Homeschool Insights: Core Phase Playgroups

Do you have any thoughts on a structuring a Core Phase playgroup for homeschoolers?


Hi, A—-.

playThis is such a great question!

The families most inclined to be attracted to a playgroup are often particularly vulnerable to “conveyor belt hangover”; and while informal “play dates” and bigger social events are a staple for most families, it’s a good idea to be really thoughtful about how to successfully carry off a more formal “co-op” arrangement.

Why do I say they are vulnerable?

Because most of the moms participating in a playgroup are new to parenting, homeschool and TJEd all at once.

Often  their children are not even public school age yet, and so the die is not cast:

  • Are they going to homeschool?
  • Will the husband agree to it?
  • Will the in-laws pitch a fit?
  • What curriculum will I use?

You see what I mean.

They are wont to be swimming in uncertainties–even as they are getting loads of advice from all sides.

Contrast this with younger children of a large family.

I’ve found that the families with scholar youth rarely take part in such arrangements, as these families tend to be more self-contained.

Their outside time commitments rightly focus primarily on their older children; and they have enough personalities in the house to fill most of the social needs of the younger ones.

They simply don’t have the same need to put energy into entertaining or socializing their Core-Phasers. So playgroups are made up almost exclusively of “newbies”!

In my experience, the “average” mother of preschool-aged children is very interested in reading, math, and all sorts of activities to prompt their children into precocious academic, musical, physical (etc.) achievement.

Core Phase is so delicate. It is easily co-opted by the forces of over-programming, over-academizing, and over-socializing.

Care should be taken to protect these vulnerable kids/moms/families somewhat from well-meaning intrusions into the nest they’re trying to build, while still providing opportunities for bonding, support and fellowship among those who are on the same path.

If you are looking for a playgroup that is supportive of a Leadership Education Core Phase, you need an overarching vision that everyone shares, or alternatively, a clear leader whose vision everyone else trusts and buys into.

I find the first one preferable in some respects, but usually very hard to come by.

A playgroup is such an informal environment that it is difficult to exert any control over the vision or implementation once the thing is in motion.

Friendships and feelings can get very complicated when we start to have differences of opinion on “appropriate” activities for Core Phase.

Can you see the inherent problems with seeking for Core Phase solutions outside of the home?

This doesn’t mean it can’t be done, and done well; it just means that you have to really clear on “The Family Way” (FEC) and use the playgroup for socializing and fellowship between families, rather than for “instruction”.

In my experience, virtually everything I have done to supplement learning for Core Phase in a cooperative group would have been more effective and less complicated at home on the sofa with Mom.

And yet, there are some very good reasons for a TJEd playgroup in some cases:

  • Help reinforce the principles of Leadership Education during the seminal time of young family development
  • Forge bonds with families on the Path
  • Build confidence in TJEd for the spouse or other adults with a true investment in the child’s future
  • Build a supportive peer group, especially for isolated families or families with only one or two children
  • Experience the successes and learn from the process of many families getting off the Conveyor Belt

Like the Phases themselves, it is important to use a Play Group for its best use, and leave other environments and venues to do their best work for our families.

Probably the best way organize a Play Group is to have it be a Momschool; that is, to have one mom be responsible for the vision and plan, and let others volunteer to fill a certain need.

The mom in question would ideally be one who has a depth phase education herself and whose vision and leadership you trust and identify with.

Sharing too much of the responsibility opens you up to controversy over nit-picky differences in style and vision that do not need to be played out in the lives of our children as much as resolved philosophically in FEC.

One other important point.

While I am a big fan of making Momschools inclusive (meaning that they are good transitional programs for families who are undecided about Leadership Education as well as those who are firmly entrenched in TJEd), a Core Phase program might be better with a specific enrollment of just a few pre-selected families.

These families, while still battling the same forces as everyone else, at least share a vision and a philosophy of what they want to avoid and what they want to promote, as well as what they are sacrificing and what they have to gain.

That is probably more information than you were looking for, but for me it is a really sensitive point, and I would not want to be misunderstood.

But I do believe that defining certain relationships and time commitments in terms of their purpose and objective is an important part of socializing.

Hope that helps!


Additional Resources:

About the Author:

Rachel is the co-author of Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning and the audio series Core and Love of Learning: A Recipe for Success, and the author of the award-winning educational resource, This Week in History. She is an accomplished musician, writer, literary editor, public speaker, consultant and momschool organizer.


  1. Nettie November 17, 2010 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    Thank you soooo much for this information! This helps me feel better about the decisions I have & will make on behalf of my core phase children.

  2. Heather November 27, 2010 at 6:41 am - Reply

    Rachel- again you have nailed what I have been thinking all along. I am hoping to start my first momschool this spring, for these exact reasons!


  3. Glory June 24, 2011 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    Ah! Thank you for this, Rachel! I came across TJEd about a year ago and devoured the first two books. I have a 1, 2, and 3 year old, and I started a homeschool co-op for moms to learn about educational approaches in January. I wish I would have read this post first, but now in the trenches of it, I have to say this hits the nail right on the head. I have been feeding all kinds of TJEd and getting-off-the-conveyer-belt ideas, through the books we’ve read and videos we watched, and it’s taken me a lot of time to gain more confidence in being more forthright in sharing the TJEd vision (as we all have the conveyer belt hangover!) I’m going to take the advice in this post and run with it as I transform my purposes for the group, offering an invitation for the other moms to join me in pursuing a leadership education for myself and my children.

  4. Maureen Hanratty January 6, 2012 at 11:22 am - Reply

    I love your information, but trying to read it on the red background really hurts my eyes and head. Just a suggestion, could you tone it down a little?
    Really loved seeing you at the Team Convention in Columbus OH!

    • Rachel DeMille January 6, 2012 at 11:26 am - Reply

      Hi, Maureen,

      So sorry for your difficulty! It’s not supposed to appear with a red background. That means the browser is not reading the site correctly. Try upgrading your browser, or using a different one, and let me know if that doesn’t fix it for you, okay?

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