Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday's Tip

Look for a Smile!
Are you needing a volunteer for something? Finding someone with a positive outlook in all situations can mean the difference between an ok volunteer leader and a great one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday's Tip

You Have Permission!
Sometimes as a leader you have to give yourself permission to say no to good and right things at just the right time. Take the phone off the hook for an afternoon and do a happy dance; set regular, guilt-free hours to enjoy homeschooling your kids; delegate as many jobs as you can, and by all means, take time to feast on the delicious Word of God each and every day.

We at Homeschool Group Leader are going to practice what we are preaching. For this week only, there will be no Friday's Answer. Enjoy your families, we'll enjoy ours, and have a Christ-filled Christmas!

Many Christmas Blessings,
Kristen & Denise

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday's Answer: Be the Bad Guy!

"How do other leaders deal with members who always RSVP and pay for events late?"

Ring! It's a another sign up after you have already turned in the final count. You let a little exasperation show in your voice as you make promises to work them in. They apologize, but you know they will do it again. What can you do to relieve the stress and extra work? Here's our best advice.

1. Communicate your deadline well – Make sure you give your members plenty of advance notice of any deadlines, especially anything that’s going to cost. Communicate the details and deadlines through several different mediums, such as in your newsletter, during meeting announcements, and by e-mail.

2. Set it and forget it – Set your deadline and don’t doubt yourself. If you ask for an RSVP, then it is reasonable to expect members to make a quick phone call or drop a short email to let you know they’re coming.

3. Stand your ground – Be willing to be the bad guy and say no to those who want to sign up late or don’t deal well with boundaries. Whatever level of excellence you expect of your members is what they are going to rise to over time.

4. Retrain the brain – Leave your members options as you retrain them to RSVP or to pay on time. For example, they are welcome to pay late, but it will cost extra. In doing so, you are rewarding those members who faithfully pay on time.

5. Mercy has its place – There is a time and a season for everything. And there is a time to stand your ground, and there is a time to extend a deadline. If you discern extenuating circumstances or feel mercy is the best call, then don’t hesitate to make an exception. Even bad guys have a soft side.

Here’s a secret to leadership success. If you set your deadlines a couple of days earlier than you really need to, then when you get those late calls, you always get to say yes and be the good guy.

Christmas blessings,

Denise & Kristen

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday's Tip!

Say “Cheese!”

Drop by your local newspaper with a photo from your group’s latest activity. Include a caption, and don’t forget to use your spell-check!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday's Answer: Web Site Apathy

“How to get more participation? We have over 100 families on
our yahoo loop and yet only about 10 show up to different things. We are averaging 2-3 families per event.”
Three things come to our mind here.

#1 As a yahoo group, do the members clearly know what the vision or purpose of the group is? Whether your group is primarily for online support through emails or primarily a connection for real-world activities, it needs to be stated clearly somewhere on your front page.

The key word here is “primarily.” If the members joined for the purpose of getting online ideas and support, then don’t stress about trying to get them together for activities. Maybe they aren’t coming to activities because it simply doesn’t fit their need or reason for joining your group. Assess your group’s needs and clearly communicate the group’s vision to those who are signing on with you.

#2 Take a poll of your members. Find out what your members want and how often they want it. Get as much feedback as you can through email, personal phone calls or face-to-face contact. Multiple choice polls make it much easier for them to zip back an answer to you and make it much easier for you to assess the needs of your group.

#3 If your members still need to be inspired to action, consider having a cool giveaway every once in awhile to offer them some incentive. For example, the first 25 to respond to such and such will have their names entered into a drawing for two passes to the museum. Make the giveaway something affordable, and have fun being creative with your reward if your budget isn’t very big.

Hope this helps!
Denise & Kristen

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuesday's Tip!

We are so excited to introduce 2 new features here on our blog for you--Tuesday's Tip and Friday's Answer. We think they will be a tremendous help to you as a homeschool group leader.

On Tuesdays, we will post a quick tip that will give you a suggestion, a reminder, or an idea that will spark your leadership imagination. They will be short and fun and cover a variety of great homeschool leader subjects.

On Fridays, we want to give away some great answers to the many great questions that you have sent us. Everyone will want to keep up with these--because your question could be answered that week, another leader just may ask something you want to know as well, and you could be a help to other leaders by posting your quick comments of what has or hasn't worked for you.

These 2 new features will give you just a taste of what's coming up soon in our new e-book for homeschool group leaders, Motivating Your Members. You're going to love it.

Here's the Tuesday's Tip for you today:
Do a service project: Bless your local firemen with a gift basket of goodies and deliver it to the station. Remember your camera!

Stay tuned for Friday's Answer,
Denise & Kristen

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Everyday

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving this week. Our family did! We were blessed by having both my parents and my husband's here with us. Mine drove an hour to join us, and my in-laws traveled all the way from Wyoming. This was truly a rare treat.

I just love this time of year and how everything reminds me to focus on giving thanks to the Lord. I love the pumpkin pie, the loving faces of family, the story of Squanto, the mouth-watering smells of dinner cooking, and the memories passed down and retold.

Through it all I was overwhelmed, realizing anew how amazingly good God is to me--such an undeserving soul. I never could finish a mental list I was trying to compile of all the things I'm thankful for. It is truly endless because giving thanks must continue on each and every day.

Sheila Campbell, of Texas Home School Coalition, wrote these encouraging words for homeschool group leaders during this time of year:

Thankful Thoughts on Leadership

Be Thankful for the Position - Remember, whether you applied for leadership or not, position is ultimately ordained by God.

Be Thankful for the Freedom to Lead - Take time to praise God for the country and state in which we live. Praise Him for the time and place in which He has placed you.

