I’m starting a new group… here’s why…
I’ve been meaning to write this for a few days. But, you know, life
In April of 2011, I began researching homeschool as an option, specifically for my son, stemming from a bullying problem.
After several months of research, we may the informed decision to homeschool both kiddos. Immediately,I began piecing together curriculum and scouring the Internet for a local group we could meet up with so the kids would be able to make new friends.
I couldn’t find an already formed secular group in St. Charles. But, I did find a yahoo group and contacted the mom (afterwards known as Mom A) who expressed interest in starting a secular group.
I arranged for our first park day at Wapelhorst and we invited anyone interested. After that, she and I began emailing regularly about our ideas and were taking small steps towards forming a website with a plethora of information and the ability to create events, field trips, and park days. Along with her, I was an admin on our Facebook page and approved new members and sent welcome messages. Additionally, I created the park day invites on Facebook, organized our first party (Halloween!), and did what I could to add to our growing lists of curriculum recommendations. During the late fall, Mom A’s friend (Mom B) returned to the area and we all worked together.
As colder weather began to settle in, the group slowed. With no outside playing and then the holidays, it was hard for everyone to get together. I also began taking on more hours at my work-from-home job, preventing me from doing as much as I would have liked in the organization of St. Charles Secular Homeschoolers.
Jump to: a couple of months ago.
Along with all of the current members of our rapidly growing group, I received an email invitation to the Back To School Bash. My kids were very excited! I was torn. On one hand, the idea to have clubs was very appealing, but I wasn’t keen on the stipulations of membership, which were paying a fee or mandatory volunteering.
Still, we went to the party because I knew making a decision without hearing all about something wasn’t fair. In the excitement, I became swept up! My kids were interested in several clubs and I thought, “Hell, I can squeeze in a meeting once a month to do the drama club because that is what I’ve been doing for 10 years.”
Afterwards, an email was started for all parents interested in co-organizing the drama club. I had my experienced opinion and another mom (Mom C) had her opinion. I did say that if the drama club moved in the direction I felt was overwhelming and not as educational, I would bow out. Nothing was resolved (hard to do over email) so I waited for the volunteer meeting where we would discuss and move forward. Given time constraints and being sick, I was unable to attend in person, but was able listen to the meeting and communicate by typing via the internet. After 2 hours, the program kicked me off or cut out or I don’t know. During that time, drama club was never mentioned. But, it was late and I didn’t feel well, so I went to bed with the assumption that minutes would be posted of the volunteer meeting for anyone to see, myself included.
The next day I noticed that Mom C has posted in the calendar and on the Facebook page the schedule and direction of the drama club. “Weird,” I thought, “Drama club wasn’t even mentioned last night and I wasn’t invited into the decision making.”
Not to mention, it was scheduled without asking if all the kids interested would be available to attend, my daughter being one of those kids interested. As it turns out, she wasn’t available because we have other classes scheduled at that time.
I thought it over. And the next day I posted in the Facebook page that my daughter wouldn’t be able to make drama club and neither would I be able to co-organize given the schedule already posted.
Mom A (the mom who started the group with me) commented with an apology and claiming she just forgot to let me know that they just decided without me since they were choosing Mom C’s idea and I wasn’t interested in that. I was also told I could choose a different volunteer position. Mom B commented with the same sentiments.
At this point I was baffled.
“What? They just decided without me? When?” I wondered.
I was told they talked after the meeting was over.
Huh? That’s… convenient.
Then I decided to write an email to the two moms who were controlling the group. I had a few things already in the back of my mind that weren’t sitting right with me.
In the email I outlined my concerns:
• Deciding to move forward with the drama club without involving/telling me
• Age segregation in nearly all activities, with special emphasis in the teen group
• Promoting and using resources/material group-wide that are not secular but referencing them as secular
• The lack of transparency and unilateral decision making of the business dealings – we are touting ourselves as all-inclusive and the group was not invited to attend, vote, and/or decide on the incorporation of the group or the proposed 501c3 status.
I ended with:
It’s been quite the struggle to continue to be involved given these issues. It makes me sad that the group seems to be moving in a direction not aligned with our statement of secular values and goals.
The email I received, from Mom A,in turn was not what I expected (note: this is not the entire email):
It seems to me, based on your personal experiences, that our group may no longer be a good fit for you. I very much hope that is not the case as the group welcomes all homeschoolers, no matter their choice in teaching method or curricula. We strive to take on the role of inclusivity in homeschooling in the community, our name notwithstanding.Mom B and I will be discussing all business dealings, as necessary, with the group, as they unfold. If you remain in the group, you will be advised of it’s financial/organizational plans.As for the drama club, I think you made it perfectly clear that it was going to be done your way or you would not be involved. So we moved forward without you when it was decided a play was to be done. And believe what you like, but I was the one that was supposed to email you about this decision, and I truly did forget. That one was on me and I got busy and forgot. It happens. I don’t want you to take your anger, either public or private, out on others when it was my mistake. And for that I’m sorry.
