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Changing to Thursdays

the homeschool group auckland west auckland

Change to Thursdays

To our families at The Homeschool Group,

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our survey about changing days from Fridays to Thursdays.  The survey was available to families both in the group or not. We now have the final results of our survey (from the anonymous survey link and others who didn't use the link but asked for their verbal vote to be counted).  The results, from 76 participants) are as follows:

81 % said:   I would support a change to Thursdays

13 % said:   No, I prefer Fridays as they are

  6 % said:   I would prefer Fridays with fewer classes & earlier finish time

It is important to note that the only days where we can have a block booking of up to four hours at the Massey Leisure Centre is Thursdays. This is the reason for choosing that day - it is the only unbooked, free time that's available, if we want to change from Fridays.

Some of the feedback we’ve had is:

  • Some parents said that they find doing Westgate at the end of the week a bit much and would prefer a free day at the end of the week to catch up on school work etc.  
  • Some said they would prefer Fridays to be free for going away and other activities.  
  • Some who travel long distances have commented on heavy Friday traffic.
  • Some felt their children are sometimes not at their best by the time Friday comes around – they loved that there is so much available, but felt their children might get more out of it on Thursdays, rather than a big day on a Friday. 
  • Some commented that they really liked the idea of an earlier start and finish to the day (especially an earlier finish).

We understand that this change will not work for some families, and it would be unreasonable to expect that it would.  Thursays will clash with other activities, just as Fridays do too for some.  Some feedback from the "keep Fridays as they are" group was:

  • They would like to keep the current line up of tutors.
  • Thursdays would clash with other activities.
  • They enjoyed being at Westgate at the end of the week.

The amount of support for Thursdays has surprised us.  We thought it might have been more like a 50/50 split as Friday has been the day for so long and we thought that probably people wanted this to remain a Friday group.  As you can see though, the amount of support for a change to Thursdays is too significant to ignore. 

There are of course some good things and some not so good things about the change to Thursdays.  We thought we would take a few minutes to explain fully the challenges we have with Fridays, as we feel it’s really important that parents and tutors have the whole picture. Some of these things you will already be aware of, others maybe not. So here we go:  

The Centre is very busy on Fridays.  Other user groups include weight training and fitness classes in the Don Buck room, a pre-school Gymnastics class in the gymnasium (pre 11am) and after school basketball teams arriving in the afternoons, sometimes when we’re packing up.  It can be difficult finding a car park at different times of the day as other groups use the Centre.  On Thursdays there are no other bookings, and the space could be totally ours.

Late access to YMCA gymnastics and sports. We can't have access to the YMCA Gym/Sports until 11am.  Having the sports activities is a huge benefit with the Friday program, but it means to get it all in for all age groups, the sports are spread out until 3:15pm, which can be challenging.  

A late start/late finish.  Currently, the YMCA gymnasium is unavailable until 11am, Don Buck Rooms unavailable until 11:45am. So the classes are spaced as follows:

10:45am:  3 classes (our gymnastics starts at 11am)

11:45am:  5 classes

 1:15pm:   7 classes

 2:15pm:   7 classes

So we see the class distribution is not ideal, especially for our younger children.  Ideally the majority of classes should be at the front end of the day for attentiveness, energy levels etc. 

Setting up/packing up – Setting up means a 10:15am arrival to get tables and chairs from the store cupboard at the far end of the Don Buck Room.  These are required for Visual Art, other classes and parent workshops.  We have a 10 minute window to get these out of the store cupboard between the YMCA's fitness classes (at 10:25am) which are held in the Don Buck room until 11:35am. The tables are heavy, and have to be dragged right around to where the gymnasium is (the smoke stop door is permanently locked).  And at the end of the day, it all has to go back. Because the finish time is late in the day (3:15pm), most families usually have to rush off to pick up other children from school, or do other things. Sometimes the admin team leave as late as 5pm, after last minute cleaning, locking some cupboards, picking up lost property, putting chairs/tables back and making sure all the children have left safely. We know this is all part of managing the group, but it's a long day and expecting parents to regularly turn up half an hour before classes start to help set up, and stay afterwards at a late finish time is maybe unrealistic. It is important that people understand the challenges that we (the admin team), as organisers and volunteers have with the venue and timeframes. 

Having the Centre to ourselves, from the start of the day, will allow for more parent help in the mornings.  Set up can happen a few minutes before classes start, and an earlier finish time will mean people aren't in such a big rush to leave - more helpers to clean up and pack away (which we will be very grateful for).  

An earlier finish time might mean too, that some families can enjoy some free time together, after classes.

Why not just finish earlier on a Friday?  We thought about this – finishing earlier and reducing the number of classes.  However, to do this would really reduce the overall effectiveness of what we're trying to do. Fewer classes means fewer options / fewer families, and this is something we definitely don't want. It sometimes can lead to a downward spiral in numbers which can present challenges with filling classes. We need to keep our numbers up to break even financially, and we need the range of options for the group to be effective for a wide range of ages and abilities.

What's the future for the group?  What are the ages of the children currently attending, and what do our children need?  Many of our older children have gone to school and now the majority of our older children are aged 11-13.  Some of our older children may be looking for other activities based around technology and computer programming.  We want to run a coding class and a robotics class to meet the needs of the older children we have, to have something our intermediate age group can think about moving into, and also start to attract an older age group. To do this, and also run a strong junior/intermediate program, we simply need more class space. 

Will the Friday space availability situation change?  Unfortunately, no. While the centre management are really supportive with what we're trying to do, they have been very clear that they cannot/will not change the bookings they have in place for Fridays for their other user groups.  These long term bookings will always prevent us starting earlier and having more space. So while we continue with Fridays, we continue with these challenges and nothing changes. 

Our Tutors.  One of the negatives for a change to Thursdays is that not all of our Tutors will be able to teach on a Thursday.  This has been a big consideration for us.  In many ways it makes our job much harder as we will need to replace the wonderful resource that is Karen and Chantelle.  They've both been such an integral part of the Westgate group for many years, and we realise there are some big shoes to fill. We know that they have made some very special relationships with children and parents which will be quite an adjustment.  We really hope though that families will understand overall, why the change to another day is so important for the future of the group.  

The late finish (3:15pm) has also meant that we struggle to find tutors who can fill our fourth time slot at 2:15pm. Often they themselves have children to collect from school. 

So when will this change happen? The change to Thursdays will take place in Term 3.  We feel we need to allow time (in Term 2) for families and Tutors to make changes to accommodate Thursdays and it gives us time to spread the word and make arrangements.  

We really hope that this information provides clarity around the survey, the need for change with what we’re trying to do and why.  The group is incredibly important for homeschooling families as it creates a real sense of belonging and connection for parents and children.  There is so much more we could be doing – so many possibilities, and to carry it all out we have to embrace the better time and space that Thursdays will offer. 

To the families and tutors for whom Thursdays will not work - please accept our thanks and appreciation for being part of this group.  It's unrealistic to think that this change would have worked for everyone and we will miss those for whom the change is unworkable.  

Finally, a huge thank you to you all for your understanding and support.  Your positivity and honesty has really helped us to make what has been a very big decision. Thanks to you all for contributing to this dynamic group and making it what it is, and also for being so accepting of what it needs for the future.  

Please talk to us if you have any queries.

Nikki & Rae 

the homeschool group auckland west auckland