I am developing a niche homeschooling social network. Our goal is to accelerate the advent of homeschooling by connecting students, parents, educators, and traveling families worldwide. What are roadblocks you see to this sort of company? I’d appreciate hearing any advice, concerns, or desired features.

6 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    The hardest thing about launching a successful company that targets homeschoolers: money.  When you are thinking of launching a business you should go where the money is. For the most part, organizations that target people who don’t have a lot of money are nonprofits.

    Most homeschool families live on one income, so they don’t have a lot of disposable income. Homeschool parents who do have money don’t really start paying for tutors and curriculum packages until high school; most homeschool parents can manage curriculum and networking on their own. After all, these are parents who choose to spend the majority of their time involved with their kids and with other parents who are doing the same thing. 

    As an entrepreneur and a homeschooler, I don’t think I’d start a business selling to homeschoolers. For the reasons listed above, but also for another reasons: I have found that the hardest part of homeschooling is being on my own with no rulebook. Therefore the homeschoolers I meet in online communities are more valuable to me as a support network than as potential clients I could make money from. 

    That said, as an entrepreneur and a homeschooler I do have a chaotic life, managing multiple schedules involving an who team of people. I like S’mores Up because it’s a family scheduling app created by a mom who also juggles a bunch of conflicting schedules for her work and her kids. S’mores Up is successful because it’s a tool that solves the unique scheduling problems involving kids. But it’s also successful because it addresses problems of parents who work outside the home, which means the parents have money to address the problem. 

    If you want to create a company to help homeschoolers, build a nonprofit.

    Penelope

    Reply
  2. Hamilton
    Hamilton says:

    Wow! Thank you so much for your feedback Penelope. I wanted to structure the social network as a non profit. The idea isn’t a money making but rather a need. From what I’ve researched our community is very fragmented with online communities and local groups. Depending on who you are this might be preferrd, especially if your group is active and supportive.

    Now there doesn’t seem to be any overarching national organization or platform. I’ve researched other communities such as the knitting/crotchet
    ( https://www.ravelry.com/account/login) and backpicking travelers
    (https://www.couchsurfing.com)
    who greatly benefit from a focused niche social network. Homeschooling is a tiny minority in the education realm thats has a lot of opportunity for growth.

    Many people are on the fence about homeschooling because it can feel like a solo endeavor with few allies. If there was a trusted platform that can seamlessly provide potential newcomers with materials, resources, partnerships, opportunities, and location based services to connect with families, educators, and travelers who then the community can strengthen. If we organize we can generate much more ideas, entice those with doubt, and impact law making.

    One of the initiatives we want to support is anyone else who’s literally out of school. To help connect those families with experienced homeschoolers, online teachers and curriculum. A great opportunity for cultural exchange and giving back.

    With that being said , funding will be provided from grants, events, and donations. We’d like to partner up with Ed Tech companies. The platform will have a clean and minimal design that’d doesn’t collect data and depend on advertising.
    We want the network to be as decentralized and open as possible. I don’t see something like this existing today.

    Do you see it as a feasible idea and do you think anything is “missing” in our community? Thanks again for your response.

    Reply
    • Ki
      Ki says:

      Hi Hamilton!

      I agree that it feels like a huge missing space. I have homeschooled my 14 year old on and off for 3 years, and am looking into guidance for our 3 year old toddler. There is a smattering of resources out there, but nothing we found that feels like “home base” yet.

      Perhaps you could first identify your target family. Like, write a story about a fictional (or not) family that you hope to serve. And then another 1 or 2, and then identify those who you still want to help, but are outside your ideal market. Couchsurfers, for example, are very different from Airbnbers, and ditto with VRBO or Booking.com. I’ve used all the platforms for the same purpose, but at different points in life and with different expectations.

      A great starting place might be an explanation of the different types of homeschooling. (If my ADHD self can get it together, I’ll post a few links on the subject later!) It took me 2 years to stumble onto the idea of “worldschooling” which is what we do. Just like it took me my entire life to figure out that the name for how I grew up is called an “ecovillage”.

      As far as Haybin’s content or what’s missing – what I personally long for is less of the “here are 15 platforms including Khan Academy for the hundredth time” articles, and more “this is how we do it” collections from real people. A no bullshit, template style, collection of real life methods.

      (For example, the wide age gap for us means we have to prioritize 1 kid at a time, find workarounds for the other, and our biggest challenge is keeping a thread through the whole experience since we tend to be very unstructured!)

      I also dream of a way to leave some footprints in the sand. For example, we recently stumbled literally into a cultural center in Montevideo that was mid-puppet show. On the block of our hotel. I was intrigued by the minimalist, well lit space and looked inside the reflective window to see a pile of Uruguayan Catholic school kids all sitting attentively, and got brave enough to open the door despite my terrible Spanish. We discovered a beautiful art community that puts on kids programs every day, and even received three Spanish books from the super kind staff members!

      I know a lot of these opportunities shift seasonally, and that next year or next month it could be gone. But, done well, Haybin could provide a trail of breadcrumbs for the next homeschool family that comes through Montevideo. Locations, flyers, Facebook links or names of puppeteers, a collection of resources to get you started. Some things vanish quickly (great workshops, or the homeless guy blowing giant bubbles at the Basilica on Sundays for tips) but others tend to stick around. We have found that getting that first hit, the very first real connection to something happening in the homeschool community on the ground, can be the entire ballgame.
      It would be really nice if it was easier to do.

      Anyhow, I personally think it’s a wonderful idea, and would love to see it blossom! Best of luck to you!

      Reply
  3. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Just being a homeschooler isn’t enough of a unifying interest to join the same social network. It’s like networks “for moms” are too broad to be meaningful or useful. Unlike backpacking and knitting, there are many different and opposing ways to homeschool. I’ve found the groups I enjoy the most are those with similar educational values, such as outdoor free play. I don’t have much in common with those who use flash cards and rigid curricula. I am most interested in developing a group real life kids for my children to have “recess” with, so most online social networks I join are means to that end.

    Reply
  4. Hamilton Bohannon
    Hamilton Bohannon says:

    Hello Jessica,

    Thank you for your response! Your absolutely correct, homeschooling is a very broad term. I agree there might not be a much desire or serious attempts to unify. We still want Haybin to be a tool for people to easier locate like-minded families and groups with similar educational values. Backpackers and knitters are also a wide-ranging group of people. Those communities still organize themselves into subgroups. Irregardless of our reason for homeschooling, there are some fundamental values we might share; what’s best for our children, our right for educational choice and a lack of confidence in the school system. As the community grows so will the support, ideas, options, connections, and opportunities. We increase the ability to change laws and encourage the school system to improve. Now is a wonderful time to unlock the potential of the community with the technological resources and the increasing attention we’re receiving. I believe this can benefit everyone involved.

    Reply
    • Ki
      Ki says:

      Had to reply on this too! I would focus less on the fundamental values, and more on the opportunities and resources. For example, we are anti-vaccine for reasons that might be very different from other families. But an Orthodox Jew and a Buddhist mystic and a Jehovah’s Witness family can all intersect on your website when searching for “opportunities outside the excellent but mandated-vaccination Uruguayan school system”.

      Which is giving me the idea, that one possible starting place could just be collecting blog posts from different families for now, while you build out websites and funding and all that. We’ve met so many North American families traveling in South America, who have advice but nowhere to put it.

      Reply

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