Then I was told I could run my own theatre club.
Uh… and who would attend that club… all of the kids already in drama club? Because parents are going to have the time to do 2 clubs that are similar on top all EVERYTHING ELSE?
After I received their email, I went over to the website to check on the calendar.
To my sincerest surprise, I no longer had access. I couldn’t see any private forums or the calendar. I was locked out.
I asked on the original and new Facebook page why I didn’t have access any longer.
We’ll be very happy to grant you access to the new group and the calender/forum once the membership requirements have been met either by receipt of check or your volunteer plan, in the meantime you will still have access to this group. If you have any further questions please email me privately at email@example.com
Are. You. Freaking. Kidding. Me.
By the by, they revoked my access to the new Facebook page, Mom A unfriended me on Facebook, and at some point during the year they removed me as an admin on the original Facebook group page.
I helped start this group and my access is being revoked?
Since I wanted to make sure my opinion was heard and could help in the direction of the group, I asked to be on the board, via the original Facebook page, as my volunteer plan.
I would like to serve on the board as my volunteer plan.Thanks!
The membership packet did not indicate board positions as a way to volunteer as there are none open. Please choose another way to fulfill your membership requirements.You may email me your choices.
Best Regards,Mom B
Mom A and Mom B,Hi, sorry it’s taken me a little bit to get back to you.I got your email and was disappointed to hear that there was no room on the board right now, and that the guidelines for group membership don’t have provision for board membership as a volunteer position.Upon re-reading the letter, however, I found that we are encouraged to volunteer in some “significant way that would be beneficial to the entire group.” Since there are no laws specifically limiting the size of an organization’s board, I truly feel that board membership is where my talents could best serve the group.In addition to my drive to provide the best possible secular education for my children, I served on the Board of Directors for a non-profit children’s theatre troupe for a number of years, helping to guide direction and policy. I currently work in a project management capacity for my firm, which combines business sense, client management, bookkeeping, and a high level of organization. I also have experience with business writing, which will be useful in drafting bylaws, Operations Manuals, handbooks, and other materials either necessary or supplementary to the needs of the group. The administration of a corporation is a large undertaking, and many would say that this is even more so the case with a 501(c)3, which requires a high level of transparency and compliance with state and federal regulations and guidelines.I would ask that you reconsider my request to serve the group as a board member for my volunteer position. I look forward to continuing to help grow the group into something phenomenal–and sorely lacking in St. Charles.Thank you,
ShannonThe membership packet did not indicate board positions as a way to volunteer as there are none open. Please choose another way to fulfill your membership requirements.We have many field trips awaiting someone to co-ordinate them and clubs without leaders, including Home Economics which you had expressed an interest in leading. Of course you are still welcome, as we have previously said, to create the theatre group.
Since I was not interested in being steam-rolled into what seemed to be a submissive position, I brushed up on my non-profit knowledge and decided to ask a few questions. To be expected to hand over money and/or help raise money for an organization, I want to know exactly where it is going.
On the old Facebook page I asked the following questions:
1. What is the mission?
2. How do the current programs relate to the mission?
3. How is the board structured?
4. Are there descriptions of the responsibilities of the board as a whole and of individual board members?
5. Who are the board members and titles?
6. Is there a system of checks and balances to prevent conflicts of interest between board members and the organization?
7. What are the bylaws?
8. Has the process to become a 501c3 begun, if so, when?
9. How much is the projected cost of becoming a 501c3 and how is intended to be paid?
I asked a couple days later, “Where can I get the info regarding the questions I asked about the board?”
I emailed the same question.
No response still. It’s been about a week.
Since then, the original Facebook page has been hidden/deleted/I don’t know. All I know is I can’t see it. If it is deleted, it’s really sad because we had many documents attached with contact info, curriculum, and field trip ideas.
So… what does a gal do?
It occurs to me that continuing to pursue a place within the group that I helped to start but is only pushing me away, refusing to answer legitimate questions, and disregarding my opinion, is like beating my head against a rock.
With the encouragement and support from some other homeschoolin’ parents, we have decided to create an environment for ourselves and our children that is more relaxed and more conducive to building relationships. You know, the public is ALWAYS worried about our ability to socialize
If you are interested in helping us start this group, feel free to email, call, text, facebook…. or even good ol’ snail mail.
Our first meeting (yet to be scheduled) will consist of choosing a name, discussing our mission, and getting the kids together to PLAY! From there we will figure out the rest.
Group-led by design, we just want to learn from one another and enjoy each other’s company.
TLDR: Leave the drama for your momma, we need a new group. Transparency and group decisions are what we’re after.
Shannon Burgdorf (or Dooley)