Transcript for SS# 59: Scholé Sisters Group Therapy
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Brandy: You’re listening to Scholé Sisters episode number 59.
Welcome to Scholé Sisters, the podcast for the classical homeschooling mama who seeks to learn and grow while she’s helping her children learn and grow. Scholé Sisters is a casual conversation about topics that matter to those of us in the trenches of classical homeschooling who yearn for something more than just checking boxes and getting it all done. I’m your host, Brandy Vencel. You can find me at Afterthoughts—that’s my main blog, and also Teaching Reading with Bob Books, which is where I keep my line of printable phonics lessons. You can hear more from me on my other podcast, AfterCast. My co-hosts today are Pam Barnhill and Mystie Winckler. Pam is a speaker, podcaster, blogger at PamBarnhill.com, and author of two fabulous books, Better Together and the newly released Plan Your Year.Mystie is a second-generation homeschooler with five kids and too many projects. With her blog, podcast, and membership, she helps you organize your attitude so you can organize your life. Find her over at SimplyConvivial.com. We are pleased to introduce our newest innovation, Your Scholé Sheet. The Your Scholé Sheet free download is designed to help you engage with each episode’s content and apply the new ideas right away so that you don’t lose them in the bustle of daily life. Go to today’s show notes at ScholeSisters.com/ss59 to get your copy. In today’s episode we get real about Scholé Sisters groups. First, we talk about Pam’s Scholé Salon, specifically what they’ve done and how it’s going. From there we transition to what to do when groups experience change or difficulty. Groups, even good groups, will experience trials and setbacks and it’s important for all of us to think about how to respond. And so, without further ado, let’s get to it.
[00:02:17] Scholé Every Day
Brandy: Let’s start off with our Scholé Every Day. Mystie, won’t you take the lead?
Mystie: Alright. I have a non-reading Scholé Every Day today. For a little bit more than one whole week … [Laughter]
Pam: A totally new thing!
Brandy: It’s a habit. Totally a habit.
Pam: It’s a habit.
Mystie: So consistent. I have been walking for a full hour every morning.
Mystie: So I’ve been taking shorter-than-that walks, you know, regularly-ish for a long time, but I just really committed for this new season (we’re just about to start our school year) and I’m going to build in a full hour of walking, and I would like to build that up to where it’s almost my 10,000 steps first thing in the morning. My pace is not quite there yet but that’s my goal. But I think getting out in the morning, I realized, it helps me have a little bit of brain space and I was looking at other workout type options and I had a friend tell me, “No really, you should lift weights or do something crazy, like run,” or something. [Laughter]
Pam: Let’s not get crazy.
Mystie: I don’t wanna! Can I just walk instead? So I’m gonna prove that walking’s good enough. And Brandy would know that I was getting crazy amounts of steps if she was still on Fitbit, but she’s not. [sniff, sniff]
Brandy: Yeah, I went old school. So my pedometer doesn’t talk to any other pedometers. It only talks to me.
Mystie: I have a Fitbit group that I’ve skyrocketed to the top so that also feels good.
Brandy: Really? I bet that does feel good.
Pam: My competitive nature would be upset about that except it feels like a hundred and ten degrees every day here, so it’s not really bothering me at the moment.
Brandy: I was going to see this morning was the first day since May (well, actually we had a very mild June so probably since June, but normally it would be since the beginning of May) that it was bearable to walk to the mailbox at ten o’clock in the morning, but we’re only having two days like that then it’s going to be back to a hundred and three so … maybe next month.
Pam: Yeah, so I was all gung-ho. I was going to get back into walking and I rescued my Fitbit from the dryer and things like that and I couldn’t. I couldn’t even do it. Just all of a sudden it got hot; I couldn’t even do it. So if my thing is if I can get out the door by 6:30 to walk I’ll walk. Other than that it’s too hot to walk. So it’s just bleh. So I haven’t.
Brandy: I have a treadmill so I do still walk but it’s just so much more relaxing to walk outside.
Mystie: Well, I think that’s where it ties back to scholé is just feeling that when the weather is not oppressive…
Mystie: … to have the fresh air and the sunshine and see the different trees and the plants or whatever as I’m walking. So to, kind of, tie it back to making it a time where it’s not just … I guess that was part of my problem with saying OK I’m going to do some kind of workout routine is that the workout routine is just the workout routine and that’s all that you’re doing in that time. And making my walk not just my exercise but really claiming that as brain space, thinking time, and paying attention to the world around me, which is not my strong suit, but like noticing what trees are actually in our neighborhood and our area and what’s actually blooming or growing or what the different stages of all these various shrubs and bushes that landscapists have planted on the side of the road. You know, what they are, what they’re looking like right now. And, so I do listen to podcasts or audio books during that time, but I’m trying to not do that the whole time because then I find it’s one person talking and it is thinking but it can become just distraction time where again, I’m just in my head, not paying attention. And it’s just noise in my head and what I really needed was some time away from other inputs. So it’s like this is my time I can get out and have no input.
Pam: So that really is a scholé time for me.
Brandy: Sounds great.
Mystie: How about you?
Mystie: You’re making us laugh.
Brandy: I’m trying to make you laugh. This feels like such a daring thing. I was really nervous when I pushed the button on this, but okay, so those of you who are in Sistership Premier already know about this, but I am writing serial fiction, publishing it in a very safe place. [Laughter] So it’s in the Sistership. It’s its own bonus. It’s for Premier Members. It’s called Susie’s Stupendous Sojourn in Homeschool Land.
Mystie: I love the name.
Pam: It’s really awesome.