Be Thankful for Partners in Leadership - Whether you are supported by a spouse, other members of your leadership team, or other leaders across the state, praise God you are not alone.

Be Thankful for Those Whom you Serve - Thank God for the opportunity and privilege to serve and encourage others.

Be Thankful for Those Who Have Gone Before - Remember those who have gone before you and fought for our freedoms in our country, our state, and the home school movement. Don't forget those who have served in leadership before you in your group and across the state.

Be Thankful for Those Who Follow - Praise God for the younger members of your group and the children whose lives will impact tomorrow!

Counting my blessings everyday,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Be Proactive!

During this season of thankfulness, a recent lesson I have learned about leadership came to my mind.

I am so thankful for recently learning the lesson to be PROACTIVE in all areas of my life. I first heard this point at the Texas Home School Coalition leadership conference when Tim Lambert was illustrating the importance of being positively proactive when dealing with the media. If there is a problem, or potential problem, head it off at the pass with no fear, with a smile and with correct information (my words).

Applying this to parenting is easy. I have been praying for wisdom to pinpoint the problems with my kids and then praying for creative solutions to intercept the problems and turn them in a positive direction.

For example, I have a brand new, beautiful teenaged daughter who is a good and responsible girl who loves Jesus, but I can see and hear her gently "experimenting" with worldly ideas. To intercept this, I plan to do something that I read about in a recent Old Schoolhouse magazine interview with Sally Clarkson: I plan to have more than one type of Bible study and opportunities for her to hang out with positive peer pressure groups. If I know God has called me to train her to be a leader, then she needs to be hanging around leaders-in-training as much as possible instead of just the kids who think like the world.

Applying this to homeschool group leadership is also easy. If you notice the moms in your group only talking to the ones they know and leaving others out, as a leader, you can be proactive about this problem in at least four ways:

1. Have name tags and invite them to introduce themselves to one person they haven't met yet or don't know very well (name tags take away any awkwardness of forgetting a name)

2. Creatively juggle the seating by "assigning" ladies to sit at tables based on something really fun or random like the color shirt they are wearing (wouldn't have to do this every time, just enough to jolt things out of a comfortable routine every once in awhile)

3. Remind them at the beginning of each meeting to make sure they help the visitors/new moms feel warm and welcomed (sometimes, members simply need to be reminded)

4. Offer a fun question that can get people talking together (ex: What's your favorite children's book? or What would be the ultimate international homeschool field trip?)

So, being proactive is a very positive way to deal with sticky situations and turn them for good.

Keeping ahead of the game,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We're Not The Same!

We were challenged, stretched and encouraged this past weekend at the THSC Leadership Conference. The beautiful campgrounds and great food were a perfect setting for the meetings, workshops and open forums. The fellowship was sweet as we met with some great Texas leaders.

It was so exciting to us to hear such great advice from these experienced homeschool group leaders that we wanted to share some of what they said with you here. (Our best advice is for you to make plans to be at next year's THSC Leadership Conference!) Here's just the tip of the iceberg of all the wealth of information we heard during interviews, meetings and workshops:

Doug & Patsy Arnold of Texas' Special Kids--"Don't ask what you can do about the [special needs] child. Ask what you can do for the child, how you can learn from the child, and how you can be blessed by this child."

Becky Ryan of REACH Garden Ridge--"Be as open as possible. Post your minutes. When you're upfront about everything, people trust you more and your decisions."

Arlene Alderman of REACH Garden Ridge--"Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! You can't repeat [your vision] too much."

Donna Harp of THSC Board of Directors--"Do a co-op that includes good citizenship. . . that includes the kids helping to get a gentleman that is homeschool-friendly elected. Then the kids have some ownership of who gets elected."

Paul Mills of THSC Board of Directors and HCCH--"To get men involved in leadership, limit the quantity of meetings they need to attend. Don't expect them to be at the one for choosing the Valentine's banquet decorations. They need to attend the meetings for vision and budgeting and bylaws."

Tonya Knowles of Touchstone Home Educators--"I chose the group's name from one of my favorite books as a child. The meaning of the word touchstone is an excellent example."

Martha Sides (no photo) of REACH Co-op--"As soon as you take a leadership position, begin to look for and mentor your replacement."

Norm Wakefield of Spirit of Elijah Ministries--"Vision provides security and peace. If you don't set the vision for your group, others in the group will."

Tim & Lyndsay Lambert of THSC--"Prepare for growth because it will come. Small groups can become large groups overnight."

As you can see, it was a powerful weekend. We hope to see you next year--we believe you will not leave the same either!

Denise & Kristen

Monday, October 20, 2008

Teleseminar You Don't Want to Miss!

It's only 24 hours away!

We are excited about all the great tips, ideas and secrets you are going to get when you join us for this info-packed hour.

Our topic: "15 Ways to Increase Attendance," will cover:

  • getting dads involved and feeling welcomed
  • getting teens involved and excited about your group
  • getting volunteers to come out of the woodwork. . . and coming back to help
  • getting more of your members attending meetings, field trips, etc.

The teleseminar will not be about:

  • advertising your group
  • increasing your membership numbers

But how to inspire those already a part of your group to become more committed and active!

Spaces for the call are limited, so call in 5 minutes early to reserve your spot on the call. Print out the call info and tape itby your phone. Here's more details and the info for the call:

Free Teleseminar Call Information

Till Tomorrow,

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why Should I Even Consider Leading a Group?

Honestly, it's a challenge to lead a homeschool group. A common saying in Texas is that leading homeschoolers is like trying to herd cats. Their independence and love for freedom can make them seem hard to pull together.

