Using the Internet for Your Home School Group (Part 2: Facebook)

Last week, we talked about how to use email—specifically distribution lists—to help you communicate with other home schoolers (and groups of people in general). This week, we’re going to look at how to use Facebook to boost your home school group’s online presence.

Now, I just realized I wrote half of this article without even thinking to define Facebook. So I’m going to pause for a paragraph to explain exactly what I’m talking about. Facebook (aka “The Great Social Experiment”) was started by a young Harvard student—now a young Harvard dropout—in his dorm room. It quickly caught on among college students nationwide (we got it at John Brown University in 2004, just a couple of years after it started—it’s that new). Today, Facebook caters to more than just college kids wanting to talk to friends; it’s a multi-billion-dollar corporation that appeals to families, businesses, non-profits, missionaries, marketing firms—anybody and everybody who wants to stay in touch with friends, sell a product, or attract followers to their philanthropic cause. In the last year, businesses have begun stepping up their Facebook presence, because they know it’s a good way to market themselves without spending an arm and a leg on Superbowl ads or primetime TV spots. You and your home school group can put it to use for this same purpose, albeit on a much smaller scale.

That said, I’ll move on to exactly how Facebook can help you.

Now, I don’t know much about your home school group; some groups do field trips, seminars, and classes with students; some have monthly meetings; some are just loosely-based internet-groups that barely have any personal contact. Regardless, the activities your group takes part in are going to affect whether or not Facebook is going to be useful to you. Here are some tips to help you determine if this is something your group can use:

First, does your group have members (parents or children) who use Facebook? If the answer is “Yes,” then you can proceed.

Second, does your group take part in at least one or more group-related activities (electronic or otherwise) each month (excluding summertime months or holiday seasons, perhaps)? If so, then you can definitely use Facebook.

Third, do you and the other members of your group want a fast, convenient way to communicate with the whole home school group? Think about this one for a second. I’m not talking about the kind of communication that’s quickly resolved with a phone call from one person to one other person; I’m talking about open discussion with the entire group—like conversations about curriculum providers, announcements about activities and events, and dialogue about anything and everything related to home schooling. If so, then Facebook can help.

Fourth, do you ever need a quick way to notify people about home school issues? Some people only need this type of tool once or twice a year—like last March, when we were sounding the alarm about a bad home school bill that the legislature was considering. This is one of those things that, when you need it, you really need it. Tools like Facebook can make this a breeze.

Finally, do you want to promote your home school group to other home schoolers in your area? Chances are somebody in your group has a friend or family member who home schools, but is not a part of your group. Facebook can help them become acquainted with your group before deciding whether or not they want to join.

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, Facebook is for you.

OK, so you’ve established that you want to use Facebook. Now what?

Well, the first thing you need to find is a person who knows how to use Facebook. If this person happens to be you, great; if this person happens to be your 12-year-old nephew, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Regardless, find someone who knows Facebook, and get them to help you.

Next, establish what you would like to be able to do with Facebook. This may be a little tricky if you’ve never used Facebook before, but I’ll try to help. Use the following checklist to determine which uses appeal to you:

[] I want to post some static information about our group.

[] I want to limit who can or cannot be part of our Facebook group.

[] I want our Facebook presence to be somewhat generic—more of a place where fans of home schooling can meet rather than something specifically for our group members.

[] I want to be able to write summaries for events we’re holding, invite Facebook users to them, and find out who plans to attend and who does not.

[] I want a combination of generic and interactive information about us on Facebook.

[] I want to be able to update our information regularly.

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