Brandy: And it’s built on John Bunyan’s world in Pilgrim’s Progress, which is—I was going to say my all-time favorite book, but I very much love Tolkien also, but Tolkien’s world was not the world that I could write something like this in. [Laughter] I love writers like Tolkien but I feel like at the end of the day, I’m more like Jostein Gaarder or something. So anyway, we’re up to chapter 5 now and I’m enjoying it. So they’re not quite inside home school land yet, because just like Christian in Pilgrims Progress they’re finding their obstacles on the way. So I did have someone ask today about the chapter 5 that came out this week where I was basically paralleling when they meet Mr. Legality and they almost get crushed by Moses’ mountain and I have a very similar situation there—on purpose—but the question was, sort of like, how tightly are we supposed to take this or how seriously are we supposed to take this parallel? Are you actually saying that this person that you created is the same as Mr. Legality? And I thought I should probably clear that up. It is not meant to be the same—just as where I would never say like home schooling’s really salvation, you know what I mean?
Brandy: It’s saving her educational crisis, but it’s not saving in the Pilgrims Progress sense and so I thought, ‘Oh, I really should be careful because I’m so close to Bunyon’s.’ It gets more divergent as we go on but I love the way he set up getting to the gate. And so I wanted to imitate that. Once they’re inside it I think it veers away enough that there’s less confusion. But anyway, so it’s not the same thing and I try to make it, I mean, it’s serious in the sense that I’m trying to deal with real ideas, but I try to make it funny. So anyway.
Mystie: Well, I think you succeed especially with the text message graphics.
Brandy: I was trying to figure out incorporate more of those because they’re so fun to make.
Mystie: It’s like “Here’s this scroll.”
Pam: Well, I’m behind. I think I only got through chapter two before I went on vacation.
Brandy: Well, there’s five now so …
Pam: I know, I know.
Brandy: … for your scholé time.
Pam: For my scholé time, yeah.
Brandy: We’ve had a lot of overwhelming health type stuff going on in our family over the last few months, and so, it’s actually been very refreshing to like throw my … I didn’t think of it that way when I decided to do this. I’ve been sitting on this—on a version of this manuscript for a long time—and I thought I’m ready to do something with it, but it’s so niche and weird that it was like sure, you’ll find a publisher for something like that. So weird. Anyway, but it’s ended up being actually very refreshing to just think about something entirely unrelated to the seems-ongoing crisis that has been happening at my house. So anyway, it’s been nice. Well Pam, what about you?
Pam: So yeah, I’m about to be reading a lot. Let me just preface it with that right there because tomorrow—I’m super excited (so, we’re recording in August to give a little context since I’m saying stuff out of time) I start my Online Literature Class with Angelina Stanford.
Brandy: Is this for you?
Pam: Yeah, so this is for me. So my family’s doing three classes with Angelina this year. So Olivia started hers today, and then I’m starting mine tomorrow. So I’m super excited about that. So I’m reading a myth for that and then you know, I can’t remember what we read first, maybe Voyage of the Dawn Treader or something. So I’m gearing up for that. I’m keeping my plate clear of things to read but I did pick up recently a book that I’ve had for a while and I’ve read before and I wanted to talk about it today because I’m trying to get back into the habit—morning habits after being on vacation for three weeks and then probably a couple weeks before that I was just busy with other things and my mornings had fallen off. And so instead of jumping back into kind of a full-blown Bible study in order to build up these morning habits, I’ve been reading A Catholic Woman’s Book of Days by Amy Welborn, which is like a little devotional style book and there’s something in there every single day. I was like, ‘Okay, well, I’ll pick this up and read it so I can build the habit again and it’ll be good to get back into the habit of doing things and then I can put it back down whenever, and so, you know, it’s 365 little devotions—they’re all one page each and the book is like a 4×6 size book.
Brandy: I love those kinds of books.
Pam: Yes. And every single day there’s a Bible verse and then there’s a little reflection and then there’s a little prayer. And I have found so much good stuff in here. I didn’t worry about starting at the beginning of the year. I didn’t worry about how far am I going to get before I stop doing this and start, you know going back to my full-blown Bible study or anything like that. I just picked up where I was and there’s something every stinkin’ day that is speaking to me.
Pam: Yeah, it’s good.
Brandy: That’s a good way to rebuild the habit. Three-week vacation! You were working pretty hard.
Pam: Well, yeah. Okay, that sounds weird because it wasn’t a complete and total vacation, but we were gone from the house. We were gone for like 12 days and then we came back for like a day and a half and then me and John, John and I (one kid) we went and left again for like four days. And so, it was work, but it was weird to be away from the house for that long. So that’s why it felt like a three week vacation.
Brandy: Yeah, you vacated, that’s for sure. [Laughter]
Pam: Parents never really get to go on vacation. They just parent in different cities.
Mystie: They’re just trips.
Brandy: Yeah, really. Yes. My kids have (well, it’s not so bad anymore) when they were little, you know they had really bad food allergies, and so we’d go places and we always have to rent a place with a kitchen so that I could cook because it wasn’t safe to take them out and I remember one time just saying, you know, “Really all I do is cook in a different location.” So glad those days are over.
[00:15:31] Topical Discussion
Brandy: Alright, so we’re going to transition to our topical discussion and Mystie, I’m going to let you transition to because I found out when I read your notes how clueless I really am. [Laughter] So, I’m not even going to try to play this one off.
Mystie: And you know how good I am—I’m just transitioning on the spot there.
Brandy: Well, you wrote a … I figured you’d read your … here, how about this? Mystie created a thesis statement in order to intelligently guide our discussion.
Pam: Only in Scholé Sisters do we do podcast recordings with thesis statements.
Mystie: Everything needs a thesis.
