The Old Schoolhouse weekly e-letter, The Homeschool Minute, is one of my favourite homeschool newsletters. It is short, quick and easy to read and yet it is made up of 3 different author’s opinions so you get variety. This week they wrote about Homeschool Co-ops – are they dying? I can’t offer an opinion since I live in the outback of Australia and our little co-op is going very well but I thought I’d take a moment to share some of the key ideas that keep our homeschool co-op together.
- It is first and foremost a group of mums supporting each other. This means when we gather together we act like mums (not like teachers). This keeps our group relational rather than functional. The family needs come first regardless of the organised activities.
- Initially we gathered together for the purpose of networking; that is, finding out who is who, who is doing what, and how we could help each other. Though we get together for different reasons now, this is still very much the idea. If we know each other we can support each other outside of any formal meetings. In fact we encourage small groups (2 or 3 families get together for specific learning outcomes)
- Our activity time together isn’t’ age based. When we do have to divide into smaller groups we may divide in family groups, broad age groups (e.g. 4-10yo, and 11-17yo), or we mix it all up and have older with younger.
- We study Character together – this has been a foundational aspect to our group as it paints a standard for behaviour while together.
- We have three standard activities: Character, Oral presentations/public speaking, and an activity. Our activities are based on what a mother is willing to organise and lead. If no such idea comes forth then we will still get together for structured play time (board games, sport or physical games). Last year we did a variety of nature activities throughout the year, this year we are working on drama. (We meet from 8.30am-12.30pm once a month)
- We are a family based co-op, we are not a school or child minding opportunity. Mums are expected to stay with their children when they can (though because we are a group of mums, this of course is flexible as we support each other through hard times.)
- We try and gather at either someone’s house (a bit tricky when you have 30+kids!) or in the park. We occasionally use a hall, but we find as soon as you go into a formal building we change hats and act like teachers on a field trip, instead of mums with their kids.
- We have a couple of family based activities throughout the year which means Dads can come along. Usually we meet monthly on a Friday morning and some Dads are available but our family activities – family concert, picnic and pool party, all happen on a Saturday afternoon/night so all Dads have the opportunity to come along. We have had a few weekend camps over the years which has been great for the whole family.
- We use Ning (a social network) instead of email to keep the admin all in one place (emails get messy).
- We get together at least once a term (generally in the ‘school holidays’) for a Mums time only. If we do this in the day time, the big kids supervise the little kids so mum can have some focus time, but lately we’ve been getting together for dessert either at a restaurant or someone’s home. These times are specifically for encouragement and learning for mums.
My heart for our homeschool co-op is relational – that we remember that we are first and foremost a group of mums getting together for support. All our decisions of how we are to run our co-op flow out of this one point.