By now you have a few people who are willing to form a group with you, maybe you’ve even met them and discussed your goals! Awesome. If so, you’ve likely realized that you won’t be in the driver’s seat all the time. This is only your group in certain ways, like the organizing part, if you want it. In order to keep people interested and attending consistently, you have to figure out how this group can meet everyone’s needs. And again, the only way to do that is to ask.
How Do I Organize Week By Week?
Call in the parents! Now that your participating families are gathering, it’s time for a meeting.
If you’re going to plan week by week, start each week’s session by touching base on what’s happening the following week. Clear up what families need to bring, where you’ll be going – all the details. Often it’s easiest if families volunteer to host specific dates or they’re assigned on a rotating basis. Take notes and fill up your calendar, but allow each family to choose the topic and location (within your agreed range). This keeps everyone engaged and excited about “their” event.
Once you have decided as a group how you’ll handle the calendar, make a Google document. Give your group members permission to change it, and share the dates and hosts with the group. Now each member is responsible for updating their calendar topic, location, and whatever information everyone will need to participate.
After a few weeks of this format, hold a more informal pow-wow to check in. This is a good time to clarify your process and answer questions that will pop up as you go.
Example questions: When a member hosts, will they create a social media post about their event or will you? How will other members pay for materials required by a certain topic or does is that host responsible for the extra cost?
Always address all concerns with input from your group. If your members feel heard, they’re more likely to commit deeply.
How Do I Organize a Semester in Advance?
When your group rents space together, it’s easier to break the payments down into more palatable semesters, or groups of 13-14 weeks. And that’s a big chunk of time to fill! Starting with everyone’s interests gives me a long list, and many sessions are super simple to plan.
Our group rents space together, and we have a formal application process (see our live application). When people apply to be in the group, they submit two of each kid’s interests as well as two of the attending parent’s interests. This gives us at least four topics per family, which, times 7-8 families, is WAY MORE than enough to cover our 14-week semester. Some of the interests overlap, some are definitely outliers.
Following interests is interesting for two reasons: (1) you’re being introduced to the topic by someone who’s already passionate and wants to connect over that theme and (2) you definitely wouldn’t cover the topic in the same way, or with the same resources, that you can in a larger group.
I also tap into the food holidays calendar, because celebrations with food inspire the kids to get pretty creative. Some are super niche, but they’re always fun!
Spread the interests across the calendar, accounting for weather and holidays, in order to cover the interests as fully as possible. Once each is tagged to a date, plan to expand them the week before. Start several weeks earlier if materials for larger themes, like LARPing, take longer to track down.
To keep surprises low, I make a Google doc of our planned semester with dates and topics. During each of our Wildling sessions, we mamas touch base on the calendar, discussing what we’ll need next week and who’s bringing it. I’ll post the upcoming session info a day or two later, noting what we discussed, and any other flags.
How Do We Split Materials?
As group lead, my goal is to keep additional costs very low. Sharing among members is the easiest way to do that, but often new members aren’t sure they can depend on each other.
For example, when we tie-dyed as a group, I offered to buy bulk supplies. Split between eight families, those paints turn pretty affordable. But two families didn’t participate in our group buy, opting to bring their own, separate stock. I’m hopeful this will change in time, but these supplies were still cheaper split six ways.
Often families will volunteer to bring supplies if they know what’s expected, especially if the topic covered is one of their interests. If something’s coming up that seems like a big expense, research the pricing. Paying by participating kid or by family is frequently the cheapest way to try more elaborate crafts.
How Can I Keep It Cheap?
Your topics do not need to be expensive! Making group games or a chalk obstacle course the focus of your first hour of play builds a list of things the kids like to do together. They will reference these games when boredom creeps in – as it will!
Our Wildling groups bring puzzles, board games and art supplies to share. We keep a table with these shared items and the kids know they’re free to use them if they need a quiet moment or can’t think of what to do next.
That said, sometimes group topics can be expensive. If you discuss an upcoming topic in a group and nobody offers to bring anything, I’d say something like, “I’m wondering if we should switch topics for next week because it doesn’t look like we’ll have the supplies we need.”
Sometimes everyone gets so stuck on making a topic work, they don’t remember it can be changed. Maybe that topic you chose in August isn’t appealing by November? Maybe it just doesn’t translate well to your space? Let it go. Switch to something that excites everyone! Stick with topics where you get traction. If everyone commits to bringing supplies, individual costs will remain low.
Change location by moving your body. Sometimes you just need movement as a refresh – without adding any money at all! My homeschool groups use spaces with both indoor and outdoor access always available, but we mamas tend to congregate in one space, and then sit there the whole time. If you want to get the kids moving, move yourself! I know I feel better when I move too.
I’ll cover how to upgrade your group space in the final article, next week. Get organizing!