Brandy: Actually, only in Scholé Sisters when Mystie is present…
Pam: Brandy and I just make it up as we go along.
Brandy: See, you were like, “Is this episode going to be long enough?” I’m like we can wing it, we’ll be fine.
Mystie: When Mystie looks at the note and says, “What are we talking about? Let’s make a plan people!”
Brandy: I was so glad. I kept checking. Surely Mystie will show up and fix this problem. Alright, you want to read your thesis?
Mystie: I think it’s like three Theses, so that’s kind of a problem. I’m still having a problem with it.
Pam: She’s writing coaching us now. [Laughter]
Brandy: Well, since this is a casual conversation you can’t get in trouble for this.
Mystie: Well, I think that this is coming back to talking about what scholé is again, a little bit, and different ways to scholé—that it doesn’t have to look… it’s easy, I think, to come away with the idea that scholé is only reading. And it isn’t. So today we’re going to talk about communal Scholé—scholé with other people beyond just book discussion as well. Pam’s scholé sisters’ group (I don’t think that they call themselves scholé group) …
Pam: We do not. We did for a while, but you know, we found it an impediment to new members.
Brandy: Just because they can’t pronounce the name of your group?
Mystie: Schol-what? So Pam’s group has done a lot of different things beyond just reading books together, and so her experience would be a jumping-off point. I think she mentioned her group in her talk at last year’s retreat, the Learning Well retreat, and we’ve gotten a lot of questions about it, but also one thing I’ve noticed in talking to group leaders for this year’s retreat is that after last year’s retreat several different groups were able to start a scholé sisters group, you know, a meeting discussion-type group with this Scholé Salon idea because it was a lower key, lower commitment model that helped their group get off the ground. So we’re going to talk about doing scholé together in ways other than reading and how that’s a more complete picture of scholé.
Brandy: Okay, so you said Scholé Salon? What is this? I do remember Pam, you saying the name, but I have no definition attached to it.
Pam: Okay. So this was something I totally made up, obviously.
Brandy: A great name.
Pam: Thank you, but I don’t even know if like I came away with this idea of people back probably like in regency times or something hosting these salons where people would come and I think there were like cultural, like social events, people would come and talk about different things—I could be getting that totally wrong. But anyway. That idea, whether I made it up or it’s a real thing, stuck in my head. And we were having struggles with people, so people wouldn’t come because they wouldn’t have the book read. So we would choose a book to read and we were moved into really slow reading which kind of has its problems and it has its benefits definitely. We did it because of a lot of Brandy’s talking about slow reading (and this was a couple years ago now) but it also has its issues too and that it takes forever to get to a book …
Pam: … and sometimes that could just really … like if you’re only meeting once a month that could just really drag things out. And if you’re in the middle of a book that has six or seven chapters, sometimes it’s hard to get people to join into that book. They want to wait till it’s over. Well, it’s going to be another three or four months before you’re done with it if you’re halfway through. So anyway, we were looking for kind of a solution to this problem and honestly ladies, we could talk about problems with local groups. We could just change this whole podcast to that because I have so many things I could say about that. I’m saying my group is struggling and there are some real problems and I could I could talk about them if you wanted to, but anyway, so we came up with this idea to have a Scholé Salon where instead of reading one set book for the group for a period of time or trying to rush our way through one a month, instead we were all going to bring something we wanted to share with the group. It’s something we were reading anyway, because we had people who were doing pre-reading for their kids classes, we had people who are in other book clubs, we had people who just had other things they wanted to read, or people who are on podcast with crazy women who made them read lots of stuff to get prepared, and stuff like that. [That was just me by the way I was the only one] and so it was just more helpful to be able to come and talk about something we had been reading without necessarily having to read something specifically for the group. And so, the idea was you would bring something that you had been reading and you would share it with the group and talk about why you were enjoying it or not enjoying it. You could share commonplace quotes from it. You could do all of those things. So it was still about reading but it was giving you more freedom and flexibility to just bring to the table what you were already doing for some other reason. Now, when we started this idea, the idea was also we would meet more in people’s homes and less out in restaurants and things like that and then we would also have an opportunity, like if you wanted to bring something to work on with your hands, some kind of handicraft for, you know, at this point Jessica was still with us in our group and she would bring her happy planner and she would sit there and work on her happy planner while we chatted and things like that. So you had the freedom to bring something to work on with your hands because we had a place there where you could spread out and do that. We even played games a couple of times at our Scholé Salon and it really worked great for a while. It really, really did because we had some good conversations. It wasn’t a problem that people were not reading the same book because people were a lot of times bringing something that they were very passionate about and enjoying or they had strong feelings about it any way and they were able to share about it and we’d share commonplace quotes and it worked really well.
[00:23:16] How Does Discussion Happen If You’re Not Reading the Same Book?
Brandy: Okay. So that was going to be my main question was how does discussion happen when you’re not on the same page in a book? So what did that look like? What were you talking about?
Pam: Well, I mean somebody would bring up a book. I’m trying to think. So Mary was reading something about Jillian of Norwich. She was reading like her works. And this was like, I’m going to get this horribly wrong, but it was the first woman to ever write a book in French or something like that, or you know, the first woman to have a book published. She was a mystic, she was a nun from France, like in the Middle Ages, and she was just reading her writings and she was sharing with us various things and conversation just grew out of that. We would ask her questions about it. And what do you find it so appealing? Or she would make a comment like, “You know, this was a little off-putting or a little disturbing to me,” and we would say, “Why?” and she would read us a passage. Usually what would end up happening is we would all go home with our Amazon carts full … [Laughter]
Brandy: Like a podcast recording. [Laughter]
Pam: It really was kind of like a podcast recording. But you know, the idea was it was almost like Scholé Every Day every time we met. Sometimes when the three of us get together and we start talking about our Scholé Every Day, if we don’t watch ourselves, we could probably talk for almost a whole hour.