But there are huge benefits to being a leader of these wonderfully-unique homeschoolers. It's an opportunity to:

serve others
showcase your talents and gifts
bring the homeschool community together
increase community awareness of homeschooling
provide much-needed encouragement and support
allow for the exciting exchange of ideas
accomplish something that stretches you
keep you from getting bored
see the fruit of your vision
gain skills that can be used in other areas of your life
gain confidence
build lasting relationships
learn to conquer fears
force you to be more organized
help you set your priorities in order

and last but not least. . . Somebody's got to do it. ;-) Why not you??

You can do it!
Denise and Kristen

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Nothing Like the Last Second!

We promised you some information about the exciting Texas Home School Leadership Conference coming up Oct. 24-26 in Waxahachie, TX. With everything going on in our lives the past few weeks, we just remembered that promise. . . today!

To be honest, we've both been thinking about the conference A LOT this week. The registration fee is due on Friday, and we've been brainstorming creative ways to come up with the money fast.
Earlier this week, I (Kristen) got so overwhelmed with the thought of raising $150 (hotel lodging for two nights, all food and gasoline) that I started shutting down in my head. I was giving up before I even started. It's impossible. What resources do you have? You can't do this. EBay items will take too long to see a return. These were some of the discouraging thoughts floating through my head.

Then Denise boldly suggested a "fire sale" of sorts, and we began to scratch out ideas of things we could do to earn money fast. No limits. No fear. By the end of the phone call, I had my assignment--to pull out my beading box and and spend the afternoon crafting earrings from whatever I had in there. I got excited about the opportunity to create something beautiful and set to work. I didn't worry about whether people would even like them or not. Within two hours, I'd created 8 pairs of earrings and had also decided that I was going to also sell pint-sized jars of homemade, organic chicken broth (a favorite staple in my own kitchen).

I created a page of photos and snazzy descriptions and emailed it to the girls from my church Dinner Club and my homeschool group. That's it. Do you know that the Lord has MORE than provided my registration fee--in 48 hours?!? With the sales that came in and a house I'm cleaning, it's done and orders are still pouring in. And that's a wonderful thing, because we also have baby #6 to pay for since I have yet to find an insurance company that will joyfully cover a home birth.

The point is. . .
God provides your very specific need, and nothing is impossible for Him.

Now, about the conference--I CAN'T WAIT!! The speaker lineup is power-packed with tons of experience and wisdom from Norm Wakefield of Spirit of Elijah Ministries and Tim and Lyndsay Lambert. I was going to try to hit some of the highlights for you here on the blog, but it's just too rich--you need to read it for yourself. Retreat Schedule

With all of the workshops, discussion panels and round table discussions planned, leaders will be so blessed. And I believe the fellowship times are going to be the icing on the cake.
So, if there's any way you can get there, get there. And if you see me, be sure to stop me and say "Howdy!"

P.S. THSC offers scholarships and less expensive lodging options for the conference. Check that out here on their Registration page. Of course, you may call them as well with any questions.

Blessings, y'all!

Not Everyone Likes Our Style...

We here at Homeschool Group Leader enjoy what we do and are constantly learning new things. We look upon our simple beginnings with gratefulness and look forward to an exciting future supporting you. We really want to fill a need in the leadership community and pass on hindsight wisdom that we've gained from our experiences and interviews to you.

Recently we received a comment as one person unsubscribed during the first sections of the FREE Mini-Course. We thought it might be helpful to you to see what our response was. The thoughts expressed were, "Too much praising God and not enough practical information."

We carefully considered their feedback and answered, "Thank you for your comment and input. We will take this into consideration and possibly revise to add more practical info in the future. The other points do add more information; however, this first one established whom to please to give clarity in actions as a leader. It is so easy to get tripped up trying to please people--and we can never please everyone. Remembering to look to Christ for our affirmation and direction gave us the stability we needed while leading. Thanks again!"

This served as a great reminder to us that as leaders we will never be able to please everyone--and that's ok. When you receive criticism for your work or efforts or faith, choose to wait before reacting--especially if you feel angry or hurt. Remember that we all have room for improvement. Prayerfully consider their opinion and ask God to show you any blindspots you may have through it. Use it as a catalyst to re-evaluate your vision and style and stand. Glean from it what you can, and let go of the rest. Then kindly, but firmly respond in humble strength and thoughtful confidence.

Your feedback is always important,
Denise & Kristen

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Has Money Got You Down?

Our friend, Carol Topp, Homeschool CPA, is a name you need in your Rolodex. Whenever you have a financial question for your group, she wants you to think of her as your own CPA.

Carol Topp combines her homeschooling and accounting experiences to especially assist homeschool group leaders. She offers practical advice on starting and running a homeschool organization, receiving tax-exempt 501c3 status with the IRS, forming a board and managing a group budget. Carol also offers money management advice for homeschool families, teens and small businesses.

We have found her website to be very clean and easy to navigate. The FAQ section and blog are particularly helpful. Her nuts and bolts approach to managing your money provides you with very thorough, knowledgeable and step-by-step information to start your family and homeschool group on the upward financial path.

As a published author, Carol shares her expertise and wisdom on many subjects through articles and books. Her newest insightful book for those involved with co-ops, Homeschooling Co-ops: Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out, can be purchased here.

Carol graciously offered a great article for you that we truly believe will be of help to you. You can read it directly online:

We have enjoyed introducing Carol Topp to you. Now you can get to know her and check out all she does by going to her website, http://www.homeschoolcpa.com/. We know she will be a blessing to you and your group's financial success.

Many blessings,
Kristen & Denise

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hurricane Ike Didn't Blow Us Away. . .

