Sunday, October 14, 2007

Home ed meetings

Our weekly meetings are great, just now. For the past 5 years we've had the use of an old gymnasium, which probably sounds better than it is because there's no actual gym equipment in it, but it's a big space and it's indoors and above all else, it's free of charge! This means we don't need to worry about keeping accounts or charging subs and we can run the meetings in a very relaxed sort of way.

Activities there vary according to who's attending and what they like doing. Just now it's very sports-oriented. It occured to me last week that it's a bit like being in a nice, friendly school playground at breaktime, but with the addition of parents! We run the meetings in a free-range way, so nobody is coerced to do anything they don't want to do and in fact nobody organises activities as such - they just evolve.

There are basketball and badminton nets, which are both used well. Some families have also been bringing long skipping ropes and group skipping games have been taking place. Sometimes people bring paper, pens, paints, toys, boardgames and anything else they fancy doing. As part of the group's kit we also own a huge activity parachute which is making an appearance on a weekly basis these days.

Generally it's an opportunity to relax and socialise, both for children and parents. We've never needed to impose rules and the meetings are usually peaceful. It's just a nice way to spend a couple of hours every week. I'm very glad of our weekly home ed meetings.


Blogger Elaine said...

OOO I do miss those get togethers they were great.

6:58 pm, October 14, 2007  
Blogger Wobblymoo said...

I hate having to get up and rush out to our meetings, I have to travel 30 minutes in the car to get there but we have gained so much from them.

9:35 pm, October 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are blessed.
We started like that, quite deliberately. However, we then had some very forceful people arrive who wanted to have it structured (and didn't recognise what we did as any kind of structure) but who didn't want to arrange it. They wanted the others to continue to do all the arranging and bandied around criticisms of our 'inability to accept responsibility' (etc, although I didn't see them bringing anything)! Those who didn't want that structure imposed bowed out and those that did didn't continue with anything. Now we are back to a small group who meet socially in houses. It sort of solved the overcrowding problem anyway :-)
However, it makes us all less accessible to newcomers to home ed who would like support from a community group in our area.
Maybe we were unlucky in our area in that we seemed to be bringing together two very different schools of thought with very few who seemed to be in between (the schoolers and the unschoolers, broadly speaking) and to encounter some very outspoken and uncompromising people.
It didn't feel like a healthy environment for my kids any more, that's for sure.
I'm envious, but sort of happy to be back to meeting at home, too.

Glad you liked my list Gill. Anything to add to it? I'm over at wordpress now ... have moved entirely, but you should find the link from my old blog ... and you can leave comments on the page allocated for the list (I've got pages!!!!)

Best wishes

10:26 pm, October 14, 2007  
Blogger Allie said...

Sounds lovely to have a free venue. Our weekly group seems to be constantly in the throes of a heated debate, which is rather tiring.

12:38 am, October 15, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Elaine - they miss you too!

Denise, hmmm I must admit that is the downside. We're starting at 10am these days and it does seem unnaturally early to be up and ready and out of the house.

Sally, I'm sorry to hear you've had that trouble, but sadly I know it's not uncommon, is it? We had a few years of attending other people's meetings in other towns before we set up our own here and we learned what the traditional flashpoints were, so when we got the inevitable people turning up and asking for *rules and responsibilities* I politely but firmly told them to go and set up their own meetings if they wanted that, because ours wouldn't be changing! They grumbled a bit but could see they weren't going to get anywhere so didn't persist, thank goodness.

I hope you're well Sally, it's great to hear from you and yes I certainly will go and visit your new blog :-)

Allie, the fact that it's free saves loads of conflict and hassle, I'm sure. That was the other constant problem with the other meetings we attended - people falling out over money.

A lot of HE activities in these parts are based on one-off pre-planned structured days at museums etc., and they seem to work well too, without argument, but there again someone has opted to take charge and organise them and the message to anyone complaining is: "If you don't like this, go and organise your own instead!"

5:41 am, October 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers Gill,
Yup, it doesn't pay to be too co-operative sometimes! I think we were trying to be as liberal and non-exclusive as we could. I think we all learned that that wasn't terribly workable and maybe we can start again with an agreement in place. You've got a good point.
Maybe it would be a good idea to give it a kind of name that says what the group wants to be, largely? What do you think of that idea?

Looking forward to having a new baby, soon, hopefully!

