Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Fantastic Kids' Groups on a Shoestring

When you home ed, the socialisation aspect and the different learning environment aspect of organised groups make them a great supplement.  It takes some responsibility off the parents’ shoulders, if only for an hour a week, when someone else provides a high-quality activity with expertise.
This can be costly.  I know of parents who have their kids out every evening and at the weekends – I am in awe of the number of hours spent just organising meals at different times and driving around, dropping kids off and picking them up again.  But even if a child only attends one group per week, if you have several children, it all adds up.

Where to Look
Not only do the groups below cost less than profit making (private or council) groups but they offer a wide variety of activities. This gives the opportunity to explore dozens of activities instead of the flavour of-the-month.  With the costs around our way, the 50p-£3 for the groups I list below are a much better bargain than the 6-week course in cartooning for £80, or the £10 per week musical-theatre.
These groups can often use extra support to help them keep up and running.  If you offer to help out in the session,  you might even get a discount for your child’s fee or be able to bring along your other children (as long as they know how to behave of course, and do not take enjoyment away for the kids the activity is aimed at.)   Assisting in sessions will also look good on your CV.  A huge incentive for me personally is that I do not have to leave my children in the care of someone else, even if they have been trained and police-checked and seem very lovely.
Which Groups?

We find the following brilliant value for money, if not free, and thoroughly worthwhile.

Scouts and Girlguiding
Camping, badge earning, sports, crafting... anything you can think of! It is inclusive, with the promise now being to “develop beliefs” rather than focussing on Christianity.
Boys and Girls Brigade
This is sort of a Christian version of Scouting and Girlguiding, with an emphasis on becoming closer to God.
These activity sessions usually run as a drop-in.  We have found various drop-ins very welcoming, and you do not have to be a regular visitor of the church to join in. 
A lot of these services have dropped off since 2010.  However, some are still running great play sessions for under 5s for free or very affordable fees, e.g. one of the sessions at ours asks 50p per child but includes a snack.

Youth Groups in Community Centres
Again, these are diminishing, but there are some out and about.  One near us runs a great weekly gardening club.  Ring around to enquire about groups by checking your council website for community centres nearby – the centre will be glad of your interest.

Libraries, Museums and Galleries
Fees for activities are slowly creeping up as these state institutions fight to remain open and free to access.  However, they are still relatively cheap and run great story times and clubs.  Check out your local ones from the council website and get in touch to enquire.  Our libraries run Chatterbooks for over 8s, Storytime for little ones and regular events.  Our nearby museum and gallery also hold story times and art groups for little ones for free-affordable fees.  Holiday/half-term activities at these centres are usually slightly more expensive, but compared to the profit-making businesses running all of the dance, sports, arts and theatre workshops, they are a bargain.

Do you have any tips when it comes to affordable groups and clubs for the kids?

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