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Okanagan parents band together to create a homeschooling community

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A group of moms in the Okanagan have started a group to help support each other on their homeschooling journey.

Georgia Gomme, Kait Warsimage and Katie Feist banded together this past winter to start Wild and Free Nature Kids in Lake Country. The group gets together for meet ups and field trips every week to support each other and exchange ideas about their homeschooling philosophies.

"A few of us moms that live in Lake Country, we noticed how many groups were in Kelowna and Vernon. Georgia, Kait and myself decided to start our own home school learning pod that is inspired by nature based learning, connection with other homeschool families in the community, local field trips and weekly outdoor meet ups,” Feist said in an email.

With a post on social media they've attracted a lot of parents in a few short months.

“Our group since October 2023 now has 114 members and is still growing with people who are currently homeschooling or who are thinking about trying to homeschool,” Feist said.

Gomme said homeschooling parents are coming together in groups where parents can lean on each other’s expertise and cover different subjects with complementary skill sets.

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“That’s the beauty of the homeschool community is we can lean on other moms and we see this a lot with older kids is as the kids get older there are certain moms that are good at certain things and they will gather all the kids under one mom’s wing for a specific subject, and maybe another mom takes over for another subject,” Gomme said. “You really are able to create communities around this, it can be so much more than just your kid learning something.”

Gomme and Warsimage both have daughters around 2 years old but are already making plans for how they will homeschool them all the way through high school.

“I’m an artist. I went to art school so I really do use my own background in knowing how to teach art,” Gomme said. “If she’s really interested in sciences, it’s something I was good at in school, but for me I don’t want to be doing science lessons all day every day at the high school level.”

Gomme said they have plans to grow Wild and Free with other parents around Lake Country.

“The real intention behind Wild and Free was I really needed some women to come together and create this pod because I was feeling lonely," she said. "The three of us came together, we created this in the dead of winter so it probably wasn’t the best timing. It was harder to get together so now it’s warming up there is definitely going to be an expansion of this community. It’s exciting to see there are so many people who are like-minded and coming together for this.”

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Warsimage said the homeschool group addresses concerns about social development when it comes to homeschooling.

“We don’t really have concerns other than my husband was worried about the social aspect. That was our concern,” she said. “In school when you’re in a class with kids who are all the same age as you, that’s not real life. We’re always around people with varying ages so I think it’s important for her to interact with a 10-year-old or a 2-year-old. It’s nice that our homeschooling pod has different ages. One of her best friends is a 7-year-old and I think it’s so cool they have this friendship even though they’re five years apart.”

Warsimage acknowledges that the decision to homeschool can require more sacrifice for some parents than for others.

“A lot of people say it’s a privilege which I agree with to an extent, but I also think it’s a choice. I’m lucky that my husband and I both work from home and we’re able to afford to do it and we don’t need me to be on a full-time income," she said. "But even if that wasn’t the case it would still be a choice. Instead of living in a beautiful house and spending money on vacations all the time I would make the sacrifice to be able to homeschool.”

Feist said homeschooling has become more popular since the pandemic because there are more online resources to help parents create their own custom curriculum.

“What has changed so much with homeschooling is there are so many more resources and programs available to us and that also takes funding. The number of people that have started homeschooling since 2020 has risen dramatically. Parents are starting to find ways to make it work with their work schedules which in return offers more flexibility for the family unit to do and learn things that sparks their interests.”

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They said every parent has different reasons for wanting to homeschool rather than enroll their kids in public school.

“We tried public school for a few months and quickly realized the systems that were in place just weren't working for us. The long days for my 5-year-old were a lot for him as well as there was bullying already happening,” Feist said.

“For me It’s the lack of freedom that kids have to cultivate their own personalities, their own interests and passions without having this association with needing validation from a grade or a teacher. As an artist I lost myself throughout high school because so many things happen in school there is bullying and favouritism,” Gomme said.

“Not to knock any other parent’s decision, but I just want to be able to do what I think is right for my daughter, when I think it’s right for her,” Warsimage said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jesse Tomas or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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