But he sure did take us off the grid for a while! It's been two weeks today since Ike came to visit. Now we are trying to catch up after the crisis and cleanup.

Here's a picture of my backyard 24 hours after Ike washed ashore. As you can see, we were extremely blessed. We only had damage to our fence on all sides, and the shed lost shingles. Our home was fortunately untouched.

Kristen evacuated with her 5 children and had a difficult drive with sickness and changes in trip plans as her husband held down their fort. They sustained little damage to their property but lost several large trees. She got home yesterday, rested and glad to be home. We are both very thankful to the Lord for his goodness to us.

I was so thankful for the boarded up windows while listening to Ike's winds. When the eye passed overhead, we went outside with flashlights. The eerieness seemed to crawl on your skin. Then the second half of the storm hit with even more force. Afterwards we learned to be resourceful and content without electricity for over 8 days.

The community really came together during the aftermath and helped one another. Everybody, including newly-met neighbors, was so giving in time and hard work and supplies. We received from others and jumped in to help others. Passing out food, water, ice, charcoal, and other supplies to those hit harder than us was gratifying.

All of our Hurricane Ike experiences gave us a new perspective. I was thankful for all the opportunities to learn, build and teach real character like generosity, contentment and hard work mentioned above and as well: faith, security, benevolence, patience, alertness, creativity and gratefulness. Homeschooling never stops, does it?! :)

Our homeschool group has been like a community, too. Everyone has been calling and checking on one another, offering to help, giving support, prayer and encouragement. As the electricity has flowed back into homes we've seen more updates from families on our email network. It is comforting to connect again and hear all the news and needs.

A homeschool group needs that sense of community! It is important in the good times and critical in the difficult ones. I'll leave you with three quick ways to help build those connections:

  1. Give time to build relationships and friendships in group activities
  2. Have a website or yahoo group for email networking
  3. Pass out a printed phone directory of and for the members

Survivor by grace,

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fresh Tips From a New Leader

Small fellowship groups at state or regional conferences give homeschoolers time to connect with others like themselves. I was privileged to meet several group leaders at a planned fellowship for support group leaders during the Texas State Conference. They were such a wealth of information with their years of experience.

The heart of leaders to help and encourage others was evident as they talked together. Some gave tips and answered questions while others put forth new ideas. As I listened and learned, I became doubly aware of the need to pass along experienced leaders' wisdom and make it available for others all across the web.

One leader in attendence was Bambi Dossey. She started a group 1 1/2 years ago in a small town she had moved into. Already they have 35 families who have joined. Bambi said that it is was very different coming from a large established group to starting a new one.

Since the experience is so fresh for her, I asked her what one piece of advice would she give someone who was starting a group. She answered, "Make sure it is God's plan!"

"If I build it, I'll just spin my wheels and be exhausted. Pray before you ask someone to lead, and pray while they decide. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading."

She then added, "Don't try to reinvent the wheel. Visit websites, talk to groups." Bambi said that the bylaws, code of decorum, and statement of faith can be borrowed from other groups. Then they can be tweaked to fit your group's mission statement and passed by the board.

Lastly I asked her what she wished she would have known when she began the group. Instantly she replied, "Don't take it personal!"

In explanation, she continued that people sometimes hold back to see if it {the group or leadership} is going to work before they commit or help. She had to learn to keep her focus on what God was doing, not others.

Hope you enjoyed that slice out of leadership life,

Saturday, September 6, 2008

An Update & Tides

Have things been as crazy at your house as it has been at each of ours? These last couple of weeks have flown by and have been crammed with life happenings.

Kristen and I have hardly seen each other, much less worked on our writings. Yesterday, we got to steal an hour together on the phone. That was good. As we talked, we reconfirmed that family always comes first. We don't want to be obsessive with our work here at Homeschool Group Leader--as good as it is and as much as we enjoy it. It's all about balance and keeping priorities in the right order.

Maybe you're wondering what's been going on. . . . Thanks for asking! We've had lots of company and family visiting, each have taken vacations, started our home schooling, had times of sickness or migraines, had church activities, kept up with Hurricane Gustav (was ready to evacuate at a radar's notice) and even watched the RNC. Even now I have Gustav evacuees here staying with me from Baton Rouge. You don't hear it on the news because it's not New Orleans, but they've been without electricity all week. 400 homes have trees on them. Our friends were actually sleeping in their car to have a little air conditioning in the overbearing humidity and heat.

I've noticed over the years that life seems to happen in waves. The tide comes in where everything happens at once. Then the natural ebb and flow brings times of refreshing and calm. During the stressful or busy times as high waves keep crashing around and on us, we can easily feel overwhelmed. It is important to keep your head up (priorities) above the waves to avoid drowning. Don't panic, stay calm, tread water, hold your breath, breathe. All the while remember the best advice a lifeguard can give--look up!

"Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me." Micah 7:7

Resting in His wonderful mercy,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

All I Can Say Is, "Wow!"

This has been an AMAZING weekend. The Texas Home School Coalition put together a wonderful conference, and so many great things happened. I just returned home from The Woodlands and wanted to quickly write before I fell apart and rested, just so that you could know all about it.

First, the conference couldn't have been better. I always think this year is the best (I've been able to go the last 4 years) when I hear the speakers or get to shop or see my daughters sing in the children's presentation. The Children's Ministries of Texas (CMT) always out-do themselves each year. It is a testimony of good & godly training to see over 700 kids with their teenage teachers and helpers standing tightly together to sing & recite scripture for all the parents without a problem. Kudos to the CMT and all the wonderful volunteers. I'm one of the many grateful parents!

