WINCHENDON — Bethany Bible Chapel welcomes homeschooling families to the community for their first open house and field day on Thursday, June 30, 2022 at their main location at 272 Spring Street from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m
Through The Caring Hearts Counseling Ministry at BB Chapel, several workshops and other community programs are produced to meet specific needs and resource gaps in the community. The Caring Heart Counsel works with Heywood Hospital to survey and collect data on what is lacking in the community and where resources are needed.
“We are looking for opportunities where there is a need that is not currently being met,” said Heather Lafond, director of Caring Hearts. “We don’t want to duplicate efforts that may already be being made by other organizations, and we saw this as a great way to connect with the community and address specific needs.”
Lafond found through the search collaboration that there was a lack of support and resources for families who are homeschooling their children in the Winchendon and Gardner communities. As a parent who homeschooled her three daughters, she saw this as an opportunity to create a place where parents can get the resources and information they need while the children can play and meet other homeschooled children .
“The idea of the open house style is to get information not only for families who are already home schooled, but also for families who might be considering home schooling,” Lafond said. “Since we’ve seen a shift in homeschooling, all we want to do is provide families with resources, support, and information to get them started.”
The Open House and Field Day is a place for parents to learn about homeschooling. It is also an event for the children to meet other homeschooled children and have a special day that they might have in public school. While parents are inside, children will engage in a variety of field day activities that are fun for all ages.
“We wanted to make it a little easier for parents to be able to attend and not have to worry about childcare,” said Lafond. “We think of it as a fun way to start the summer and celebrate the end of the school year the way the public school has a big field day for the students.”
The open house will feature a number of informative booths run by groups and organizations focused on testing materials and other information on how to create a positive homeschool experience for both the student and parent can. For example, the Christian homeschool organization Classical Conversations specializes in helping parents create a more traditional homeschool curriculum and program for their children.
“We also have some resources and information that are specific to Massachusetts laws and requirements for how and what children should be taught based on their grade level,” Lafond said of information and videos from other potential types.”
Lafond said one of her goals for this event is to educate the homeschooling community about the local resources they have in their cities so they can create a strong curriculum for their families.
“We want them to know what is available locally that they can use as part of their homeschool because Mass Audubon offers many educational courses that are a great resource,” said Lafond. “Jaffrey Park and Recreation also offers a variety of monthly programs that families can enroll in to meet their physical education needs.”
One of the groups that will be there to distribute information and run a booth about their parent group is the Winchendon Homeschool Hangout group.
“The parents of this group do a phenomenal job of coordinating events, activities and field trips,” said Lafond. “An example of one of the activities they just coordinated was a gardening day that one of the mums started. She runs a homestead and she offered to give a gardening lesson for the kids.”
The kids aren’t the only ones who will have the opportunity to have fun. Lafond said there will be several fun activities, from a video and board games section to a spa arts and crafts section, so parents can take the time to unwind after a long school year and learn about the homeschool family community.
“We also added a rejuvenation station because we thought it would be a nice way to end the school year for parents because moms and dads did a lot of the work that goes into homeschooling,” Lafond said. “We will have a few different spaces that parents can sign up for, including a craft area, a play area or a pampering room. We also go to a refreshment area inside because we want to encourage parents to connect with each other.”
Lafond stated that there is no RSVP list or cost for this event. The event is open to anyone in the community interested in learning more about homeschooling programs and connecting with other community members.
“We want families in the communities other than Winchendon to know that they are welcome to attend. We’d love to have them,” Lafond said. “One last thing, I want to let parents know the kids are getting wet! You will need a towel or a change of clothes as some of the activities are designed to get wet.”