How did I do that? Well my oldest did go to school for kindergarten and first grade. In that time I was VP of the PTA and volunteered in the building almost everyday. So I was able to form a good working relationship with that principal. Now you're probably thinking Too late for that! I can't do that. And in part you are right. But my oldest would now be in a building we had nothing to do with. I never really set foot in that building, I have barely met the principal there and we have never attended school there. But I established a working relationship with that principal.
HOW?! Well I'll tell you. Every year when I write my intention to homeschool letter (a requirement in NY), I send a copy to the building principals that my kids would be attending, as a courtesy. With that, I usually write a letter thanking the principal for allowing us to participate in book fairs, after school game clubs and the science fair. This year, since my eldest would've entered a new school, I wrote a letter to that principal introducing ourselves. I explained what we have been doing and I also explained that it is important to us to keep our children tied to their school community and friends and why. I stated that I would like to attend as many activities as possible, without disrupting their school day or flow. I offered to come into school over the summer and introduce ourselves at a time that was convenient to her. I thanked her for her time, as I know how busy a principals job is and gave her my contact information.
School science fair
I have to say I was fairly shocked to get a call from her about a week later!! We spoke briefly on the phone and she welcomed us to join in any of those activities. Now maybe I am just lucky. Maybe I have already established a reputation in the district for not being a pain in the ass. Or maybe, just maybe, all we have to do is ask. What's the worst that can happen? They can say no. You really haven't lost anything, have you?
Now many people who homeschool have never sent their kids to school, so they don't feel the need to connect. Others left their school due to bad circumstances, so they do not want to re-connect. I get that. But understand the school has a lot of resources at your disposal. They can allow you to use materials such as textbooks, microscopes and other equipment. They can let you attend after school activities like game club or art club. They can go so far as to let you join activities such as band or theatre. I am able to host my girl scout meetings at the school my youngest would be attending.
I see it as a benefit in two ways (for us). One: my kids stay connected with their school friends, get to experience activities with them at school, and stay a part of the school community. Many would say Who cares? I care because I realize that one day my kids may want to go back to school. I don't want it to be such a foreign land or such a social nightmare that the option is removed before it's even considered. I also realize that homeschooling is a financial burden. A burden we manage now, but anything could happen in the future that might make it necessary for them to go back to school. And Two: I get to use the resources that my school has to offer FOR FREE! I am getting some return on my tax dollars that I wouldn't necessarily get otherwise.
It may feel awkward at first. It did for me and I was already known in the building. But now, 3 years later, it's no big deal. The school community knows who we are. Organizers of activities such as the science fair, reach out to us to see if we want to participate. It takes work on my part - staying up to date on school activities, finding out when holiday shops, movie nights and ice cream socials are happening, and going to events that feel awkward at first. But isn't it worth it for our kids?
So if this has struck a cord with you, I invite you to try it next year. Send a copy of your letter of intent to your local principal. Write a letter introducing yourself. Offer to come in and visit over the summer when it's not as busy for them. You might be surprised and you might gain access to a world of resources you never knew you could get!
Please comment! I'd love to hear how you stay connected with your local school community or ask questions on how to get started!!