Jeff Myers was my newest favorite speaker. Have you checked out any of his "Passing the Baton" materials? He is actually a leadership training specialist. Wisdom and honor are his recurring themes as he reaches your heart with truths and well-told humorous stories. Speaking of humor, Diana Waring was also entertaining & informative as she dramatized many of the different learning styles. It is important to know and recognize them in ourselves and our children for effective teaching.

As for shopping this year, I showed the restraint of an experienced, on-a-budget, beginning-to-have-grey-hair, homeschooling mom. :) That's a major change! I'll have to blame it on learning to plan ahead and high gas prices. I believe the Lord honored my commitment to keep to our cash budget by stretching the money even further. We even ran into some old friends who generously & unexpectedly shared their delicious homemade lunches. So we ate well, saved money and didn't lose our parking place. It was all good.

But what truly made this conference so great was the people. I got to meet the ladies behind the emails, phone calls and bios. What a privilege to talk with long-time homeschool leaders --they have such a heart for other support group leaders. I immediately saw in their eyes their desire for your success. Their encouraging and open reception of me and our vision at HomeschoolGroupLeader.com was heartwarming. There is great potential for serving these servant-leaders and helping to get their tried & true wisdom out to you.

So you might be wondering, "Who did you meet?" Well, if you haven't noticed, this blog is getting a little long and not leaving room for much more. But if you're really curious -- the highlights were meeting Sheila Campbell, leader liason for THSC, Lyndsay Lambert, and Mary James of Smoothing the Way. That's all I'll say for now. There will be more info coming in the next few months. . . .

My only regret from this weekend is not getting to share personal time with Lyndsay Lambert. It just didn't work out. Each time I saw her she was very busy running the conference or speaking or helping others. Her time is valuable, and I didn't want to steal it. It was good though to briefly connect with her during support group fellowship. There will be time to catch up at the Leadership Retreat coming in October. I'm really looking forward to it! Oh, you don't know about it yet? Keep watching for updates right here on our blog or check out THSC.org.

Thanking God for good leaders,

Monday, August 4, 2008

Great Online Resource for Support Group Leaders!

Have you checked out the great collection of articles compiled and written by Ann Zeise of A to Z Home's Cool Homeschooling just for Homeschool Support Group Leaders?

Several articles are grouped by subject matter and cover many important topics such as: Starting a Support Group, Field Trips, Organizing Activities, Lists of Support Groups by state, Leader Challenges and Outreaches. She has even posted one of our articles under Organizing Activities. Yea!

We particularly like the collection of articles by Pete Storz on forming a homeschool group. He has a comfortable, no-nonsense way of giving clear answers to those starting a homeschool group.

Whether you choose to list your group with A to Z or simply browse the info-packed articles, we believe the Support Group pages by Ann Zeise will be of great value to you. Enjoy!

The link to A to Z Home's Cool Organizing Activities & our article: "Corralling the Young'uns"

The link to A to Z Home's Cool Support Group Page: "Great Online Resource"

To your success,
Denise & Kristen

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Going to The Source!


How many times do we allow our service to others to overtake our schedule and cause us to push aside our quiet time? It is all too common for leaders to be so busy pouring out for others that they neglect themselves and their times with the Lord.

You cannot give out of what you do not have. He has prepared times of refreshing for you. He is the Source of what you have to give! He is the source of all our joy, strength, peace and wisdom.

"The human heart does not replenish itself with sleep. The body does, but not the heart....We replenish our hearts not with sleep, but with the Word of God and prayer." John Piper

It is good to get up early each day and have intentional, consistent quality time with the Lord. It prepares us for the day ahead. Now, it doesn't mean that everything will be perfect afterwards, but it does mean that you will have more peace and readiness for whatever happens. You will have confidence knowing that you have already been under the spout. Once you have received your filling for service, you will be overflowing.

Seeking the Source,
Denise & Kristen

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Your Questions are So Good

On our site Homeschool Group Leader, we have been amazed at the great questions you've been asking us. Each question is important to us. You are important to us.

We have prayed for you this morning. We prayed that you would have wisdom and that the Lord would strengthen you and encourage your heart to do this great task He's given you.

One of the most common Biggest Questions has been how to get your families more involved in your group. It can be so frustrating to have no one volunteer to help or even show up for an event that you've poured your heart and time into. We've been there.

Once, Denise scheduled a field trip to an alligator farm in our area. She thought it was the perfect summertime field trip and had even gotten feedback that people wanted to go. The day came for the trip and only two families out of 50 showed up! Denise was a little discouraged.

But she learned from it.

  • She listened to why people didn't show: the heat, the mosquitoes, and summertime vacations. So from then on, she only scheduled early summer field trips that were indoors.

  • She determined that summer field trips just didn't work as well for our group--attendance was low for all our summer activities down here in the Texas heat.

  • She chose not to take it personally and began to design the field trips to fit the flow of the group. During the rest of the summer, she would simply pass out info on field trips that the families could do on their own. We completely took August off, with field trips as a group picking back up in September.

This worked really well for our group to encourage involvement. Your group may have a totally different dynamic and climate than ours, but people are the same everywhere. People need to be heard, understood and appreciated. One way you can easily do this and increase participation is to listen well and act on what you hear your families saying. It's a way of serving them, of meeting their needs and appreciating them.

We hope that in sharing our experience, you will be able to better understand and serve your own group. We will be sharing even more experiences in our coming ebook that will guide you as you lead your group to success.

Praying for you,
Kristen and Denise

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Leadership Conference in Dallas

We just heard about this conference for leaders in Dallas, Texas this weekend and wanted to tell you about it. The speaker line-up is so great that we've requested all the CDs. Check it out.


