Debunked: Three Ideas That Keep Homeschool Parents from Leading
When my husband and I were first married, we visited Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. He had traveled there as a bachelor just one year before, so as we arrived, he tried to prepare me for the fifteen-mile hike we were about to take. He spoke of socks (wear two pairs), my hat (a necessity), and staying hydrated. Then, more seriously than I had ever seen him, he stopped the van and said, “Most important of all: don’t walk on the soil.”
I thought he was joking! How could a person hike without touching the soil? He went on to explain that it is imperative that hikers stay on trails to preserve the landscape. Moab has an entire ecosystem in its soil crust. This cryptobiotic soil is precious, delicate, and can be completely shattered by a single footstep.
I did not have to be told twice. Stay off the soil to protect the environment? I got it.
Within another ecosystem that we know and love called homeschool, rules also preserve order, efficiency, or friendship in group settings like co-ops or homeschool sports leagues. Some of the rules are necessary and others are less critical. And some are just ideas that we get stuck in our heads that aren’t true. These false ideas can keep us from serving our homeschool community. Most homeschool leaders would love for you to know that they welcome your involvement—even if that includes changes in their homeschool groups. So let’s take a look at a couple of these false ideas that people place on themselves and how those ideas hinder us from becoming leaders.
Idea #1: I Can’t Lead Unless Someone Asks Me.
For parents who are engrossed in the corporate world or leaving brick-and-mortar schools, it can be hard to shake the notion that homeschool parents truly are free to lead the way they think is best. No stocks will plummet if you are late for a field trip. No one micromanages your daily schedule, passes out tardy slips, or counts your PTO days. The closest thing homeschoolers have to a carpool is the drive-thru at Chick-fil-A.
But in some ways, homeschool groups are similar to corporations and other large, organized groups of people. Sometimes you see needs that have not yet been recognized by leaders. Sometimes there are jobs that leaders see—that have not yet been posted. Sometimes there are vacancies or turnovers in a particular role for a long time. This vacancy may be a signal that the position is outdated, and it’s time for your group to let it go. It could be a sign that the expectations of the group are unattainable, and good folks have stepped in—only to realize they can’t really make a difference. But sometimes it is an indication that the group has simply been waiting for you to serve!
So ask. Don’t be complacent. Put out your resume, so to speak. It may seem daunting, egotistical, or pushy to initiate the conversation, but it’s not. If you notice that there seems to be a shortage of people serving at the basketball game concession stand each week, ask your leaders if they need a hand. Maybe it’s time for you to serve by selling some refreshments. If you wish that information was shared more accessibly in your group, and you have experience managing contacts, ask your leadership if you could be of assistance. If you think it would be fun to have a Lego club in your group, perhaps it’s time to mention it to the president of your new group. The fact that you noticed a void, that you care, and that you are willing to serve, often indicates that you should lead and do have true qualifications for a good leader.
Idea #2: If I Volunteer, It Will Be Too Time-Consuming.
If you fear being asked to take on more than you can handle, just be clear about what you are offering. Ask leadership to share their expectations. If they can’t tell you the job duties in a simple and concise way, then ask them to write down the duties and share them with you later. Spelling out exactly what the group needs helps the group to be realistic about what they expect a volunteer to do. It helps you see if you are a good match for the group’s needs. Mostly, it helps everyone see if perhaps the reason the role hasn’t been filled is because there should be more than one person filling this role.
For example, you may hear that your group needs a yearbook director. Everyone speaks highly of Super Sue: a mom who managed the role of yearbook director, all on her own, for ten years. The demands of this job included collecting family pages from forty families, selecting a pre-designed theme for the cover, managing six kids who taped 4×6 photos to graph paper, and dropping off the pages at a local printer.
However, today your group has 120 families. Everything is managed virtually, files are shared online, photos are retouched digitally, each photo requires a waiver, and the nineteen students who signed up for Yearbook Club work remotely via Zoom. Maybe the responsibilities that Super Sue easily juggled on her own should now be managed by Diplomatic Danesha and Fantastic Francisco because your group has tripled in size since Sue retired (not to mention technology has come a long way since then!). Your willingness to start the conversation that identifies that there should be a team of yearbook leaders might be just what the group needs.
“But Sarah!” you say. “Now I have to find multiple volunteers instead of one—how is that better?”
Sometimes a volunteer role morphs into a full-time job. Division of labor is often better because it is easier to find a few people who will do a little work than one person who can do all of the work. It is beneficial to let one person manage a project where many hands make light work, and no one gets burned out. People are willing to commit to regularly serving in small roles (which makes it easier for you to plan future events).
Idea #3: I Don’t Have Anything to Offer.
Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the world one of my favorite quotes: “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.”
Do you believe this quote is true? I do. Some people have time to give. Some have money. Others have remarkable talents or skills. When the thought crosses our minds that we don’t have anything to offer, we must dismiss it because it is untrue. Everyone has something to offer because everyone can pray. In seasons where illness, the loss of a job, moving, or another major life event consumes your daily life, you can still serve others in prayer. Prayer is powerful, and everyone at NCHE covets your prayers for our country, our great state, the NCHE board, and their work serving families. On top of that, you have other skills that will be useful and appreciated by the right homeschool group.*
North Carolina is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. People are moving here from just about everywhere. New people bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and diversity to home education. Today’s homeschool families are often spread thin; they just don’t have a lot of time. As more and more families choose to teach their children at home, homeschool leaders have noticed a shortage of people willing to take on the responsibility of group leadership. Yet, in order for home education to thrive, we must have diligent and devoted leaders. Most homeschool leaders are homeschool parents. They understand you, and they are open to whatever you have to offer—whether it’s handing out name tags at a meeting once a month, leading a one-time event, or serving long term.
Complacency, fear, and deception are the obstacles that hinder gifted parents from leading. Don’t let limiting self-beliefs keep you from leading in your community. The worst thing that can happen isn’t rejection or disappointing people. The worst thing that can happen is the deterioration of the meaningful activities and friendships that enrich home education. You were created for great things. You were born for such a time as this. If you are considering leading, lead on!
*Find the most comprehensive list of homeschool groups and support groups in North Carolina under the Community tab on the NCHE website. This resource is freely provided to everyone, thanks to contributions from NCHE members. Become an NCHE member when you visit nche.com/membership
Sarah Hicks and her husband, Peter, homeschool their children in region 5. She served as media manager at NCHE for three years and is grateful for opportunities to tell people about the NCHE mission to help families homeschool their children with confidence and joy.
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