A few years ago two of my friends joined me to start what we called Kununurra Home Educators Support Network. A long name I know but we had a reason for it. We were Home Educators as not all of us were necessarily homeschoolers as we wanted to invite some of the School of the Air mums to join us and to be encouraged too. School of the Air is an Australian Institution of Distance Education for remote Stations and Communities. We were a support group; the purpose of the group was to support the role of the Mum – the teacher – the educator. We wanted to begin networking. We only wanted to give one morning a term to this meeting but in recognising that issues pop up more regularly than that we wanted to encourage natural networks to begin; you have a problem – email the mum who you either know the best or who you think will have the experience to answer your problem. Thus a network would happen throughout the month without putting time pressure on everyone.
This year, when the numbers increased I thought it would be a good opportunity to start a co-op. These are my notes that I took to the meeting to discuss this possibility plus some additions as things have worked out differently:
- Purpose: It is for the kids to learn something and to have some relational time. I see keeping some relational time as important. The kids don’t see it as fair if we get together and just do school.
- Goals for lessons:
- To learn something that is good to learn in a group – either skill or subject.
- To learn from other teachers/mothers.
- To share human resources where we may have a lack,
- To have fun together!
- Mothers need to be on roster to help supervise the various activities. It would not be a babysitting club. We could also consider getting someone in to teach the kids something. Though we would need to consider the high stress this can cause, especially if we have to go somewhere else, and also that it didn’t remove the relationship time for the kids.
- When? We chose to have the co-op once a month . 2nd Friday of the month, 8.30 till 12.00. We have since discussed the need to be there at 8.00am in order to start at 8.30am
- Where? Financially, my preference would be to have the Co-op meetings at someone’s house. (We have since found several venues where the cost is minimal and space is more than sufficient for our activities though we don’t necessarily have each co-op at the same place. We determine venue in connection with activity on a month by month basis.)
- Home Educator’s Support Network – I wouldn’t like to see this stop.
- I see this as a Mother support and a great time for the kids to be together. As compared to a Co-op which is Kids time and only a little bit for mums!
- What to do? We decided to use the Education Departments 8 Areas of study English, Art, Health, Society & Environment, Science, Technology & Enterprise, Math (we don’t actually do LOTE). We decided to try and use human resources in the town, either locals or as various people came to town for local events.
- Who? We have 10 or so families, with children ranging from babies to 13yo; total of 35 kids – this fluctuates month by month.
Some additional thoughts that I have about our co-op:
- We are a group of mums; we get together to support each other in the education of our children. This means if one mum is having a hard time, or her toddler is throwing a wobbly someone will step in for her and either take over her responsibilities or take over the toddler. If we were having a cuppa at someone’s house, as opposed to a homeschool event, this is what we would do – this is relationship. This is very important to us to keep this as our focus and not to become an organization. That being said we do have structure.
- We share the organization of each co-op. We are currently writing up a list of all the responsibilities that need to be picked up each month. We have not written a long-term roster for these responsibilities because a lot of them depend on the activity planned and we aren’t organised enough to have that mapped out in advance! We try and be a month ahead of ourselves but this can get tricky.
- We have a very mixed group as far as ages go. We have had to have communications as to what the mums of younger children need and we work within that. We have found that the mums of young children go home, 11.30-12.00 and leave the families of older children to clean up. This is an understood split of responsibilities and one way that we can both help younger families and expose our children to serving the group. Those who wish to take their lunch to a picnicking spot afterwards do – this is generally those families with older children.
Things we have done so far:
- Sports day (though this was more get to know you games and activities than full on sports) One of our mums is a PE trained teacher and she took this session
- Math Tabloid day – the math teacher/co-ordinator from the Highschool spent an evening with me helping me pull out activities for the whole group as she couldn’t be there for the day.
- Clay – a local artist helped another mum get this activity together. She was going to be there but ended up not being able to make it.
- Music – this was a last minute arrangement with a visiting percussion band who was in town for a town festival.
- Camp – this is our first homeschool camp and will be connected to our co-op for this coming month. The activities will be nature orientated.
Our monthly programme (though it gets moved around if necessary):
- 8.30-10.00 Activity (the pre-schoolers have this divided into 3 x1/2 hour blocks which involved 2 sessions based on the group activity and 1 session quiet reading time on a blanket)
- 10.00-10.30 AM Tea (We used to have bring morning tea to share but the mums of little kids found it easier to have lunch boxes packed individually) I personally like bring to share as it is more of a homey experience rather than a school experience. But that is fine!
- 10.30-11.00 we break into age groups of 4-6 each group and each child has the opportunity for show and tell, or if they are older, an oral presentation/speech.
- 11.00-11.30 I take a session on Character training. We use Character First. We generally just learn the memory work, which has actions, and as we go through that I discuss applications for them all. It is very interactive and low key. The purpose of this is to expose the children to the fact that everyone is learning to be of better character and to expose the mums to the material so they can take something home to work with.
- 11.30-12.00 clean up / go home
- 12.00-1.00 go to lunch picnicking place and go home when you are ready.
As far as the leadership of the group goes – I don’t have any resources for such a thing! We found that the 3 of us who were older in terms of homeschooling years took the initiative in organising the first few co-ops but now it is being spread about. This is why we have a list of things that need to be done so that not one person is doing it all the time. I have spent hours organising a co-op with most of it being sorting out groups and supervising adults after people RSVP letting me know they are coming. The most organising activity we have had was the Math Tabloid day with me spending over 8 hours on it! That wasn’t particularly wise use of my time but it was a good day! I may be quicker at it next time. I think this is a bit of a trap that we need to be careful when we take on this. We don’t want the rest of our week out of whack because of the co-op. I think the list of responsibilities will work well.
- Our Co-op has only been going this year so we are still on a learning curve.
- We are learning to trust each other and be open in our communications with each other. Communications about whether our needs are being met, whether our children are happy, about the children’s behaviour etc. We have had a discussion with each other that we want to be open even if it is hard to hear. I think this type of honesty will make the group (though it may be rough at times as it is always hard to hear something negative about your children, or what you are doing).
- Not all of us are Christians though all are in agreement with the content of our sessions together – in particular the character sessions.
I guess our co-op is a work in progress, and I am glad I am involved in it. It is great to see the kids work together – not only in age groups but in all configurations. It is great to be exposed to talented people in the community. It has been a positive addition to our homeschooling life.
Also sharing and linking with others:
Throughout the week I share with one, or more of these blogs (see more details on my Link Parties page)
Monday’s Musings, Thoughtful Spot, Middle and Highschool Linkup, Hip Homeschool Moms Blog Hop, Titus 2 Tuesdays,Finishing Strong (Middle & Highschool years), List-it Tuesdays, Whole Hearted Wednesdays, Capture your Journey, Coffee and Conversation, Thriving Thursdays, Hearts for Home, A Little R & R, From House to Home, Fellowship Fridays, Homeschooling Highschool Linkup, Weekly Wrap-up, Collage Fridays