Want to make homeschooling easier!? Try creating a Co-op School!
Co-op school is simply a few homeschool families getting together to do school together once a week. My family enjoys it tremendously. Every Friday, we meet with a few other families from 9:30 to noon. Some years, our group has grown to many families. All you need are some other children near your children’s ages for friendships to form.
Where to meet? The ideal situation is to meet in a local church or community building. If you live in a mild climate, a park is a great spot. The least satisfactory place to meet is in your own home. I found it more stressful to have to clean house in time, to keep visiting children from wandering off to play, and to do sports without breaking lamps! We had held co-op school in our homes, rotating homes month by month, but we are all happiest when we have a neutral place to meet.
We begin our school with the pledge of allegiance and a prayer. Then we begin Science. Science usually includes many visual aids, much animated discussion, oral reports by the children, and some truly exciting experiments. We chose Science as our weekly group school subject because we felt as homeschool mothers that it was a subject kids love! We may not conduct experiments or gather visual aids for just our own children at home, but when taught to a group, science can be sensational!
After Science, we have Sports. Since many homeschooled children don’t get a regular opportunity to do Physical Education with a large group of children, they don’t learn team sports or even the rules to the common games such as basketball, baseball or soccer. Just as important to me is the fact that our children are learning good sportsmanship, playing fair, taking turns, and other social skills. We decided in our co-op school that we would teach our children one sport at a time, until they were familiar with the rules and enjoyed playing it. Then we move on to another sport. We have varied our activities to include kickball, four square, soccer, creative dance, basketball skills, and relay races. Moms and toddlers play right along with the school age children, which makes it great fun. I overheard my little Emily complaining that the mothers were talking instead of playing. “It is so much more fun when the Moms play,” she lamented. I think she is right! And it is fun for the mothers to talk too!
Friendship and a time to talk with other homeschool mothers has been a side benefit that I hadn’t planned on when we began our group school. Sometimes homeschooling, church work, taking care of our families and households just takes up all of our time and we don’t have much “chatting” time. Co-op school has been a blessing to me in that I have regular weekly contact with the same mothers and have an opportunity to just visit and discuss concerns with homeschool or mothering in general.
The teaching load rotates from mother to mother. Since we do an academic subject plus sports at each co-op school gathering, we have found it is easier for one mother to teach the academic subject and another mother teach the sports. If you have four families participating, you only have to teach each subject one time per month. If there is a fifth week in the month, we plan to do an activity such as a Valentine Poem Recital and party, Science Fair, book reports or a field trip.
We have let the teaching mother decide on the topic for her lesson and make report assignments in advance. This has worked well because each mother teaches her forte and does a great job. Other years we have used a plan to cover the subject. In the case of Science, using the table of contents from the DK Science Encyclopedia, we planned out topics by week, eventually covering all the fields of Science! This is a great opportunity for all of us to learn and teach something new. It also makes it possible for mothers to gear their time in homeschool to have their children to the advance reading for that week’s Science lesson.
Our children range from baby to teenager, but that only enhances the “one room schoolhouse” flavor. The children have learned to be patient while the younger ones ask “dumb” questions or give their very simple oral reports. The younger ones have learned to listen even if they don’t understand every single thing that the older ones say. They have become fast friends. My daughter Julianna (13) and Skyler (6) are great friends, in spite of the age difference.
Do the children really learn anything? Julianna says that she has learned more this year in co-op school than she ever learned in science before. Guess it’s working!
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