by Ann Zeise
I hear this question more often among groups these days. Just about any group asks its members if they are willing to be part of a Yahoo Group to help improve communications among members. So why Yahoo?
Yahoo is easy for any member of your support group or family who is even vaguely internet sauvy to set up what amounts to a full “community”-type website… and best of all it is free!
Often I suggest to geograpically spread out families to set up their own Yahoo Group. Yahoo Groups’ features can be used by the absent relative to participate more fully in the homeschooling process.
To begin, join Yahoo Groups globally to get all the features, to start a new group, and to make it easier to manage your email lists. Go to http://groups.yahoo.com/ and look for the Sign In section — “New Users click here to register.” Fill in the requested information. Uncheck the box in the bottom section that says: “Contact me occasionally about special offers…” to avoid ads in the email.
To start a a site for your group or family, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/start .
Select a short group name. You can get more lengthy and detailed in the description in the third box. Chose a short and simple email address for the group. I can’t stress how important very simple, precise names are on the web.
You then get some choices on just how public you want your group to be. If you want the list to be very private, don’t list it. A “public” list can still be moderated so that you can let the public see some parts but not all parts of your site. Be a public list if you want to attract new folks to your group. An “Open” membership means that anyone can just sign up for your list. You can have a “moderated open” list, so that anyone can join, but the moderator can always read each new member’s first post before it goes out. If a person sends ‘spam’ the rest of the group never sees it. For my own town support group list, though, I want to make sure that all list members are homeschoolers in my general area, who are either involved in my group or are seriously considering joining. I don’t want “lurkers” seeing our calendar and other private information. Chose “closed” or “restricted,” depending on your circumstances and the wishes of your support group. For a family group you probably want to be unlisted and closed.
Now for the fun stuff. Go into the settings and decide what you want to allow your members or the general public to be able to do on your site. You can also have a lot of fun customizing your site from the setup page: add a longer welcome message, add a graphic or logo, change the default colors, and add special messages to new or unsubscribing members. Invite your friends and family to join the group. Send announcements of the website to such major homeschool websites as A to Z Home’s Cool to help spread the word of its availability.
Yahoo Groups has some useful tools when reading messages on the website. While in the “Messages” section you can reorder the messages by the “thread” – or topic of the email, and then “expand the messages” so you can read them like one long page. You can also search the archived messages for specific keywords. The calendar offers the option to remind list members twice about an event. The photos and bookmarks can be arranged into folders with titles of your choice. Use databases for an address list, one for a “lost and found,” and another for advertising “educational stuff” that members want to buy or sell.
I hope you can see that Yahoo Groups can provide the sort of online community “website” that many homeschool groups and families want, with parts public and parts private, in order to facilitate communication within the group.
A to Z Home’s Cool Mail List
Home Education Magazine Networking
Published in Home Education Magazine, January-February, 2002