Brandy: That’s true.
Pam: And so, it’s the same concept.
Mystie: Yeah. I love that. And your group has also done other activity type things together, right? Like during the summer?
Pam: Yes. Okay. So some of the different things we’ve done—we have done nature study together. So instead of meeting in the evening, one time we were reading Clare Walker Leslie’s Nature Journal book, and we actually met for breakfast that month and we went out to our local nature park (it’s like an old farmstead nature trails, kind of interactive nature place), and we went for a nature walk together and we actually sat and drew some in our nature journals. So that’s something that we’ve done. We’ve gone to the movies together. If there were, you know, kind of like a worthy movie that we felt like would be a good one for the entire group to see together. We’ve done that. I know we’ve done other things in the past. I’m just trying to think of what they were.
Brandy: Like Marvel comic movies like that kind of thing.
Pam: Those. The Avengers. Yeah. Those were the ones that we saw. This is the stuff I didn’t prepare for.
Brandy: That’s alright. I guess we have done a couple things like that. We didn’t this summer, but in the past we’ve taken summers off from reading and we’ve done different things. We did immersion nights. So we had a gal come and do an immersion night on Shakespeare. And so she did all sorts of things because she did kind of like a show-and-tell which it was like she’s teaching Shakespeare to her kids or in co-op or something and here’s all favorite resources so we could all check on her favorite resources and then you know, she actually had us read part of a play and all sorts of things. And so we did it in a private room of a restaurant. So we also ate pie which was, you know, important. And then there was another night where we did it was like an immersion on language arts stuff. So it was like this is what narration would look like. So we actually read it was either Aesop’s Fables or Fifty Famous Stories, but one of us read the whole thing and then someone had to try to narrate it. So we went through actually trying to explain how we would teach narration. So we have done a few things like that. But the one time we try to plan on nature day, it was like everybody started throwing up or something.
Pam: Sometimes I feel that way about nature study.
Brandy: Well in this case, I think people were actually sick. So it just didn’t work because we were unable to reschedule at that point, but that sounds like fun—meeting for breakfast and all that, that sounds like fun.
Pam: It was. And you know, I kid about nature study. I really do love nature study in carefully controlled environments where I don’t have to touch anything gross or be too hot but we did a Christmas exchange once where everybody brought like a white elephant curriculum—something that they were not using anymore.
Brandy: Well, that’s interesting.
Pam: And so we played the dirty Santa game where everybody wrapped it up and then everybody went up and pulled one and opened it and then the next person got to decide if they were going to steal from that person or if they were going to get another one. And so, we had a lot of fun with that.
Brandy: I love that game.
Pam: Yeah, and then we did other games, you know, we’ve done nights where we’ve played Timeline, or a different game, and did that as well. Oh, we’ve been to a play.
Brandy: So was it Shakespeare or just like a regular local play?
Pam: It was a Shakespeare. And we’ve talked about doing a few other things, but you know, schedules are always a little hard to coordinate.
Brandy: That’s true.
Mystie: You know, I think someone listening might think, ‘Playing a Christmas game how is that a scholé type activity?’ but it really is or can be anyway because it’s us connecting as a community and it’s letting go of that utilitarian mode where everything has to be for a purpose.
Pam: I think it’s just building the relationships with each other and the conversation that came out of playing that game—think about it if you did a dirty Santa, and so we did homeschool curriculum that year, but let’s say if you did it with books, if everybody brought a book and you did a dirty Santa with books, what’s the conversation going to be like? It’s going to be the value of this book, why this book is something I would want to have? Why this book is better than this other book? Arguments for and against. So it’s the conversation that comes and the spirit that you’re building amongst your participants that it’s all done with an air of scholé. If you think about scholé, you can read with scholé and you can read without scholé. You can do math with scholé and you can do math without scholé. You can exchange gifts with it and you can exchange gifts without it. It’s not the exchanging of the gifts, it’s the fact that we’re doing it with that spirit of scholé.
Brandy: Okay. I was going to say that I thought maybe that the game portion was more like the play, Bridge. Isn’t it Aristotle says that we need sometimes.
Mystie: Yeah, That’s where we did amusing ourselves to scholé.
Brandy: Okay, for some reason why I said Aristotle started to feel like I was wrong. But like that play Bridge where we need to kind of do something mindless before we can do scholé. I was thinking of it that way but I think I think maybe Pam made a good argument there.
Pam: Thank you.
Mystie: Just in that kind of game where you are laughing together, I mean part of it is the loosening up that allows you to scholé, and some of it is in the laughter—part of the laughter is letting go of trying to put on a certain persona or trying to be a certain type of person or whatever. You’re just connecting with other people over ideas and also just with each other as people and as friends. And we need that for scholé conversation to really happen. We need those kind of connections.
Brandy: That’s a great point.
Pam: We’ve also done podcasts and instead of entire books, we’ve done articles and talks as well. We’ve listened to homeschool talks and discuss those instead of reading a book, or sometimes we find a really good article that we want to read, or listen to a specific podcast and then came in and talked about it. So you’re still dealing with information and ideas. I think ideas would be crucial, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be reading and discussing a book.
Brandy: I could see that. So Pam, I have a question. Your Scholé Salon group, is that connected to your co-op?
Pam: Not really, actually. By the time it was over (it’s not completely over) we’re reformatting. It was about half and half. So let me answer that again. Not really, it was about half and half.
