Starting a Homeschool Group, Part 4

I’ve been a member of many homeschool groups that moved space weekly. It’s often lovely to hang out in fresh places, discover new parks and playgrounds, and be surprised each week by what activities are chosen in new surroundings.

But sometimes events were cancelled five weeks in a row due to inclement weather. If you don’t have a nature-loving group, winter in particular can wreck the continuum of togetherness you’re building. And it can also be difficult to establish territory guidelines based on driving times for all.

“Why not make a group that can head indoors when necessary?” I wondered after three years of awaiting cancellations several days/week. Of course.

I began to search for somewhere we could warm up after playing outdoors, so the space needed to have three things: (1) a bathroom, (2) a large, heated indoor space, and (3) outdoor space that was inspiring and open, ideally with trees and water. When we started checking buildings, a friend and all of our kids and I, we also decided a kitchen would be nice too. Somewhere to rinse out the science experiments, to bake, to heat up hot cocoa we could all enjoy or warm up lunches.

Later, searching for a second location to open another Wildlings group, I realized how special the first space was, and how hard it would be to find another.

Look for community space

I started my search online, using Google maps, and flagged churches, community centers and libraries within 15 minutes of drive time from my house. If it’s not convenient, you won’t want to go as much either, right?

From the map, I looked for green space nearby. Parks were excellent, but also adjacent water sources, hiking trails, even just open space. When a location met those loose parameters, I tracked down someone who worked there and sent an email about what we were doing. This was during COVID, so I got many negatives, usually either “not right now” but equally often “we don’t rent out our space to non-members” of whatever community I’d asked.

“I am a homeschooling mama who keeps growing communities for my kids and myself. I’m looking for a place to host a new group on a recurring, weekly basis, throughout the year. We need an indoor space with outdoor access, ideally a meeting room or a potluck-type area with kitchen and bathrooms.

I wondered if {INSERT SPACE NAME HERE} has such a space that you’d consider renting. Again, we are not a formal group, just a gathering of friends. We need somewhere to gather up to 30 mixed-age people for 4 hours one or two days/week. I wondered if you had a space available that might meet our needs and if you could share the cost with me.”

Pick pricing

My initial ask, roughly above, involved a pricing request, so I could rule spaces out immediately if the price looked high. Backwards, I figured if I needed 8-10 families for age variety and a decent community size, then how much could each family spend? Instead of paying by kid, my group charges by family. You can definitely charge by the person involved, but this seemed easiest and a good way to attract families with more members, which is great for mixed-age play. I divided the space’s pricing to figure out if we could afford it weekly

$100 per rental day x 13 weeks in a semester = $1,300

$1,300 / 10 families = $130

BUT if we only got 8 families to join, cost crept up to $162.50. You see where I’m going with this? There’s definitely some risk involved in renting a space. Especially when YOU are on the line for paying rental fees. Don’t speed with this one. I had to make sure I could cover the fees if anyone dropped out. I also added, later, a drop-in fee of $10 for visiting families to help cover that cost for the rest of us.

I aimed for $100/semester per family, but we live in Denver, so it crept up. I also negotiated with a space that was close, but a little out of reach. Something like, “It’s not that your space isn’t worth $150 per session, but our group of mamas can’t afford it. Is there any wiggle room to get this number down?” We also clean up after ourselves, which I offer right away – “nobody cleans better than a group of parents!” – because it often saves the facility some money between rentals.

We toured spaces – I always asked another member family to come with me, if possible. It’s nice to have advance buy-in. Then I began negotiations, if we liked it, exchanged dates, and eventually I had to sign a contract. ME.

Save yourself, too

Two more points on this contract portion. It feels BIG.

Once your group has grown and needs a space to call home, it’s also time to consider a legal waiver. Crafting a document to address your fears of legal action can calm nerves before you sign a formal rental agreement where property may be damaged and you will be held responsible. Look online for basic documents that are free or enlist that lawyer friend to draft a quickie. Not necessary, but maybe helpful.

Lastly, whether you go the waiver route or not, please add a clause to your registration that directly says that if the family quits your group, they will forfeit their money. Otherwise, you’re stuck paying those extra fees if you don’t find another family to join in midway through. This has happened, but I’ve learned my lesson!

Okay, you’re all set. (Except I probably missed something.) Comment with questions, if you wish, but go forth and organize!

Did you miss the rest in this series? Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

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