back-up, which here in Phx includes the entire summer ;) ). Teen night is every other Wed. evening; parents' night out is usually the third Saturday evening, etc. I fill that basic framework in with special things we don't do regularly, like movie days and field trips. This way if a particular family is never free Tues. and Thurs. when we have our meetups, we can still see them at a field trip or extra activity.

Stella M
07-23-2011, 01:03 AM
Are you prepared to do an 'inclusive group, welcoming to families of any or no religion' rather than 'secular' ? I've never had any luck with secular, but the inclusive co-op had more interest than I could handle; we've ended up with a mix of Buddhist, atheist, pagan, Catholic - not exactly secular but definitely better than 99% Evangelical Protestant and no-one has an issue with keeping their religious status personal, rather than a group issue. Inclusive gives you more families to draw on; and hopefully some who will actually participate.

JinxieFox
07-23-2011, 06:03 AM
I just started a secular homeschool group and like you I am noticing a supposed interest (due to members joining) but not much in participation. I've been posting and posting and emailing people individually and nadda.

Exact same thing here! I started a secular/inclusive group and have heard from one person in it. I know one of the members personally, and that she's further away from the area for which I created the group, but the rest of the folks are closer to or in this area. It's baffling, but I just keep posting here and there, asking them questions in hopes of starting dialogue, etc. Since this is a group for the military community, hopefully the constant change will bring members with an interest in getting together!

outskirtsofbs
07-23-2011, 06:19 AM
I actually just tried to start an "all inclusive" hs support group. I really wanted it to be secular but I was afraid it would exclude certain people (and I'm desperate at this point....have to admit it), so I opted for A.I. AND still got no calls....at all. I'm at a total loss as to what my next step is going to be to try to find some support (and some children that are even halfway kind) here in this town.---------sigh-----------shakes head...................

Kylie
07-23-2011, 07:52 AM
I have also been involved in attempts to get groups going. One thing I have noticed is that when the schedule is left open for events to be scheduled at random times, it is very hard to get much participation at any event. I think homeschoolers get into their regular routines and get very busy with their own stuff and their closest friends and it is hard for them to make themselves available for a random one-time activity. It also seems to be difficult to get people to participate in a group that isn't already active. In contrast to this, I have seen a regular repeating activity that is firmly scheduled for a set day and time start small but grow in participation as the word spread and people saw it as something they could count on and planned it into their calendars. It might help to pick a regular time, ie every other Friday afternoon, and announce that the group will have some sort of simple event that allows for interaction that is regularly scheduled. I would try to get the word out that this regular event will be taking place, even outside of the membership of the Yahoo or Meetup group.

Another thing to consider is whether the group is by definition secular or inclusive. I have only been in one group that defined itself as secular and it did not stay together. In that group, I met a couple of ladies who privately told me they weren't sure what to make of the "secular" name; both of them regularly attended church but not evangelical churches; they did not feel they fit in at all with the religious homeschool groups; but were afraid that they might be out of place in the secular group due to their church participation. They both wondered if the group was perhaps only intended for atheists. The groups that define themselves as "inclusive" and not have having a religious orientation so that everyone is equally welcome are I think more comfortable for moderately or very slightly religious people.

^^^This!

It took a good two years for my group to really get going. We began with us and one other family. But every single week we had a park meet up, regardless. I just looked at as if we (our family) was spending a couple of hours at the park. If another family showed, then great, if not that was ok too.

Slowly slowly more and more families came along, some only once, some stayed and are still with us.

I always posted details on the larger yahoo groups about the park meet ups and never mentioned that we were a small group trying to get things off the ground.

it's damn hard work, but some ones gotta do it, if friends for your kids is what you are looking for then really what other choices do you have?

I think the couple ofmthings that worked well, regular weekly meet ups, then after about 3 months I organized my first largish excursion. We had close to 30 families attend. I made sure I got their details and started a really simple mailing list.

Every week I would email the park meet up details and always included a blurb to remind them to tell their friends about us. These things really helped I think, word of mouth is best and now we are bursting at the seams with families. We have them coming from an hour away....I have slowing been changing my direction to help other eager homeschoolers to get their own groups off the ground....I don't think anyone real believes me when I tell them how much hard work it is in the beginning but that it can be done.