Pam: So about half were members of the co-op and then we were certainly always open and welcoming to other people out there and so about half of our members were not in the co-op.
Brandy: Okay, so it wasn’t like a requirement either way.
Brandy: Okay, I’m just curious. Look, we can talk about your problems, but does your group care if you talk about your problems?
Pam: Oh, they’re not bad problems.
Brandy: Okay, I wasn’t sure.
Pam: They’re not bad problems at all. No, no. No, there’s not drama. There’s no drama. You know I don’t do drama.
Brandy: Well, that’s true. But I was afraid people around you did.
Pam: No, not around me they don’t. I’ll leave. When I say I don’t do drama I really don’t do drama.
[00:33:32] Let’s Talk Group Struggles
Brandy: Why don’t we talk about some group struggles? We’ve never done that before and I think that might be actually a needed thing. It’s okay for groups to struggle and even iterate.
Pam: Well, our group has the main core members of the group have moved away. And so we’re down to what I would consider two people who are main core members (people who have been consistent in coming through the years). We’ve had other people kind of pop in and out at various times and there have been some weeks where we’ve had as many as 10 or 11 people but with consistent people coming, it’s me and one other girl. At first we called ourselves Classical Homeschool Moms, and then we switched our name to include Scholé Salon and so then I very recently had a conversation with the other girl and I’m like, we’re just going to change our name to Homeschool Book Club. It has other parts to it …
Pam: … but I’m not going to say those on the air. If you know you live near me and you would like to join the group, you can find me. You can find me on Facebook. Because we don’t want a bunch of people who don’t—we have had that happen before where people who are not in our area try to join our group and we don’t let them do that. But anyway, we’re going to change it to Homeschool Mom Book Club because we feel like having some kind of classical or Charlotte Mason or scholé indicator in there people see it and they automatically go, “Well, that’s not for me. I can’t do that. I’m not smart enough. I’m not interested in this.” When really if they got in with us, they might find that they are interested in it.
Mystie: I think it depends on what you want your group to be because you can have a group where the point of the group is for the moms who are doing a co-op together or connecting on a deeper level. So it makes sense to have only your co-op people. And you can do a group in order to find those people who do want to be associated with classical or with Charlotte Mason or with scholé and you have that in the name because you’re trying to find the people and only the people who are into that…
Mystie: … but then if you want to build community with those people who are actually in your town, even if you might use different language to describe things, but you want to connect as a broader community then your name also should reflect that. And that’s also a worthy goal
Pam: Well, we would like to get people here, but the two of us who are left are classical or you know, classical Charlotte Mason-influenced homeschoolers, we would like people like us who would like to come and discuss ideas and things like that, but I told her, I said, “Why don’t we just make our first book Teaching from Rest and you know, really appeal to … anybody who’s going to read Teaching from Rest and is willing to come and discuss the ideas from Teaching from Rest could probably be persuaded to read, you know, something else along those similar lines, something else from the Scholé Sisters’ book list.
Brandy: They’ll read Lonesome Gods with you, Pam.
Pam: Yes, they can because it’s an awesome book.
Brandy: It is an awesome book.
Pam: I think what I would like to do most is remove some of the barriers that people might have—perceived barriers—that they might have to joining.
Brandy: So it seems to me like (it just reminds me a little bit of what we did in our Vibrant Charlotte Mason Communities thing which really was about forming a group and it just happened to be for Charlotte Mason homeschoolers) but one of the things we talked about was starting out with why does your group exist? Not so much a mission statement, but kind of, because that could influence everything from what you actually plan to do in your meeting to the kinds of people that you invite, to how you title your group—like what you’re actually calling yourselves. I know because Mystie you were saying some people want to only connect with that. I’m thinking my group is a Charlotte Mason group. It exists to read her works. So I know it’s super important for us to actually have Charlotte Mason in the name of the group because otherwise it’s like false advertising. I know this isn’t right. So I feel like this is an interesting discussion because we have our little thing that people get that says, you know, like how to how to build your own scholé sisters group or whatever but it’s a good reminder, which I think we said in there if I remember correctly, you don’t have to actually call it scholé sisters. The podcast is Scholé Sisters, but if that’s not a good name for you …
Mystie: We’re trying to get people to start groups that use the word scholé sisters. We don’t care. We don’t care what you call yourselves.
Brandy: Exactly. Yes.
Mystie: Just different local groups that I know are around in my area, there’s also a Well-Read Mom Book Group. I didn’t join it. So they read like a literature list and guide that’s put out Well Read Mama—I think it’s a thing—you can get their guides and do their groups. So that would be something that would provide guidance and yet the purpose is reading literature and talking about literature. Whereas then there’s also a Charlotte Mason book group that I attend but it is for discussing Charlotte Mason. So we’re doing Start Here. We’ve been doing Start Here for forever and will continue to do it for forever.
Brandy: Sorry. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Mystie: It’s fine. It’s good.
Brandy: Just think, by the time we get to the end you can start over at no extra cost because you’ve already forgotten the first lesson.
Mystie: But by the time we get to the end of that one it’ll be interesting to see because I think there are people there that wanted a book group and discussion with other moms about big ideas, like principles, and there are the people who no, they want a Charlotte Mason. So after the Start Here will do another Charlotte Mason book and I’m not going to.
Pam: Oh, it’s the rebel in her.
Mystie: I feel like, Okay, I’ve done enough. Gonna read something else.
Brandy: Now, if all of them didn’t want to read Charlotte Mason she’d be like, “I want to do another one.” [Laughter]
Pam: Oh goodness.
