When we started our local homeschool support group some years ago our intention was for the mums to support each other in our homeschooling journey. As the years have gone along we have started monthly “Co-op” sessions where the focus in on the kids learning together. In our effort not to forget our original intention though we still have quarterly Network Meetings where the mums’ needs are the focus.
We had our first such meeting for the year yesterday. We had 32 kids at our place!
Child care has always been a consideration. Last year we started getting the older kids to look after the younger kids. This worked well; the older kids were willing and generally enthusiastic. But there were a few difficulties. We feel like we have addressed these this year.
Instead of saying, “Here, big kids, look after the little kids!” and leave them to it, en masse (which is what we did last year) we have divided them into teams – 6-7 teams of 4-5 kids in each team. The idea is that the parents are able to say to their little person – “Joey, Tom is your boss for this morning, you must do what he says” or some such “handover” of authority. It set the tone for the morning beautifully.
The older kids were responsible for finding an activity that even the youngest (4yo) would be able to carry out. They were to bring the activity and enough supplies for every group to enjoy themselves and they were to instruct each leader how to carry the activity out. In their teams they were to be aware of the more shy and reluctant kids, they were to keep the group together, even if one wanted a toilet break or drink of water, some even had their younger (1-3yo) siblings with them at times. One of them kept a timer and kept the groups moving around the activities. As it turned out morning tea was eatten before the activities started but the original idea was to eat morning tea in the teams so that the older kids could maintain control and order. It all worked very well.
Generally the 1-3yo played on the floor around where the mums were discussing things.
One of the things that we have had to learn as a group is that we are not a formal group of "teachers" getting together for PD! We are a group of mums gathering around coffee, with our chldren with us, discussing the things that are close to our heart – how to best train our children while they are at home. When we have this outlook we can be a lot more relational focussed rather than task orientated. This helps us not to feel expectations to take things onboard, or to feel quilty when we don’t. It helps us be flexible with where people are "at". It is a great way to be.