8:42 pm, October 15, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

That's great news about the baby Sally! May he or she be quickly, healthily and relatively painlessly in your arms xxx I remember that last few days/weeks of waiting myself - it was only 9 months ago the last time. Seems like about 3 weeks!

Re: groups, I'm also very liberal and tolerant and it's great to talk about things to reach agreement. Trouble is, some people just love to conflict-resolve all day and never do anything else, in my experience. Honestly, I've seen it taken to world class levels in some meetings, with tiny little issues being debated for weeks... months... *shudder*

No doubt you've seen the same ;-)

8:51 pm, October 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today we decided to try again. About once a month. Starting with a declared intention/ethos and a name that makes it clear what we want to do with the group. I was surprised we were all up for it.
We'll keep you posted, and thanks for the advice Gill!

Oh well done for mentioning the 'negotiators'. They suddenly stood out like a sore thumb and yet I hadn't really appreciated their role in the demise of our group! I'd thought I was just being a bit irritable/intolerant, but they were almost equally disruptive!

2:09 pm, October 16, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh good luck Sally. I really hope it works out for you this time!

BTW, could you possibly email me? I've got something for you :-)

8:46 pm, October 16, 2007  
Blogger Mieke said...

Big sigh at reading your post and the comments. There are times when I'm craving for a supportive, friendly and safe group like the one you describe. The craving was especially strong when recently we were going through pretty rough times -moving house, my father-in-law passing away and more stuff - I made the mistake of going back to the group we walked away from a year ago... First I thought it was okay, I actually felt really good being back there, I had some nice chats and the kids seemed to be doing fine, too. Then that evening I got a phone call of the group coordinator - and she's one of those 'negotiators' - more or less telling me that she thought we didn't really fit into that group. It was an awful and very one way conversation. Again she implied that I probably didn't understand things very well because I wasn't English...
The only good thing was that this time I didn't feel so helpless and stupid. And I think that's partly thanks to you and your blogging and the comment-conversations we've had on here, Gill. Even while she was talking to me I remembered how we'd talked about group dynamics and how we can vote with our feet.
Anyway, bizarly enough the result of it all has been that we - as a family - have moved on in a very positive way. I think only now have we definitely accepted that this group isn't contributing anything positive to our lives and we needn't feel guilty or wrong about it.
It also turned out that other families weren't too happy with the way this lady runs the group and they too have decided not to go there anymore. Instead, we are organizing very ad hoc gatherings and outings and we're considering setting up our own group. Luckily it doesn't feel as an 'anti-group' iykwim, and there's hardly any talk about what happened. We're moving forward and hopefully eventually we'll be able to give each other the support that's so important.

11:19 am, October 17, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Mieke, it's very sad that your group leader took that course of action IMO. In five years I've never asked anyone to stop attending our meetings, or even implied that they should.

The worst time for us was to do with the lady I set the meetings up with - our two daughters had a bad fall-out, as girls do - and she joined in with their argument! She'd obviously never heard the golden rule to always stay out of children's fall-outs ;-)

Ohhh that was bad. Of course I couldn't leave Zara undefended once there was adult involvement and it came to a 'this meeting ain't big enough for the both of us' point. I can laugh about it with hindsight, but it was traumatic at the time!

In the end, we sort of tacitly agreed that my family would continue to run/attend those meetings, but stay away from everything else that was going on locally, and her family would attend the other stuff, so that our paths needn't cross again.

I actually gave her the choice between those two options, so she decided how it was going to be - seemed fair to me, either way. It's worked ok, but I'm still sad that it came to that between us.

However, our respective parenting ethos were so different that I think some kind of conflict was inevitable, since this family seemed determined to spend a lot of time with us. A cautionary tale! I've been very careful about agreeing to spend a lot of time with other families ever since then. Once a week is good - every day is bad for us.

And to stay out of children's disputes is good!

I'm glad your situation is improving Mieke. Best of luck with it! xx

12:57 pm, October 17, 2007  
Blogger Shirl said...

You are so lucky... we have so much trouble getting meetings to work down here....:0(

By the way, could you change your link to my blog - it's directed at my old one which has been hijacked...

Here's the new one:

Best Wishes, Shirl

11:40 am, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Done, Shirl - but blimey, how did it get hacked? :-O

11:44 am, October 23, 2007  

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