A (very) rough guide to setting up a group

Christmas Event at the North Down Co-Op

1. the most important thing is to have at least 3 or 4 families who are relatively keen and committed to meeting regularly - once it's going you'll probably attract others but you need a base of people to run it.

2. I'd start by meeting informally a couple of times - either at someone's house or a soft play/park wherever.  You can get to know each other a little and talk about what you've got in mind.  A group that meets regularly somewhere public is great in itself.  Decide how often you want to meet (twice a month is an option which has worked well in the past) and for how long (probably around 2-3 hours).  WIll you be eating together, or each bringing your own picnic, or avoiding lunchtime altogether?

3.  If you want to have a space to yourself so you can have crafts and so on then the next stage is to find a hall/community centre/other venue, which is convenient to travel to.  Make sure it is cheap enough that the start-up families will be happy to pay the rate without needing extra members.  Ideally you should be happy to cover it between 2 or 3 families if necessary.

4. Decide who will handle booking the hall, who will handle any money etc.  Don't let anyone take on too much or they will start feeling put-upon!

5. Decide how you want to structure your time - anything is OK, from a coffee and a run around, to themed meetings (like the North Down and North Coast meets), right up to shared lessons or tutors(!)

6. Consider setting up a facebook group, or ask HEdNI for a section of the website forums to chat about what you're going to do, and keep in touch.  The central HEdNI group loves to be kept in touch but group-specific stuff is often best discussed amongst the group.

7.  Let us know what you're doing!  Post events in the HEdNI Facebook group and on the HEdNI website (if you want!  Feel free to have private ones too).  Its a good way to find new members and keep in touch.

8. Plan ahead, people stay engaged if they are looking forward to something - a host of last minute meets are unlikely to keep people interested.

Examples
The North Coast meets are organised through the North Coast Home Educators Facebook Group.  We ask that people come to a meet before they join up. It's easy to meet us- we have regular meets at local soft play, and we advertise most events on HEdNI and the HEdNI Facebook Group.  

We started by hiring a hall and having themed activities but we eventually decided that we would prefer something less structured- we have quite a few young children and many of us also travel to other groups for that sort of opportunity. We now meet up at least once a month at a local soft play, which is great for new people to get to know the locals, and we often arrange trips to the zoo, the forest or other interesting locations. The group has also been the start of many friendships, and a great place for support and friendly advice.

The North Down Co-Op:

"What I did initially was to find out how many families there were who would want to attend a group regularly. If you only have 3 families then it is probably best to stick to people's houses at first. 

Choose a day of the week or month (we do 2nd and 4th Tuesday's of the month) and take it in turns to meet at each others house. If you have more families then it might be worth hiring a hall. We hire a council run hall which costs about £5.50 per hour at the charity rate - we constituted our group in order to qualify. So we know that we need about 5 families regularly attending to pay for the hall if they pay £5 each. We charge less for families with children under school age as we found the fiver put people off coming with toddlers.

We run the co-op through our facebook group. At the moment I am doing all the organising and arranging of the hall but would recommend you share that responsibility with someone else as it is very time consuming and can be stressful.  It has been brilliant to have our co-op and a great way to meet other Home Educators I might not have met otherwise. 

Above all my advice would be to just go for it. The more of these co-ops the better. They are great for support and great fun too."

Kids in Control / HEdNI Drama Group

This group is a little different- home educating parents with skills to offer worked with HEdNI to get a great drama project started in 2015- they supplied the space and the expertise, we advertised the opportunity. Home educating parents know a great opportunity when they see one (!) and there was a lot of interest from the start. The project was driven by the creativity of the children and will culminate in performances at the Lyric Theatre in March 2015.

An Creagan Wild Wooders 

The mud-covered children of the wild woods meet around once every month and a half to learn together amongst the trees. We include this group as an example of just how simple it can be to have a regular meet up- all are welcome and the organisation consists of a single email to the education officer to set a date and any extra activities (from Bronze Age roundhouse building to bead stringing and live willow structure). The events are advertised here and on the HEdNI Facebook group. We've developed a group of loyal, enthusiastic and tough attendees who brave the weather throughout the year. The trick here is to find the right location and the right education officer...