Anyway I think Ive well and gruly given you my 2 cents worth lol!

outskirtsofbs
07-23-2011, 09:35 AM
I totally agree with you Kylie that it would have to be hard work.....and I'm willing if I could just get a call. I will probably rerun the ad in a month. We do go to the park hoping to meet/run into other families so DD will have the chance to see other kids. I'm totally baffled that there wasn't atleast ONE other family that wanted to join a hs support group. I will just keep looking & plugging away......its all I can do.

bovinesituation
07-23-2011, 10:41 AM
I started a meetup group in Jan of last year and had about 100 members (it was for parents, not just HSers) and it was a pretty big flop. People would request, say, to have a park playdate on Thursday at 10 am and then they wouldn't even show up on the day and event they asked me to host. People wanted evening and weekend events, so I did that and I would be the only person there. Eventually I gave up and had to let it go. Like someone said, you can lead the horse to water, but you can't make them drink.

There's a new HS meetup near me and I think it started 2 months or so ago and they've yet to have a meetup. There was one scheduled but it got rained out. I offered to help with ideas, hosting, etc. and I felt like she brushed me off. Oh well.

mamaraby
07-23-2011, 05:07 PM
I had gone against the "inclusive" label as there is already a well-established, large support group in our area that considers themselves that. It is "inclusive" only in the minds of the majority and I (and others) have not found them to be open otherwise as it would violate their convictions. I did not want to step on toes by somehow making the group I was starting sound like it was competing with theirs. Though I had chosen the name "secular homeschoolers" - I tried to make it clear in our group description that we were open to individuals of faith, but given that it wasn't related to our purpose ask that those discussions take place outside of our group.

During the brief period when our list was active (and I'm talking a span of days here) the group was in reality a mishmash of sorts. We have liberal Christian, earth based religion, atheists, agnostics, etc. So, I don't know as it's the name per se...but I suppose that's always a possibility.

The frequency of events is probably an issue, but I struggle with whether or not I want to be *that* committed to heading to a park for the purposes of a playdate on that regular of a basis. We had already decided against traveling 45min one way to participate in an inclusive co-op as the idea of driving that far every week would have been expensive. My husband joked that I have commitment issues - at least when it comes to activities outside our home. Being an introvert, just starting the group was a rather big leap. My husband's second-shift rotating schedule adds other kinks in there that would make Tuesday (or whatever) sometimes our weekend and then I'd really rather just do things as a family.

I'm also drawing from a fairly large area - at least a two or three counties as we're fairly rural-ish. I'm hesitant to tie the group too much to my own geographical location out of respect to others. I'd thought that spreading out some of the traveling might be helpful.

My son is involved in a homeschool gym class, an every-other week class at the nature center, and Sunday classes at our UCC so I guess the big question for me is if I think that's enough or if I want to keep trying to get the group started. There was some buy-in to our upcoming playdate and a planning get together so I'm going to run with that and see how things go. I'm at least thankful that my experience isn't necessarily unique. It's all given me quite a bit to think about.

Kylie
07-23-2011, 06:18 PM
Well, IMO I honestly think that if you aren't really prepared to do a lot of groundwork for at least quite some time on a very regular basis then it probably won't happen for you like you want it to.

I'm not trying to be snarky, just realistic! People want to see consistency I guess and maintaining that is hard work.

What about trying from another angle. Not park meet ups but a regular class/sport activity, this gives people a reason to come?

mamaraby
07-23-2011, 07:47 PM
Just a difference in expectations maybe? The only other group we've been memebers of did not have regular events, but rather a message board component plus periodic field tripy/playdate events planned by members. That was kind of what I was shooting for hence the surprise at the regularity that was mentioned here.

And no, I didn't take it as snarky. Slightly harsh, yes.

Kylie
07-24-2011, 07:43 AM
mmmm maybe your potential members already have their message board needs met?

Honestly I don't really know what else to try, sorry. I do hope something falls into place for you though. :-)