I am not what you would call a natural leader.
In fact, I would consider myself an excellent follower.
Give me a strong leader and I will lift that person up, support them in any way I can.
Ask me to lead other people?
Well, I can do it but I really don’t like to.
It is outside of my comfort zone to be a leader in almost any situation.
A little over two years ago I joined a local homeschool group and at one of the first events I went to, I met our group leader. A wonderful woman who was very welcoming and kind, who just so happened to be massively overwhelmed.
– She was pregnant with her fourth child.
– It was her first year leading the group.
– She was the sole person in charge of the Facebook group, the gym days, the twice monthly field trips, etc..
She did it all. With no other group leaders to help her. She had inherited the group leadership position from several women who used to work together as group leaders, but they had all moved on. Some had left the area, some had put their children in public school.
I saw this wonderful, overwhelmed woman in front of me and I just couldn’t help myself.
Almost immediately I took over planning gym days.
Then I lead a couple field trips.
Then I built a group website and started writing a monthly newsletter for members.
Then I put on a party for the group members to kick off the new school year.
I don’t know how it happened but I went from being someone who was helping to support the group leader to being co-leader.
She lead most of the field trips, I lead a couple.
She rented a gym at the community center and I planned the gym day activities.
She handled all the group finances. I started leading monthly service projects.
At one point we had a lot of inactive members in our Facebook group, some of whom we didn’t even know who they were! I was the one who pushed for us to crack down on group members and only allow people in the group who wanted to be active participants. My co-leader agreed so we made some changes and we got a ton of backlash for that.
One woman even called me, screaming profanity over the phone.
But my co-leader and I stuck to our guns and it paid off. Once we weeded out the people who didn’t really want to be there, our group participation skyrocketed.
Eventually we took on other group leaders to help carry the load.
I spent a minimum of 6 hours a month writing the group newsletter; now a third group leader handles the newsletter and the website.
I spent more time and money than I want to admit planning and hosting seasonal parties for the group; now a fourth group leader is the head of our party planning committee.
I exhausted myself organizing and leading the monthly service projects; now a fifth group leader does all of that.
That third group leader started off much the same way I did. At first she was just helping message people. Then she was helping clean up the Facebook group. Then she was writing the newsletters, running the website, and the chief person in charge of all event pages.
It started slowly. I don’t even know when it happened, when she went from helping us out, to being one of the group leaders. But I do know that I felt the weight being lifted off my shoulders the more she stepped in. I was nervous to let her do tasks that I had once been in charge of. I put a lot of myself into the group and I didn’t want to see it fail.
She didn’t disappoint though. With her help the group website has become more efficient, the group newsletter is more aesthetically pleasing. She thought of things that I hadn’t and we all benefited from having her on the team.
Each of us group leaders has different talents and skill sets. Each group leader brought something different to the table. Working together, we were able to accomplish so much more than we ever would have if we tried to do it all alone.
Two years ago, back before I was a co-leader, back when I was just helping the group leader, we legitimately discussed dissolving the group. Between low participation and high stress, we just weren’t sure the group could survive much longer.
The changes we made were crucial in revitalizing the group.
Now I am proud to say that our group has not only survived but is thriving. Thanks to our dedicated group leaders and volunteers we recently became a recognized non-profit organization through the state! We are in the middle of writing by laws and about to have our first group election! It is all very exciting!
Being a group leader is draining in ways that most people don’t realize. Myself and my fellow group leaders are in constant communication with one another about one group related issue or another. We have shared Google spreadsheets and an on-going email chain.
It can get frustrating working with others so closely. I know I have in the past been annoyed by my co-leader when she was disorganized about membership lists. She surely was annoyed with me when I dropped the ball on confirming a field trip reservation. When you work with someone as much as we work with each other, you’re going to get on each other’s nerves sometimes.
But doing it alone shouldn’t be an option. Working together we have been able to enrich each other’s lives and build a resource our entire community can benefit from. I am so incredibly proud of my fellow group leaders and the work that we all do together.
Here are some things that I want all of my group members to know about what being a homeschool group leader means to me:
– I sacrifice time with my husband and children to plan and organize homeschool resources for you and your family.
– I often pay out of pocket for things because I don’t want the low income families to feel pressured nor excluded by high participation fees.
– I get overwhelmed and stressed out. All. The. Time.
– I put the answers to most commonly asked questions all over the website and group page, but I still get asked those questions constantly so I find I am constantly repeating myself.
– I worry about meeting the needs of people I don’t even know because they are in my group.
– I have been yelled at for things other group members or other group leaders have done before I even joined the group. (I wasn’t here four years ago but I am really sorry you had a negative experience at that time!)
– I have let complete strangers cry on my shoulder because homeschooling is hard and they needed to cry about it.
– I feel foolish standing on a chair to get your attention at group events, but I don’t have a megaphone and I’m pretty short so the chair helps.
– I don’t enjoy being your group leader. It sucks. But I am going to keep doing it.