If you hear of any leadership conferences in your area, please let us know and we'll help get the word out.

Denise & Kristen

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Subway Listened to Homeschoolers!

Here's a great opportunity! Subway has revamped and reintroduced their "Every Sandwich Tells a Story" contest to include homeschoolers. It is now the "Summer Special" that is running until August 31st.

Jim Bob Howard of "Homeschooling Today" magazine wrote, "For all those who clamored about Subway excluding homeschoolers, now's the time to show them that we will indeed participate when they include us. The registration form I saw asks for the Child's School Name, so homeschoolers should make sure they enter something like *Smith Family Homeschool*, rather than *Smith Academy*."

See the details here: SUBWAY STORY CONTEST

Let your families know about this great educational opportunity and the chance to win really great prizes. Grab your pens, write with imagination and share some laughs!

Have a great day,
Denise & Kristen

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Be Positive!

"He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats a matter separates close friends." Proverb 17:9 (NIV)

If you speak well of everyone, you will be promoting love and kindness in your group. But if you break confidences or share offenses or problems, there can be dire consequences. Walls can build between friends and the group can begin to be damaged or even to splinter. Gossip can take root and choke out the hope of a cooperative spirit within your group.

A good leader protects the developing friendships within the group; protects the reputations of each member, speaking well of them at every opportunity; and redirects negative conversation with well-placed compliments.

Always focus on the best in others. Everyone has faults and makes mistakes. Your graciousness will be a shining light that will empower others to follow your example in building each other up.

Lifting you up!
Denise & Kristen

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Running Toward Conflict

Conflict does not need to paralyze you or your group.

There are some powerful techniques available to guide you safely over the hurdles of misunderstanding, differences, gossip, and unmet expectations that can face your group.

Peacemaker Ministries offers several resources that can help leaders, families and churches guide people through conflict. These principles are so simple and practical that they can be adapted easily for homeschool group leadership.

We highly recommend leaders to read through their web site. It is loaded with articles full of wisdom, experience and peace. We truly believe you will find their materials life-changing--for your group and for your family. We have personally been inspired by what we've read. We have been inspired to face conflict head on in confidence and in love. We at Homeschool Group Leader have been especially affected by the PAUSE Principle and the Seven A's of Confession.

Let us know your positive tips on conflict resolution and on how http://www.peacemaker.net/ has blessed you.

Running the race with you,
Denise and Kristen

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How It All Got Started. . .

We are idea people and we wanted to do something creative, fun and helpful. And we wanted to stay home to do it.

You wouldn't believe the crazy ideas that crossed our minds! But we also knew that with homeschooling and raising our families, we couldn't do most of them.

Since we are good friends who complement each other well, we knew that we wanted to work and write together. So, in October of 2007, after a lot of prayer and planning and discussing with our husbands, we signed up for an e-course by Stephen Beck on how to write an e-book.

We learned so much, so fast! In just eight short weeks, we learned how to blog, publish articles on the internet, research our niche, conduct teleseminars, add affliates, and design a website from scratch.

Beck's video tutorials also made it possible for us to easily navigate complicated software programs that were needed to launch Homeschool Group Leader and then begin writing and eventually publishing our e-book.

We've conquered fears and we've made mistakes. We've overcome obstacles and we've begun to trust even more the direction God wants us to go. We know that Homeschool Group Leader needs to reflect who we are, what we've learned and what we can learn from other leaders. It has become a ministry.

We wish that we would have had a resource like HGLeader when we began serving as group leaders. During those serving years, we discovered that leaders often feel alone, inadequate and empty. We knew this site needed to connect leaders and let them know they've got support; got resources to help them do their job well; and encourage them that they are totally adequate in Christ.

We have a lot of fun getting together each week to provide you new materials, answer your questions, write articles and learn the internet ropes. The challenges are exciting, and we believe all the work will be worth it when it ministers to your heart.

Many blessings,
Denise and Kristen

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

If I Were a Suitcase, Where Would I Be?

Our eyes scanned the sides of the interstate searching desperately for any sign of the green suitcase. . .

Just an hour before, we had been feverishly working on an article for Homeschool Group Leader when a friend drove up in the driveway, frustrated, tired and needing help. They had lost their suitcase along the interstate when it had blown off the top of their mini-van. Without thinking, we jumped into Denise's car and zoomed to the rescue. What should have taken a few minutes, turned into over an hour of looping around and around under overpasses and scouring feeder roads for the elusive case.

Have you had days like this? We never did finish that article. . .

Sometimes things won't go as you've planned them. Don't beat yourself up when things don't go perfectly. When there are interruptions and unexpected detours, be flexible and available and enjoy the ride. The immediate can be as important as your to-do list. Instead of stressing about what's not getting done, laugh as we did, saying out loud, "If I were a suitcase, where would I be?"

Going with the flow,
Denise & Kristen

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's Graduation Time

Homeschool graduations are as unique as each family and even as unique as each student.

There are several ways to support your families during this time of celebration and transition. Your group can help to honor the graduates (elementary or secondary) in small or big ways. Honoring the graduates may be as simple as a small gift for each of the students or hosting a graduation event.

One year our homeschool group gave graduation cards with a small gift card inside to each of the senior graduates. Another year our group hosted a graduation ceremony for the fifth graders who were going into sixth grade. It was complete with cap and gown, awards, diplomas, and a reception. For the reception, one of the fathers had created a dvd of the students' childhood photos set to music. We had plenty of Kleenexes in the room!

