Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Little Something to Celebrate!

We celebrate things big and small here at Casa LaJoy, and this one is a little celebration but it matters to a few people, who are urging me to claim it, (Kenny, Dominick, Candi...hahaha!) so here I am, claiming it!

This past October I revived a simple web site I had built called Blue Collar Homeschool, and I started a Facebook group in case a few others out there wanted to discuss ideas for non-college bound teens.  I have mentioned it on the blog before once or twice, but it has been chugging along behind the scenes, and much of the time I spend on Facebook these days is in the Blue Collar Homeschool group offering encouragement where I can, sharing resources, guiding conversations, and leading an online book club that grew out of the group where we read and discuss books on education, parenting, homeschooling, etc.

I have been overwhelmed by the response, to say the least, and so very happy that this little ministry of ours is growing and seriously helping homeschooling parents feel less alone.  I know I was often so discouraged over the years as most groups focused on college prep, and that wasn't in the cards for some of our kids, and honestly, in some groups you are made to feel like an inferior educator if you aren't trying to prepare every single child for college.

The stories shared in this group are of moms who are sometimes incredibly lonely and isolated, of joy at successes that are not usually celebrated in the pro-college crowd, and of working hard to discover possible careers and curriculum to feed interests, and much more.  We have lively conversations, polite debate, and compassionate responses to painful moments.  It is a real gift to me, and I hope to others, and perhaps a little haven for some.

When I started the group in October I recorded that I thought if we ever managed to hit 500 members I would feel we were successful.  I tend not to track it much, but I was asked by Candi, as an encouragement, to write down that number.  Tonight, we hit a milestone.  In less than a year, we now have 4000 members.


That could possibly equate to 12,000 or more kids represented there (We homeschooling families live large! Hahaha!)  That means emotional support and encouragement for 4000 families, all of whom are bucking the trend of most homeschool groups and letting their kids chase their own dreams, or accepting hard truths about special needs kids who really and truly can't handle higher academics.  

Our Blue Collar Families are finding resources and workbooks and texts and classes they never knew existed, and this matters to me.  They are finding support for their rodeo cowboys, their lifeguards, their future welders, beauticians, and entrepreneurs.  Their kids are being awarded free from us certificates of achievement for things people don't usually hold up and celebrate as something to value...things like mastering reading at 12 or 13 years old, helping Dad build a barn, or having severe handicaps and starting a pet sitting business.  We mailed out over 70 certificates this first year!  We celebrated with 17 graduates and sent them a certificate of graduation and awarded their moms a special Blue Collar Homeschool tote bag celebrating mom's accomplishment right along with her graduate's.

I am passionate about all kids being supported.  Sure, that might be obvious, as I have several who will struggle their entire lives, and our "wins" are often not "wins" in the eyes of others.  That being true, I know how important those key breakthrough moments are, I know how tears come to a mom's eyes when she has worked for YEARS to make something happen and she finally sees success.  I know what it is to have kids who don't have challenges but are outside-the-college-box thinkers but others simply look at you as if you have failed your child miserably because "This kid ought to be in college." yet no one sees how college might stifle who they were meant to become.

This isn't about being anti-college, far from it!  But it IS about celebrating the wide variety of paths  in addition to college that are out there for kids to choose from.  It is about being honest that not every teen ought to go to college, regardless of majority opinion.  It is about valuing other choices, and college too, if it is what a child is capable of and has a desire for. 

I have more ideas than I have time or money for to help our Blue Collar families.  A lending library for special curricula that is too expensive to purchase for one income families, gatherings where we talk about the unique needs of non-college bounds kids and how to meet those needs effectively, retreats for parents like me of kids who are special needs, scholarships I hope to one day offer to kids who are NEVER considered but who have dreams of starting their own business and need help with tools or supplies, or who want to go to trade school but need help.  I have no clue how we might live into this, as it will take time, money, and creativity.  We'd love to become a non-profit one day, or be taken in under one, but that seems very hard to find with our specific mission and we are too small and likely always will be to become a non-profit.  But I will continue to dream...

Kenny and Olesya have been so helpful, and I couldn't do it without them!  Kenny is masterful online, moderating and commenting when I need help, and he is the World's Greatest Encourager and voice of wisdom for his age.  Olesya has done so much behind the scenes, adding links to the web site and keeping it organized.  My friend Candi has helped with planning, certificate creation, and being a terrific sounding board.  Dominick has been a great cheerleader, and has surprised me by staying caught up on posts and is a ready conversation partner as I work through responses, gauge where things are going, and more.  He also agreed that we could use a little household money to buy our first batch of awards.

There are no guarantees this will grow any further.  But what thrills me (and it does!) isn't really the number of "4000" members, but the astronomical number of very real, heartfelt engagement that happens in the group.  People are being authentic in their sharing in ways that are remarkable and quite vulnerable at times...and the responses back have been compassionate, thoughtful, and helpful.  In the past 28 days we have had 21,500 posts, comments and responses.  THAT is the number that makes me grin!!  REAL conversation about important things in the educational life of a family.  21,500 times people interacted in the group...that is sweet, sweet connection that is what life is really all about.

Our Monday Musings are when I post introspective questions
for our community to consider and share their perspectives.

Facebook is often the target of complaints about how it ruins real relationship.  I beg to differ.  Facebook is no different than anything else, you get what you put into it.  If  you bring your authentic self, you just might be surprised at what you get in response.

I know most of my blog readers would never be interested in this, but I would really appreciate prayers or warm thoughts directed toward this little outreach ministry of our family's.  It is one small way we have of trying to repay God for all the goodness that is in our lives, and for all the ways we have been supported through the years.  It may not be much in the grand scheme of things, but to some people, it may keep them hanging in there longer with a kid who really needs alternative education, or support for a different path.  It helps provide an idea space for families like ours with kids who have special needs and need far more help graduating or launching into careers.  

So I am celebrating, grateful to be used to help others in a really unique way, happy to see people connecting with resources they need, and hopeful that Blue Collar Homeschool's future is bright and we can offer even more in the coming year!  

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