I serve as 1 of 3 activities coordinators for my local homeschool group. It’s a decent gig since I like to stay busy and it’s my job to keep the calendar filled. I get a lot of recognition for being “awesome” for all of the things I put on the calendar, and well, let’s face it, I AM pretty awesome. I really have no shortage of ideas which means in any given year I can put together quite a lineup that is different from previous years.
But I guess I should confess that I’m really not as amazing as I appear to be. I mean… activity planning really isn’t that difficult. Any monkey could do it. I have a few tips and tricks and secrets that help me keep our calendar filled. And because I want every homeschooler to have the opportunities my kiddos have, I’m going to share my secrets here with you.
(Just don’t tell my homeschool group. I don’t want them to think I’m replaceable.)
I Steal Ideas From Other Groups
When I first started homeschooling I joined a bunch of groups because I wanted to get involved in activities and classes. We moved a few times during our first few years so with each move I joined more groups. I also joined several national and international groups just for ideas. I’m more settled in one location now, but I still maintain my memberships with all of those other groups. I also, continue to join new groups as they pop up and pertain to my family.
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What I love about homeschool groups is that they are all trying to build a community for their kids, so they plan activities that get the people in the community together. And since each group is different, the activities reflect their community and its interests. So, for example a sweet little preschool group I am a part of, does Show-n-tell playdates. And a Tween girl group I am part of is doing aerial skills classes.
Sometimes I just want to participate, because let’s face it, being a mindless peon that just shows up can be relaxing. But sometimes I like the activity so much that I want to do it again or I want to try it with another age group. That’s when I steal the idea and set it up for my large homeschool group. If someone else can set it up, chances are good that with a phone call or email I can set it up too.
I Look For Possibilities in Everything
As we go through our day-to-day lives I look for possible activities that can be set up. A tour, a class, a social opportunity, a volunteering opportunity… any adventure that the kids might enjoy is a possibility. I also listen to my kids and what they’re interested in. The Princess was really into pop music and had the radio blasting all day long so I thought, “Hey! We should tour the radio station!” A phone call or two later and we did.
I don’t stop there though. As questions arise from the kids or even from my own mind I think, how would we find out about that straight from the source? The Princess really loves sewing and she is always wanting new fabric. One day I set my mind to finding a place that actually *makes* fabric so she could see where her fabric came from and how it was made printed. Our modern society has really lost touch with the sources of our lives so I love the opportunity to reconnect the kids to those sources.
Nearly every business or facility is willing to give a tour and talk about what they do. Some places can’t handle large groups and would prefer only a few people, but if you have a large group you can almost always set up multiple tours. The key is just asking. Businesses in particular see tours as promotional opportunities for their business so the more people they can filter through, the more potential for business.
In terms of classes, many places offer classes especially for a fee. Some places will even tailor a class to any specific curriculum or topic you want. I usually look online at what they offer first, then I decide what I want to learn. Museums in particular love to get kids in there to learn and they usually have some kind of educational coordinator. If you come across a museum that doesn’t have classes or someone to put together a class, do it yourself. You are already putting together an education for your kids so why not go ahead and plan a lesson that can be reinforced by a trip to the museum?
I Add Fluff so the Calendar Looks Full
One thing I am continually commended on is keeping our calendar full, but all of those classes and tours can be too much “going” even for me, not to mention the cost of classes and gas and food that we can eat while running around. To balance that, I add fluff to our calendar. I host a monthly Art in the Park, I add park days, I create events for public events that we can meet up at, and I suggest meet ups at random places just because I’m going (like Chick Fil A or to work out). Sure, a lot of this “fluff” is social which is important, but in the overall scheme of things adding fluff makes our calendar look very full and gives everyone the opportunity to connect at least in some way.
There are a lot of different types of frivolous things that can be added to a calendar to help make it look fuller. And since homeschool groups, especially large ones like the one I belong to have people coming from all different experiences with age ranges from birth up to grandma it’s important to consider that not everyone can or wants to do more than just get out and play. Playing is important for kids and sometimes we can all lose sight of that when we’re trying to cram so much education into them.
I Get Frustrated with People
I think to be a successful event planner for any type of situation, you must be a people person. And I am. I LOVE to talk to people and help people and listen to people. I am always connecting with someone, listening to their needs and wants. And when someone says, “My kid really wants to do [this].” I immediately start thinking about how I can make that happen.