Today we wanted to give you some resources to help you prepare your families in your group for this important and exciting time:

Here are some great articles, ideas and diplomas:

We had success with this company:

This is a personal graduation story that can give you some encouragement:

Graduation is a time when you can highlight the accomplishments and hard work of those in your group, when you may be the only source of support that they have. You have the unique opportunity to praise, reward and publicize the benefits and blessings of homeschooling. Your efforts can deeply encourage those families who have selflessly journeyed this less traveled road.

You are doing a great job!
Kristen & Denise

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Free Gifts from The Old Schoolhouse

The Old Schoolhouse has been one of our favorite resources over the years for homeschooling families and group leaders.

TOS offers great incentive packages for subscribing to their magazine. And the magazine delivers! It is one of those jam-packed, uplifting reads that cannot be completed in a day. One thing we've been impressed with is that TOS really tries to connect with the homeschooling community, trying to better know who we are and what our needs are.

And TOS is trying once again to connect with us--they are seeking homeschool group leaders of 40 or more homeschooling families to help them get the word out about their magazine. For the first 750 group leaders who do this and contact them, TOS is offering a pink tote bag full of curriculum and stuff for support group leaders and the opportunity to register to win a Dell laptop.

Hurry, the no-obligation, no-committment single drawing for the laptop will take place on May 30th at 5pm CST. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY and no strings attached. ONE OF YOU is going to win this laptop! TOS guarantees it!

Click here to get the details of the exciting promotion.

The above link will show you the pictures of your free gifts, plus gives you all the details - it's over $500 worth of FREE curriculum items for you when you subscribe. The magazine sold out two months early last promo. Last year you had to buy a two year subscription to get the gifts - this year you pay less - just a one year sub gets you IN. Hurry if you want to claim your stuff! The promo started out with 3,000 packages, 1/3 are sold.

The deadline is coming up fast, so thanks for helping to get the word out to your groups! You leaders are doing a great job.

Kristen and Denise

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Pitcher

I love pitchers.

I love their shape. I love their symbolism of pouring out. I love their uniqueness--how each one is so different and beautiful and purposeful.

When I see a pitcher, I am drawn to it. To me, it is a symbol of refreshment. It represents home, hospitality, and warmth.

I once served as a women's ministry leader and gave one hand-picked pitcher away each month to honor a woman in the group. I chose the woman based upon her selfless giving. I also chose women who I felt needed encouragement and to be honored.

A pitcher can't pour out what it doesn't have inside, and a pitcher doesn't quench thirst in and of itself, it carries the true refreshment. It is available to serve.

To me, the pitcher became a picture of these women who quietly served behind the scenes--vessels of honor, poured out by God. These women added beauty to everything around them and each one of them served with her own unique personality and talents in very different areas of need.

Within your group, you can encourage your special givers by looking for the ways they give behind the scenes. You can bring this to light by honoring them publicly or by just sending them a personal note. But everyone needs to be appreciated and seen.

A good leader serves. Recognizing your givers who "lead" behind the scenes is a way to serve them and lift them above yourself. It also shows that you are not a great leader by yourself--it takes everybody. And that was really my heart as I handed out those pitchers over the years--the group couldn't have been what it was without them.

Your friend,

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Amazing Grace

I have been inspired.

My family watches a lot of movies together. Our weekly family night is often spent tucked under wooden tv trays laden with a favorite meal and everybody crowded on the couches to watch a great flick. We love great movies.

I saw Amazing Grace this weekend and it took my breath away. It is a film chronicling William Wilberforce's long-running fight to abolish slavery across the British Empire. At the end, the famous hymn is played on a bagpipe, and I could not help but worship and weep.

But what touched me even more than the incredible sacrifice and dedication of this great man on behalf of other human beings is that God put passion inside each of us. You wouldn't be leading if He hadn't.

You are a person of passion!

What did He specifically call you to? Have you forgotten? Bring it out. Dust it off and USE it. Use it to encourage. Use it to inspire. Use it to fight for freedom.

We live in an incredible day of opportunity. Let us use our servant positions for good and for God's glory. Homeschooling is a powerful platform from which we can work to do God's work in this world and make it a better place.

As the movie so eloquently portrayed-- do NOT give up doing good. You will get tired. You may even feel hopeless at times. You may feel you are doing no good to anyone. But Homeschool Group Leader is here to lift up your hands and God will lift up your head. Do not give up.

Two days before William Wilberforce died, Parliament signed into law that no one across the British empire could own slaves. The English economy greatly suffered and many colonies died out as a result of the law, but Wilberforce had been obedient to God's call on his life and this world was made better because of it.

Now, let us go out and do likewise.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Workbooks are My Friends

Let's talk.

Leading a homeschool group can be time-consuming and tough. For two years, I spent countless hours answering e-mails, putting out fires, and giving advice over the phone to people I'd never met. By the time I had accomplished my daily leadership duties, I was tired--physically and emotionally. There honestly wasn't a lot of me left over for teaching my children in the creative way I wanted to.

We homeschool group leaders can often be trail-blazing and innovative overachievers. What we do is so visible and we often receive great praise for our work or great condemnation for our mistakes. In an effort to please people, I found that I devoted much time and energy trying to keep people happy--happy with each other, happy with the group and happy with me.

And our homeschool suffered accordingly. I found I didn't have the time or energy to keep every plate spinning. Part of the problem was that I believed that a superior home education meant the ever-present presence of a hands-on mom. I had always had high expectations for myself and our homeschool. In the early years, I wrote our own curriculum with a friend and sat faithfully with my kids as they completed their reading, writing and 'rithmetic. The truth of the matter is that we all usually ended up in tears by the end of the day and I hadn't gotten a stitch of laundry, dishes or cooking done.

