H.O.U.S.E. is a statewide network of support groups for people involved in homeschooling. H.O.U.S.E. was formed in 1981 when a group of families, beginning as a Lamaze childbirth class began to explore the possibility of homeschooling. They were subscribers to Growing Without Schooling [GWS], and so they contacted GWS people in Illinois to ask for more information. A group of six families met at a home in Naperville. Together they decided to call on anyone they knew that might be interested in starting a support/study group. A dozen people were expected. On April 12, 1981 over forty people came to another family's house to talk -- good thing they had a large living room!
In August of that year, we met to decide how to decide things like: what to name our group, what is a member, etc. Even at that time it was clear that John Holt's comment about homeschoolers was true. When asked what all homeschoolers have in common, he replied -- "Well, they do all teach their children at home." Because of our diversity, it was doubly important that everyone in the group felt that their thinking was important. We chose consensus as our decision making process because it best ensures that everyone has been heard. This has saved a lot of time in the long term.
By 1984, H.O.U.S.E. consisted of six groups, five in northern Illinois and another in southern Illinois, and we began to have Council meetings. A member from one H.O.U.S.E. group helped to start the Ad Hoc Committee, a group of individuals concerned about the Illinois State Board of Education illegally treating homeschools differently from other non-public schools. Ad Hoc developed internal problems, reorganized and, late in 1984, became a four-member group which included H.O.U.S.E. and three other organizations. Ad Hoc joined the Illinois Advisory Committee on Non-public Schools in May of 1985.
In March of 1985, H.O.U.S.E. sponsored a curriculum fair, The World Is My Classroom, at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Even for us, the space there was small. People involved with another organization agreed to host the next fair, which they did in 1986 and H.O.U.S.E. was included in both the planning and execution of the workshops.
H.O.U.S.E. and an independent group from the other organization each held a fair the following year, 1987. Each group was included as participants in each other's fair. Our fair was small, but the number of groups was growing.
We did not yet feel a need for developing a set of bylaws, but had agreed to hold Council meetings twice a year and not to require the separate groups to use consensus. Three new areas now had groups, but one of the original groups had folded, most of the folks there joining another organization.
By 1990, it was clear that H.O.U.S.E. needed bylaws. The group in southern Illinois had some internal difficulties and had to be re-organized. Another H.O.U.S.E. group folded with the mainstays going to another organization. Yet another was having ongoing difficulties, with inclusiveness being one of several issues. Our bylaws were written to preclude further such occurrences. Our number of groups and contacts was now thirteen in number. The original bylaws were agreed to in September of 1992 and an amendment process was added in 1994. As stated in the bylaws, to be a H.O.U.S.E. group, you must agree with the purpose and not discriminate on the basis of.... Why not just say absolutely anyone can be a member? Because the groups must have the right to protect themselves from disruption. Groups are also asked to designate a Council member and a contact person (the two jobs can be done by one person), to donate to the treasury to cover our Ad Hoc dues, newsletter publication and Council meeting expenses. A group can be two families or sixty. It is the opportunity to share support and information that makes a group, not how many or how often. Some groups meet monthly, others weekly. Some meet evenings, some days, some alternate. Children tend to be included, but some groups have designated adults-only meetings. Some term all activities "meetings", others call only business discussions meetings. One thing we seem to agree on is that we usually are our own best resource. Someone in a H.O.U.S.E. group can probably answer any question you have about homeschooling! We place very little value on experts; we do try to widely share our experience.
Truly there are few requirements, but we stick to those! Hopefully this rather rambling account will help answer questions about who we are and where we came from.
H.O.U.S.E. currently has thirty-two groups and contacts. Ad Hoc currently now has five members: H.O.U.S.E. and four other organizations.