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One of the longest living trees on Earth, the Baobab of the African savannas, is a sacred symbol revered for its long life and many uses which have sustained African peoples since the beginning of time.

The Tree of Life, as it is often referred to, grows 75 feet tall with an enormous trunk 60 feet in circumference. Some of these noble giants are 2000 years old, and for generations have served as meeting places for villages to discuss community matters, relate the news of the day and to tell stories.

7 Ways to Make Support Groups Work for You

Support groups come in all shapes and sizes. S. Courtney Walton offers some advice on finding the right support group for your family:

1) Support Groups are Personality Driven. Homeschoolers are just as diverse as the general population, so it pays to be patient and keep looking until you find a good fit. Local support groups will take on the personality of the leadership and the families that participate. As families come and go, group dynamics naturally change and you may find that a support group that didn’t fit last year, may be just what you are looking for next year.

2) Know What Type of Support is Available. Type “homeschoolers, my city, my state” into your favorite search engine and see what you find. Web sites such as Jon’s Homeschool Resources and The Homeschool Social Register are also good places to locate homeschoolers in your area. Ask other homeschoolers to tell you about the support groups they belong to.

3) Know What Type of Support You Want. Do you have teenagers looking for college-bound friends? Pre-teens interested in group sports? Do you want support teaching chemistry and calculus? Are you looking for like-minded parents to form new friendships? The best way to get what you want is to be clear before you start looking. Poll your children for their interests and create a list.

4) Trust Your Instincts. Plan to visit two or three times before committing to joining the group. This will allow time for you and your children to meet the families and try out a variety of activities. If it feels right, great! If there are any doubts, even if it is just something you can’t quite put your finger on, keep looking. There is no need to rush and you can always revisit the group at a later time.

5) Be Willing to Help. Support groups work because busy parents just like yourself are willing to share their time and talent. You have a lot to offer, so look for opportunities to contribute to the group.

6) Pay Attention to Your Children’s Interactions With Other Parents and Children. Often children aren’t as verbal in expressing themselves and as their guardians and advocates you have to go the extra mile to make sure your children really are comfortable. In general, if the adults are genuine with you, their children will most likely be friendly too, as the fruit doesn’t fall that far from the tree.

7) Build Your Own. If all else fails, be willing to start your own support group. Post fliers at the local library, grocery store bulletin boards, community centers, doctors’ office, church, etc…

Even when you follow these suggestions, sometimes the “perfect” support group is still elusive. If you find yourself in a place where the pickings are slim, be mindful that it is just temporary. If necessary, choose what is the lesser of the evils and supplement your social networks with healthy non-homeschool alternatives. During the early years in Arizona when I could not find a welcoming group, we limited our participation with homeschoolers to organized physical education classes and select fieldtrips and invested more time in activities through our church, such as Bible Study, Choir and Dance.

And while you are searching for local homeschoolers to connect with, don’t forget you can get support 24/7 through Yahoo Groups.

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