Thursday, September 15, 2011

Q&A Thursday: Mother's Guild Meetings

(First -- a shameless plea for votes -- just click on this badge if you like my blog.)

Now, today's question is about my mother's group:
I know that you host a mother's group. I'd like to do one here. Can you tell me more about how you make it work?
I've been hosting The Amazing Mother's Guild for going on three years now. Once a month, we have a discussion on a Friday morning at my house (You can read through the notes from some of the meetings we'd have in the past here). I'm blessed with a large home that's built to handle lots of kids, so it works out well. Usually, we have between 6 and 10 moms come, and my house is filled with the noise of between 15 and 30 kids happily playing while we visit. Last year, we had a nearby home-schooled teenager come a few times to help play with the kids, but usually, the kids get along amazingly well. I've tried at times to get out things like playdough or coloring for the kids, but I find they mostly abandon those things in favor of our slide and downstairs playroom with its toys. I also get out a bin of toys for babies and toddlers, who stay close by while we discuss.

Since the kids often play downstairs while we are upstairs discussing, I do cull the toys down to just a few bins and I also lock the doors to all the rooms so they aren't wandering through bedrooms. Other than that simple preparation, and making sure the house is reasonably clean, the groups is very easy to host.

(our slide is a big hit with small visitors)

For the first two years, we also planned field trips once a month, to places like Pumpkinland, local museums, and the fire station. While some of the field trips would have a decent turn-out, others were very sparsely attended and I decided not to do them this year. It seemed that the need for the recreation together was never as strong as the need for education and discussion.

We've had some wonderful discussions over the years, from mothers of all ages and expertise. I love to ask my older neighbors who have raised their families successfully to come in and share their ideas on keeping marriages strong, building family unity, and teaching children responsibility. It's also wonderful to hear from the older generation as well as my peers.

The group goes from September to May, and I try to schedule the discussion leader at the beginning of the year to cut down on my stress. I emphasize that they don't need to be experts, just willing to share what they've learned and invite discussion on the topic. We're all learning together, and I love the synergy of ideas as we discuss various topics.

All reminders for the group are via email. I usually send out two emails, one a week in advance and one a day or two before. I've created a group distribution list in Outlook that simplifies things. Last year, I also figured out how to schedule my emails so that I could do write and set up a bunch of emails in advance and then just allow Outlook to send them for me at the appropriate time. Since I also send out the email reminders for our Book Club, this has been a life-saver!

The first year, we tried to have a book discussion every few months, but I found that very few read the book, some stayed away because they hadn't read it, and since many of us already belonged to a book club, we decided to just drop that part.

Last year, I added a short Conference Moment to each month's discussion. Every six months, the leaders of my Church address gospel topics in a series of meetings called General Conference. The topics covered by the many speakers are diverse, but there are always some that apply specifically to motherhood and family life. I went through and pick out those talks, assign them to a different mother each time, and they'd spend a few minutes reviewing the talk and what they've learned from it.

The main discussion usually lasts for about an hour and then we spend another half hour or so visiting before people drift away to pick up kindergartners or make lunch. It's been a great experience for me to learn from other moms I admire and love, both those who prepare the discussion and those who participate in it.

Here are the topics we discussed our first year:
  • Finding Joy in the Journey
  • What to Expect in the Delivery Room
  • Book Discussion: Contentment by Maria Covey Cole
  • Effective Family Home Evening and Scripture Study
  • Girl's Hairstyles
  • Book Discussion: A Mother's Book of Secrets by Linda Eyre and Shawna Porthier
  • Home Organization & Cleaning
  • Improving Your Marriage (notes are here)
  • Planning Your Summer Schedule and Local Outings

And the second year:
  • Finding Joy in the Journey
  • Strengthening Marriages (notes are here)
  • Teaching Children Responsibility (notes are here)
  • Family Traditions
  • Effective Family Home Evening and Scripture Study
  • Finding Balance in Our Many Responsibilities (Since I led this one, notes are in three parts: part one, part two, and part three)
  • Steps to Better Home Organization
  • Preparing Future Missionaries
  • Raising Siblings Who Love Each Other (notes are here)

And here is what is on the schedule for this year. A few of us met in May to come up with topics to discuss and ideas for discussion leaders. Having that all decided a few months ago made it easy to get this together:
  • Understanding and Coping with Depression
  • Maintaining Your Health and Fitness
  • Making Your Spouse a Priority
  • Creative Discipline: Getting Kids to Mind without Losing Your Mind
  • Improving Family Home Evenings
  • Keeping Romance Alive
  • Embracing Your Little Helpers: Child Development in the Preschool Years
  • Maintaining Positive Relationships with your Children as they Age
Do you participate in any groups with other moms? How is your group organized? Any ideas to add to what I've shared here?


Julie P said...

I love it. I've tried to start scripture study groups and other things...I think people in my neighborhood are just really overscheduled. Which is unfortunate for me! Your group sounds like a gem.

And your slide? SUPER FAB.

Laura@livingabigstory said...

This is FABULOUS!!! I wish I could be in the group with you....

Grumpy Grateful Mom said...

I love that you do this! What a great resource. I think I would have especially liked to attend your discussion on "How to get kids to mind, without losing your mind!" And I'm lovin' that slide in your house--how fun!

Lesa said...

You ladies are doing a wonderful thing with this group. I wished I would have had something like this when I had younger kids.

[love that slide]!

Maryanne said...

Great topics! This sounds like a reaaly interesting and helpful group.

Kazzy said...

We all need the support. My kids are older, and sometimes I think I could use a group like this that dealt solely with topics like "helping your son get motivated to get his Eagle", or "convincing teenaged boys that showers are necessary".

Mama Rachel said...

Thank you for posting about your group! I've been working at putting together something similar in my area, and now you've given me a great starting point. Now, if I only my home was a better place to host the group... Hmmm...

Faith, Trust, and a Little Pixie Dust said...

Once again, I am so impressed with you. AND thanks for posting a photo of your slide. It's gotta be a one-of-a-kind family room & I'll bet your readers enjoyed seeing it! As a decorator, I'd love to see you carry the yellow throughout your room with some accessories . . . maybe some pillows with yellow in them on the couch?

Warmly, Michelle


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