So, I kicked against the goads and swung the opposite direction--hands-off, borderline unschooling. We still did our morning devotionals together and bits and pieces of read-alouds. Nothing consistent, definitely noncommittal, totally sporadic. We were at the whim of our daily desires . . . and I admit, that was fun. . . for awhile. Then they began to cry that they were bored and began to bicker and fuss. School wasn't fun for us anymore.

As I daily answered all those e-mails and phone calls, I secretly hoped my public school administration family members wouldn't drop by and fervently prayed over a solution for our family. Seeing my distress, my husband suggested we have more structure and that I <> keep grades. They need accountability, he said. He could see what I could not.

So, in time, I baby-stepped into some workbooks and began to administer timed tests every Friday on important things like math facts and spelling words. But that carefree part of me clung to the things we loved like living books and notebooking and devotionals in the morning and oral exams and lots of field trips. I noticed I wasn't hearing so many cries of "I don't like school" or "I'm bored." It was delightful.

I'm being very real with you here. We are just people doing our best by our children, trying to make a difference for eternity. What did it matter if all the world thought I was an awesome homeschool group leader, if I lost the heart of my kids and squelched their natural desire for learning in the process?

So, I learned that workbooks are my friends and serve as useful tools during this season of my life. And just like an uncluttered house sets your mind free to be creative and productive, I felt the daily work in the workbooks set us free to learn to our fullest. I was happy because we weren't hopping around anymore at my whim and they were happy because they knew what to expect every day.

From this whole experience, I have learned to let go of trying to keep everyone happy (it is impossible, by the way). I have learned how freeing it is to adapt our homeschool to fit our lifestyle, not the other way around. And I have learned that simple is just as excellent an educational approach as complex. Now, if you'll excuse me--the phone's ringing.

Your friend,

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Path to Encouragement

Have you heard the saying that humility is not thinking of yourself as small, but it is not thinking of yourself at all?! It is such an insightful saying and the key to successful homeschool group leadership!

Humility will enable you to encourage your members with a true genuineness. From a sincere desire to help others succeed, you can express many ways to lift them up on their home schooling journey.

There are several ways to put this desire to encourage into action as you communicate through speaking or writing that are good:
  • open up about yourself--others will be able to relate in part or all of your story. It comes with risks to self, but the rewards are worth it.
  • show sympathy to each--this is a response of sensing and sharing in their feelings, needs and experiences.
  • compliment their talents--appreciate the work and special touch that each give to the group.
  • give credit to all involved--success comes from the understanding that we did not get it done without others.
  • always speak well of others--the biggest encouragement will come when they can trust that you always speak well of everyone in the group whether they are there or not.
Out of your humble leadership and genuine encouragement your group's members will feel safe, comfortable, understood, and appreciated. You will be establishing an environment for building some great friendships and supporting really great home schools.

Then when you see their wonderful smiles, their friendships, their confidence in home schooling, you can smile contentedly and give all the credit to whom it is truly due--the Lord Jesus.

Thanking my Lord,

Sunday, February 17, 2008

You Are Not Alone

When I (Kristen) first became president of our homeschool group, I felt. . . well, let's see. . . intimidated, overwhelmed and completely inadequate. I vividly remember that first monthly meeting.

I was wearing an orchid t-shirt and my favorite blue jeans and I just knew everyone could see me sweating. I didn't speak loudly enough, my hands and lips wouldn't stop quivering, and my thoughts wouldn't come together for the life of me.

Now, forget the fact that I had been voted into that office. And many wonderful people believed strongly in me. And it was those same wonderful people who walked by me at the end of that meeting, smiling and encouraging me and saying how excited they were to be a part of the group.

I was mentored very well by the president before me. She was my confidant, my friend and my advisor and prayer partner during that tough first year. She was a lifeline to me.

But what if you don't have anyone like I did? What if you are the first leader of your group or for some reason, you don't have a good relationship with the one who went before?

That's where we come in. Denise and I want to be there for you.

We built Homeschool Group Leader by the Lord's guidance to mentor you as a leader, turning your heart toward Him and offering you resources and helps for leading your homeschool group in this present age.

We want to know what you need. What are your biggest questions? What are your greatest fears? Please, share your joys with us, too. We wish to rejoice with you and see you fulfill your calling. You can do this!

We commit to pray for you. I had many praying for me during those early days. And the Lord showed me that He alone is my strength and with Him by my side, I was not alone--ever-- even when my hands were shaking and my mind went blank. He will complete His good work in you. He's guaranteed it!


Friday, February 1, 2008

Announcing New Teleseminar!

Are you overburdened or stressed out?

This interview will greatly encourage you. Denise Grosse, a veteran leader from western Arkansas, will share her insight with us about what she has discovered it takes to lead with a stress-free attitude, greatly preventing burnout--plus, much, much more.

Denise Grosse and her husband have led their group H.E.D.G.E. (Home Educators Devoted to Godly Education) for the past 15 years. She lives in a very rural area of Arkansas and deals with homeschoolers who need a group to interact with that does not decrease their effectiveness at home.

She says that the challenge has been to keep their group an asset to all involved rather than add additional burdens to their already busy lives.

Denise and her husband also serve together on a steering committee for Arkansas' Education Alliance. This alliance works with the state legislature on issues affecting education. "It has been a tremendous blessing to be impacted by leaders all across our state and glean from their experiences," Denise said.

The Grosses are parents of six children, three of whom are still at home. She says that they began homeschooling when their eldest son was born 25 years ago, and are still in the thick of it!

You can register for this heart-changing seminar at http://www.homeschoolgroupleader.com/.

We look forward to you joining us!
Denise and Kristen