Remember when you started homeschooling and how daunting it seemed? Information evenings are a great way to support people who are interested in home education as a lifestyle choice for their family. This short guide provides an event outline plus hints to create a successful information evening in your community. The main thing is to keep the event as relaxed as possible and remember that we were all new once! The vast majority of people who attend information evenings come away feeling grateful to have been given an opportunity to get their questions answered and to learn more about homeschooling before launching into it.
- Find at least one other person to organise the evening with you so that you have someone to bounce ideas off and a partner to help run things on the night.
- Choose a venue and set a date and time.
- Would you like to have Ministry of Education staff in attendance to do a short presentation and answer questions about the exemption application process? If so, get in touch with your local office and see what you can arrange. If not, consider having other home educators from your area in attendance. It is helpful if yourself, your organising partner, and any other home educators you have in attendance all approach homeschooling in different ways – for example: unschooling, curriculum-based, primary-aged children leaving through play, teens doing NCEA, etc. Ask your helpers to bring along any resources they have so that attendees can get an idea of what curriculum/resources are available.
- Work out how to take registrations. Who is good administratively between you and the other helper? Are you happy for your email or phone number to be on public noticeboards? Decide on what information you will need from those who register – most likely it will be name, phone number, and the number attending. It can also be helpful to know the ages of their children and whether they already have an exemption, have applied and waiting, or are still in the researching phase.
- It is okay to attach a cost to the event if your local/regional home education group cannot underwrite the cost. Charging $5 or $10 per family can ensure people commit and actually turn up! An added incentive might be to then offer discounted membership to your home education group if they wish to join.
- Consider ways to advertise – local home education leaders, email groups, Facebook, a poster in your public library, local churches, Playcentres, etc. Word of mouth does wonders so make sure people know about your event so they can tell their friends. Create a digital poster advertising the event (perhaps find a keen home educated student keen on graphics to help here). Send your poster to group leaders and ask individual families to print one or two and put up locally.
- Consider offering a light supper and cuppa. It always helps people to mingle!
Usually information evening events run along these lines:
- Welcome people as they arrive.
- Introduce yourself and any other members of your team. Explain where the toilets are, where tea and coffee can be made, and where the emergency exits are.
- Ask each person/couple to introduce themselves, saying their name, number of children and ages, and where they are on their home education journey.
- Have your local expert or Ministry of Education staff outline the exemption process. This should take no more than 20 minutes. Allow an additional 10 minutes for questions. If you have Ministry of Education staff in attendance, they should leave after this segment so that attendees can talk freely and without feeling they are being “watched”.
- Outline the different approaches to homeschooling. Ask your home educators to introduce their style of schooling and explain a little about it. For example, an unschooler might describe what unschooling is and give an example of a typical day. Be confident and positive while emphasising that there are no two ways to home educate. Each family is unique! If homeschooled children are present and happy to speak then invite them to share their experience. Expect lots of questions!
- Have a 10-15min break where attendees can mingle and ask further questions of the homeschoolers who are in attendance.
- Discuss the homeschool networks in your area – local and online groups, and remember to mention NCHENZ! Outline the types of activities which are organised locally and explain how things get organised.
- Share some examples of curriculum resources. Keep it simple, low key and just an outline so that people can go and look stuff up if they like the sound of it. Don’t get bogged down with details at this point.
- End the evening with final questions and then invite attendees to look over any of the resources your helpers have bought along.