Brandy: I don’t know if I’m right, but I have my suspicions. That’s funny. Pam, I was thinking (I’d kind of forgotten about this) but we had a few years ago we had a five-person leadership team and everybody left—mostly they moved away. I think one gal put her kids in school and just decided that she needed to cut this because she had too many things going on and she was, kind of, turning over a new leaf in life. And so, all that was left of that original group of five was me. Really sad. Now that was our leadership team so there were other people. Like there are still people in our group that have been there since day one which has been really nice but it was hard on our group to lose all those people and it wasn’t just the decreasing attendance that was hard. It was also—it kind of reminds me of our friendship episode, actually—that there was just a dynamic that was there because of those people that when they left was no longer there. So, everything from the girl that told the jokes to the girl that asked the best questions, both of those people left. So now I’m going to ask a question and tell jokes and I’m such a confused person. But anyway, it is (as I’m thinking about listeners that may have struggles in groups) I mean, it is a huge thing when you have a lot of people move away at one time or in a short amount of time, it’s hard.
Mystie: Right. The dynamics shift.
Brandy: It is. And if you end up with a lot of inexperienced people coming in to replace them, then your whole dynamic changes also.
Pam: Right. I would just be happy to have warm bodies at this point. And I would join a Charlotte Mason group if there was one in the area but I don’t know of any that are around here.
Brandy: Why don’t we get you a fake name and like a disguise?
Pam: Can I wear a mustache? I was totally thinking that. [Laughter] But I really don’t know of any other home school mom book clubs in the area. I mean, we have a Wild and Free group, but I think they only meet with their kids and they’re young kids, too, so, my kids would not be interested.
Mystie: Well, another thing that a group in my town is doing (I’m only involved on the periphery), but they had a lot of moms say they were interested in learning more about Charlotte Mason or that sort of thing, but they are going to use Karen Glass’ Principles at the Helm talk (were there two or three?) …
Brandy: I’m trying to remember if it was two or three. They’re really good.
Mystie: We’re gonna watch one and discuss over the course of three nights. So it’s just a three-night commitment and they’re actually doing it in a public library meeting room. So it’s no pressure. It’s not pressure to a hostess or you’re not showing up at someone’s home. It’s broad, easy to invite people, and really see what kind of interest because the ages of kids that people have it affects the dynamics and it affects where they’re starting from and do you have a mix where you have a discipleship group? It affects the focus of the group and just knowing what the group’s purpose and focus ought to be to fit the people who are there is important.
Brandy: Yeah, for sure. Well, I think also that could even come into like what book you choose next. I remember years ago realizing so many of our—we’re a Charlotte Mason group, but that doesn’t mean you have to read the volumes in order, right? But we ended up doing Home Education because there were just so many people in that ‘habit training/earlier education/trying to get off on the right foot’ stage and you know as the mom of only one child that was in that age range it actually ended up being really great for me to re-read that and not forget that my youngest child was still young, you know? It was so easy to just pull him up and just have him do what everybody else was doing. But I mean, that’s why we ended up reading that because of the ages of everybody’s kids at that time. And so, I think had we chosen School Education and most people’s kids weren’t really ready for all that it would have been a disconnect which has happened before.
Mystie: And that’s why I think Pam’s idea of starting with Teaching from Rest is a good idea.
Brandy: For sure. Well, and it’s amazing to me how many people still haven’t heard of or read the book. Because I feel like, ‘Oh, Teaching from Rest it’s been around for years, everybody knows that.’ But it really is amazing how many people are still caught up in the more high stress homeschooling vision.
Pam: That’s true.
Brandy: Plus we all need to be reminded of it all the time because …
Pam: Even if we’ve read it most people are really willing to read it again.
Brandy: That’s true. That’s true. It’s the whole needing to be preached at regularly, sort of thing. So, you’re down to two people.
[00:46:42] Two People Make a Group (but…)
Pam: Two people who come regularly because there are other people who have been to meetings and come every once in a while.
Brandy: Two people including you or two people in addition to you?
Pam: Including me.
Brandy: Okay, that is really small, but …
Pam: I know.
Brandy: But I was going to say, one of the things that I always say in my building groups talk is two people is a group. It doesn’t have to be big. Just because I don’t want people to feel like they have to have 10 people or their group doesn’t count. You know?
Brandy: I mean you can still can, you can’t stay small.
Pam: Oh, yeah, I mean, well and when you look at our co-op, I mean our co-op was much bigger at some point in the past and it was like, oh this is just a lot, and as it grew smaller again, I mean, we don’t recruit for the co-op at all. We don’t actively recruit. People hear about us and want to join and we see if they’re a good fit but, you know, we don’t actively recruit so I’m fine with small. But I don’t know, just two people it seems like … we both would like other people. We like each other a lot but we both would like other people.
Brandy: Well that is small enough too that if one person gets sick there is no meeting.
Pam: Right, exactly. Exactly. It makes it kind of hard to be consistent.
[00:48:08] Advertising a Group?
Brandy: Right. So, do you advertise your group?
Pam: We haven’t in a while, and so this has been a few months in the making where we’ve kind of let it go. Let it lie fallow over the summer just because we knew everybody was going to be so busy. And so, we’re going to start advertising and build it back up.
Brandy: I’m honestly curious how you do that because the one time, no, the two times I’ve done “advertising” which all I did was make a cute graphic and post it in all of the places that I know our local home schoolers are online. So, we have different local Facebook groups and that kind of thing. We have never (as far as I know) had anybody come from that. Ever. So, it could be that my graphics are ugly or something. I don’t know, but we’ve had plenty of new people over the last two years but it has been universally word of mouth—just someone invited their friend or this new girl that they met that had just moved to town, and I do think (I shouldn’t say that) I think we got at least one from it was either the scholé sisters page or the Charlotte Mason in Community page, but you know where we have these lists of groups that you can contact and join. But anyway, it’s never been from when I was actively advertising because I don’t really think of posting ourselves on a list of groups as active advertising. It’s just, you know …
Brandy: It’s like pinning my business card on a cork board.
