More and more families are looking to form small learning groups for their children, and summer is the perfect time to meet new people and find out if there are common interests and “fit” for future educational and social opportunities.
GSHE added several new co-ops and groups to our Support Group list in recent weeks, and we’re happy to add more as they come together.
We compiled some basic information and resources to help you connect with other families and education professionals, tips, and suggestions if you are considering some kind of co-op or learning pod for the coming school year.
What is a Learning Community
The name may vary – homeschool pod, microschool, learning co-op, study group, or something like these, but they are essentially referring to the same thing. There is no universal distinction among these terms so they're used fairly interchangeably. Homeschooling families are free to provide an education for their children using any resource they wish, and that may include forming small groups of all kinds to learn together with parents providing direct instruction or hiring someone else to do it.
As Commissioner Edelblut explained in two interviews we did last summer, families are able to direct their children's education without being the sole source or provider of that learning. He likened it to families having options for meals; they can grow all their own food, shop at grocery stores or farmer markets, or do carry-out or restaurant dining for whatever they choose.
Types of Learning Communities
Learning communities can take any form. They can be informal, sporadic meet-ups for one-time social or learning studies, or even daily group learning for one or multiple subjects. They can meet in private homes and rotate hosting responsibilities. It really is whatever the families want and agree to do together. It used to be very common for families to form informal learning groups to study whatever was of interest to the kids, whether it was various science topics or unit studies, finance, do a book club kind of thing, robotics/Legos, cooking, art, all doing some kind of dual-enrollment or online class together, learn various trade skills, game days, field trips, outings to go hiking or biking, or anything else. It doesn't have to be particularly complicated. Families can combine their individual expertise and knowledge to share with the students or hire someone to teach whatever they choose.
Alternatively, learning communities may be a small home-based business. Someone may offer a variety of programs such as those mentioned above, and be the designated host and facilitator of the learning plans and charge some kind of fee to participating families to cover insurance, supplies, any facility charges, and time.
Many families are forming small learning groups; check our Support Group list to see what may be in your area. We are adding more to our list on a regular basis. If you don’t see something near you or that matches your educational plans, consider reaching out to other GSHE members to see if there are common interests.
We interviewed two experienced homeschool parents about family-based learning groups. They shared practical tips and tricks how to form a learning group among friends.
Families may also hire tutors or certified teachers to teach one or multiple subjects. There isn’t a certification for tutors, so families need to use their own judgement when hiring someone. We have an extensive list of teachers and tutors on our website.
In addition to family-based, local, and affinity groups on our Support Groups page, there are numerous co-ops and drop-off programs across the state that offer homeschoolers “ala cart” classes; they are on our Enrichment Classes & Programs page. There are 4-H groups, music and art programs, theater groups, farm and nature classes, private schools that have open classes to NH students, and more.
In addition to our main homeschool support group for NH families, we have a Facebook group called GSHE Homeschool Learning Communities that is specifically to help families and education professionals connect for the purposes of forming small learning groups.
It is important to know that these homeschool variations are applicable to children who are of education attendance age – age 6 or older as of September 30th of the current year. Once a child is of “school age,” the family needs to file their homeschool notification with their choice of a Participating Agency. The simple requirements are explained in our Where to Begin page and there are several videos.
Per our discussions with Commissioner Edelblut in August 2020, a group of children all under school age needs to follow NH’s daycare requirements. This is a link to the NH Department of Health and Human Services FAQ on child care licensing. Per the commissioner, at least one of the children in a learning pod must be of school age to include younger children. Contact DHHS for any questions or clarifications.
We hope this is a helpful overview of homeschool pods and learning groups in New Hampshire.
By Michelle Levell