But I do get frustrated with people. There’s nothing more annoying than creating an event for people and those people not follow the instructions. I’ve tried so many different ways of giving direction, but there is almost always a few people that don’t do what they’re supposed to. I know I can be wordy, but I try to be as clear as I can.
The trouble with people not following directions is that it causes a lot of misunderstanding which can cost me time, money, and a reputation, which is vital to setting up successful events and activities. Because venues are different, each event/activity will have different procedures that need to be followed. And sometimes I can choose the wrong way to set something up and have to change it which means different instructions.
For example, I set up 2 tours to a coffee roaster which could only handle a maximum of 20 people per tour. Of course this tour was extremely popular and within minutes I had 60+ people signed up for the first tour and 30 signed up for the second. That obviously wasn’t going to work so I had to change the event to limit the number of people per tour and I set up 2 more tours. I messaged the first 20 people that had RSVP’d for the first tour to let them know and give them the first chance before I opened it up to the other 70 people. When I opened it up to the remaining people I let them know I had new tour days/times and that once they had sufficient time to sign up I would then re-open the event to the general membership that maybe couldn’t do the original dates/times but could do the new dates/times.
It was a process. I tried to do it in steps and make it very clear what needed to happen. Despite my best efforts I had people message me the day before the event saying they signed up for x tour and now they are not signed up. I had people show up for x tour that put us over the acceptable limit. I had people take prime spots in the first tour and then bail the last minute. Yeah… that crap makes me kinda crazy.
I normally don’t harbor any negative feelings towards last minute cancellations. I get it. A month before something you’re excited about it, but the day of when you have to get out of bed at the butt crack of dawn, get the kids up, get everyone in the car (hopefully they ate enough last night because you don’t have time for breakfast)… sometimes you just don’t feel like it. It’s a crappy reason to bail, but I completely understand.
- If you are taking up a space in an activity that had limited space- SHOW UP.
- If you sign up for an activity that is free to you, but other people have paid money for supplies or curriculum (like the group Easter Egg Hunt where we prepared for over 100 children and had only about 20)- SHOW UP.
- If you are supposed to be a leader in any activity whether it’s teaching a class or just being the contact person- SHOW UP.
Barring illnesses, deaths, natural disasters, or any regular things out of your control, there is no excuse for bailing on the things above. You know you. Be honest with yourself and if you are a chronic NO SHOW, then just sit out completely or assess your situation a few days in advance. I WILL clarify this to say that if you bail a few days before, but give notice so that your spot can be filled or supplies can be adjusted or a new leader can be found, then you’re all good to bail. It’s ok.
I Can and Frequently Do Overbook Myself
*This is directed more towards my friends that might read this, but anyone with an awesome homeschool activity/events planner can use this information.
When I am thinking about activities and events for my homeschool group I usually think of what my kids and I want to do first, what friends and their kids want to do second, and then the group at large. Since it is my job to fill our calendar with amazing and awesome events and activities for our homeschool group, I can get carried away booking this class or that activity or planning this event or that. Before I know it, the calendar is full and everyone in the group has an awesome selection of opportunities to participate in, but MY Calendar is full.
Now I like to go, go, go. We work best on the go. It’s just who we are.
But sometimes I can get overwhelmed with how much going we’re doing. Sometimes the kids and I need a quiet day (or three) at home. Most days I need chocolate or caffeine just to get to the next thing. Sometimes I need someone to step up and say, “I’ve got this for you” and let me sit and just mindlessly participate. All of the time I need a hug and my narcissistic cup filled with praise of how awesome I am so I can get back to my every day.
For me (and I can only speak for myself) I want to see the flourishing of our homeschool group so nearly everything I’m doing is to put back into the group that I love. That sometimes means doing things even when it’s not what’s best for my family. I try not to do that, but like I said, I get carried away. So yeah, please love on me. I’ll blush and dismiss all of your gratitude with a modest wave of my hand, but I appreciate your gushing over me and I’ll be all the more motivated to plan more for the group and continue filling our calendar.
Drop me a line to let me know your homeschool event planning secrets… maybe we can steal each other’s ideas. 😉