Pam: Well, you would be amazed though at how many people I have had contact me because we’re an official scholé group. Our homeschool co-op is an official scholé group. And so that means we’re listed on the scholé group’s website, which is nationwide, and you’d be amazed at how many people are like, “I found you on the scholé group’s website.” And I’m like, wow, you know, that’s what we have.
Brandy: Is your group on the Scholé Sisters website?
Pam: I think it is.
Brandy: Okay. I wasn’t sure. I know mine is, but maybe putting it on a list is more effective advertising than advertising.
Pam: Maybe so.
Mystie: You at least find a people who are looking.
Brandy: That’s true because people who come to those pages are actually looking for those kinds of groups versus in our homeschool Facebook page, or group, they’re also looking for used curriculum and hiring a math tutor and all those other things.
Pam: I don’t know, maybe we’ll do bring a friend night or something. I don’t know what we can give away if somebody brings a friend.
Brandy: Apparently giveaway a Scholé Sisters shirt because …
Pam: Oh there we go, I can give away a Scholé Sisters shirt. That’ll be perfect.
Brandy: Not that they could pronounce the word.
Pam: I don’t know.
Brandy: It just says Laughing Well—it’ll be okay, or no, Lighten Up, it just say’s Lighten Up. I don’t know about these like group growing pains. I’ve wondered. I’ve looked into the future and I have wondered what does it look like six years from now when I’m graduating my last student? I have tried over the years to identify potential younger leaders that I thought could take over for me and I kind of stopped doing that because they kept leaving. Like they were awesome…
Pam: People will be like, “This is the one!” and then the next month she’s gone.
Brandy: Seriously, it’s happened more than once, to the point where I was like, you know what, I’m going to quit saying anything because I know that jinxing things is not real but it feels kind of real. I don’t know. We even thought about just getting our leadership team up to a larger size because we used to have a leadership team of five. Now, we only have two but our group is smaller so we probably don’t need more than two. But I’ve wondered, you know, should we add more but I’m afraid to say anything because what if their husband gets a job offer in Texas? It could happen. Oh, personal problems.
[00:52:33] Is a Group Worth the Trouble?
Mystie: But what you all are saying is that having a group though is worth the trouble.
Pam: It’s totally worth the trouble. I mean, that’s why I’m so sad that my group just seems to be in a lull that we’re having a hard time pulling out of, you know?
Brandy: It is worth the trouble and sometimes I ask myself that in the drive over just because it’s harder to come. My husband might be out of town. I’m leaving kids at home that are like fighting with each other as I was leaving because you know, if they’re going to fight they should definitely do it as mom’s walking out the door, and so …
Pam: Of course.
Brandy: … it’s like should I even be leaving them right now? But by the time it’s over, I’m like, ‘Oh this is why I do this,’ you know, it’s not just for them, it’s for me too, because I need this so badly—just even the accountability and reading, keeping me reading when I’m tired or busy or whatever. I feel like even that helps.
Pam: It really, really does. Alright, we’ve had this conversation before where a lot of times when you’re dealing with local people they know your kids too. And so if I bring Mystie a problem or Brandy a problem about my home school on Voxer and we’re talking about it, you know, there’s so much of the story that they’re not getting that a local person can get because a lot of times those local people know my kids somewhat and are interacting with them and they’re watching me interact with them, and so, they sometimes see stuff that people online don’t see.
Brandy: Yeah. It’s true.
Pam: And have good insight because of it.
Mystie: And then you have someone who’s more likely to remember and follow up because it’s a personal friendship that’s taking place in real life.
Brandy: Well, what are our parting thoughts on all of this?
Pam I think the biggest thing is just I’m not giving up.
Pam: We’re going to keep trying and things are going to change. But we built it once and you know, we can build it again.
Mystie: I think that maybe instead of thinking of an email or a Facebook post as being enough, to try to just make real life connections with people, and talk, inviting people personally I think is still going to be more effective even if they don’t come that’s still a connection that you’re making and maybe something will come on down the road. I think of our local Charlotte Mason group—five years ago there was only one AO mom in the Tri-Cities that I knew, or that she knew of, that anyone knew of, and she just kept doing her thing and talking about it and suddenly five years later here they’re just springing up all over the place. And so, you just never know what happens when ideas percolate and conversations happen. So people move away, but people also move to your town also, so just keeping your eyes open …
Brandy: Well, in California that’s not necessarily true …
Mystie: People move from California to the Tri-Cities and we’re just waiting for you, Brandy.
Brandy: We’re just sending friends to you, Mystie.
Mystie: Stop! We’ve had enough housing price increase.
Brandy: Well, they vote blue too, so you’re welcome. [Laughter] (We have to cut that.)
[00:56:27] A List of Ideas to Grow a Group
Mystie: Anyway, I think reaching out personally to families and being persistent and waiting it out and not thinking that it has to be a certain way, right from the get-go, but that sometimes these things do take time and things do shift, and I think that’s where the Scholé Salon idea also is a good bridge kind of group where you’re not like, “Hey, let’s read Norms and Nobility or let’s read …” you’re like, “Let’s just be reading people and share what you’re reading.” And that helps people build that identity of being people who talk and read even if it’s something you’re already reading for some other reason.
Pam: So do a Scholé Salon, but just don’t call it one.
Mystie: Right. Think of a better …
Brandy: I could call it “shole.” Just kidding.
Mystie: Not better.
Brandy: By the way Scholé Sisters has so infused the hard “ch” sound into my youngest child that he keeps calling (we’re doing Schubert as our composer this term), he keeps calling him “Scubert.”
Pam: Wasn’t that a Peanuts character?
Brandy: I don’t know. “Scubert.”
Mystie: Well, and that’s why I think I’m hearing from these other group leaders that after their local Retreat Day the thing that they were able to do to keep that community going and not just be a one-off day was a meeting where everyone’s bringing a little something, where it’s not an ahead of time extra commitment. It really is a building community activity. Like, we’re just going to meet and … I’m trying to think … Pam, you’re going to have to come up with a wider appeal name for me here. I can’t do it.
Pam: Sorry. We’re just going back to book club here.
Mystie: But that still sounds like assignments. You know, “We’re just going to read and share,” a show-and-tell. “We’re going to do …”
Brandy: A mommy show-and-tell.
Pam: I’m willing to drop the classical and I’m willing to drop scholé and just make it home school. But I have to draw the line somewhere because I want to give some definition of what we are. And so that’s why I’m leaving the book club.
Mystie: Yeah. Well, and if you’re setting it up after something like a Retreat Day, then you have a little bit of time to explain.
Brandy: That’s true.
Mystie: But I think it’s a good entry point into starting a group because it’s lower commitment and I think it gives people a taste of talking about ideas. And that’s what they need. That’s what we all need.
Pam: Well, and the theme this year is perfect for this kind of thing because who doesn’t want to laugh. I mean laughter is not intimidating. And so it’s a good one to try and use as …
Brandy: You should have your group there have a retreat, if they’re not, so that maybe you can use it to recruit people.
Pam: I’ll let Tara know you said so. Brandy says she should have a Retreat while I’m in California.
Brandy: While Pam’s sitting with her legs in the sand.
Brandy: So what I’m getting out of this is, especially for entry-level groups or for groups that have maybe had a hard hit or whatever, Scholé Salon is a good, easily accessible model and to make it even more easily accessible we can change the name to home school book club [Laughter] or something. I’m a little disappointed in this name but moving on.
Mystie: It’s not even alliterative.
Brandy: It’s true. It’s pure description.
Pam: If you guys come up with something else, I would be happy to …
Mystie: I’m working on it.
Pam: …entertainment it. Okay?
Brandy: I’m sure Mystie will have you all H’s by the time we’re off. [Laughter] And so, don’t bother to advertise but do put yourself on a list.
Pam: I’m advertising. Actually, I’m going to have somebody else advertise it.
Brandy: Even better.
Pam: So it’s not me.
Mystie: And, talk to people.
Brandy: Talk to people. That’s the hardest one.
Pam: Invite people.
Brandy: Invite people. And don’t give up when you’re small or when you’ve been hit by something hard or when everybody moved away or when you’re surrounded by discouraging people because a lot of groups have been through times like that. My group’s ten years old. So we’ve been huge and we’ve been small and we’ve been sad and we’ve been happy—all those things have happened over the 10 years. So, don’t give up just because it got hard or discouraging. At least not if you really want it. Obviously, everyone’s free to quit whatever they want.
Mystie: But it is worth it.
Brandy: It is worth it.
Pam: It is worth it. And you had said earlier—this is a little add-on—about not everybody being on Facebook. So we’ve actually figured this out with our co-op that it’s like even I think most of us are on Facebook, but like if we have something to say to each other that’s really quick not everybody wants to go check the Facebook thing, and I think there are people on Facebook who it’s become so overwhelming that you can hardly depend on getting a notification for important stuff anymore.
Brandy: That’s true. That’s true.
Pam: And so we have started using a group text program to coordinate things. And to be able to chat back and forth and things like that so …
Pam: No, it’s not Slack. It’s actually one you don’t even have to download an extra program. It just comes to your text.
Pam: So we’re using GroupMe is what it’s called.
Brandy: I’ve heard of people using that for like youth group and stuff.
Pam: Right. And so we’ve just got a little group for our co-op and everybody can text in and join it and it just comes right to your regular text on your phone.
Mystie: That’s cool. It’s good to find those kind of things that just make it easier because sometimes it really is something as simple as that that helps people remember and keep track of it and think, ‘Oh yeah, I do want to show up.’
Pam: Because I think a lot of times people just need reminders.
Brandy: People in Scholé Sisters Leadership level can start a group. I think those would give notification. Well people have to have their notifications turned on though…
Brandy: … to be getting them. So that’s the one thing there is if you have people in the group, and they’re not actually turned on which I had done. I was like cruising around in there finding all these things I didn’t know were happening that I didn’t have all my notifications turned on, so I was getting notifications for some things which made me feel like I was getting notifications. Whoops. Well, thank you guys for getting together and chatting today.
Mystie: It was fun.
Brandy: It was fun. I’ll talk to you later.
Brandy: That’s it for today. Thank you so much for listening and being a part of the Sisterhood of the podcast. As always we’d appreciate if you’d spread the word about the podcast to your friends. Don’t forget to download Your Scholé Sheet to think through and apply the ideas from this episode, then bring your thoughts to the Sistership and join the conversation happening there. Start by going to ScholeSisters.com/ss59 to down your copy for free. Next episode, Mystie and I are having a follow up conversation with Angelina Stanford on the teaching of history. Some of you likely remember the controversial statement Angelina through out last season. We invited her on to defend herself and ended up having one of the best conversations ever. You’re going to love it. Until then, we want to remind you once again that homeschooling is a marathon you needn’t run alone, so open up your eyes, and look around you, find your sisters.