Over the last few months we have had discussions, amongst the families who come to the Co-op, about what we want from the Co-op and what we have found hard with the Co-op.
There has been a balance of thought between wanting it to be a learning environment for the kids but some of the mums (especially those with little kids) have been stressed out by taking on too much.
One of the things we have done is gone back into a home environment. There seems to be a subconscious switch that when we are in a hall we are homeschool mums but when we are having morning tea together we are mums encouraging each other. So in order to keep the spirit of the morning to being friends supporting and encouraging each other we have changed to having our Co-ops in a home.
Our over all plan of activities has also changed direction. Early this year we set out to achieve one Co-op activity fulfilling a Learning Area as stated from the Education Department every month. This also subconsciously made us act a lot more like a class than a group of families. Admittedly the group has grown in its confidence that anything they do in their family fits nicely with the Departments expectations of education (should that be a concern). The group has also grown in confidence that the Education Departments goals arent necessarily their own goals so there is balance to be found in that as well.
So even though we are at the end of the year we have a slightly different direction for our Co-op for the coming year, starting as of now.
Our focus is to be a learning environment for the children but in a family setting with placing a good emphasis on time for play for the kids, and social time for Mums. We will meet in homes various homes are available depending on the activity and the weather. We want to remember that our relationships with each other are more important than any programme we plan for the day.
We want to continue with giving the children an opportunity to give an oral presentation. We dont give much instruction at this time it is purely a matter of providing an audience. The instruction and preparation has to happen at home.
We are also going to continue with our Character Development session. Most of the families are going to work on the same trait that gets presented at the Co-op for the following month. This makes the session so much more valuable rather than a one off.
Most of our change has come with planning activities. We now have a list of family type activities that we can organise with minimal stress (Nature days, Art activities, Board games, Water play, Sports Day, Old fashioned Sunday School Picnic games, Library day, Drama time). Alternatively we have encouraged each other to keep our eyes and ears open around the community and if an opportunity comes up, and if a family feels they can run with organising something go for it.
This also opens the door for families to arrange things for a smaller group rather than the whole co-op. Already we have had a homeschool excursion to see a Bee operation in the farming community. Not everyone went but those who did had a fantastic time. The opportunity fitted in with one familys objectives and therefore the stress wasnt the same as organising it to fit in with a Co-op structure.
So it is with renewed vigour that we had our November Co-op last week. We started off with playing Board Games (Uno, Yahtzee, Make n Break), the older two boys played Risk and the younger preschoolers played a variety of games. With the main group we broke into 4 teams and each person had an opportunity to play each game but when the timer rang you had to move to the next game and pick up where your team member left off. It was lots of fun and certainly stimulates the kids to start playing games more in their own family.
The November Co op was our last opportunity for Oral Presentations for this year and the children have certainly improved. Over the course of the year the older ones have given a variety of presentations variety in topics and in types of presentations. This time round one boy gave an impromptu show and tell on his insect collection. One girl got her whole audience involved in acting out how a computer worked. Another read a poem. There is still plenty to be learnt one boy started off with a great topic but wandered around really boring stuff and hardly touched his topic sending everyone to sleep! Lots to learn but their growth in one year has been very noticeable.
We introduced the Character Trait of Availability. We use Character First for this session. I gave an object lesson that a car jack is sitting in the car ready to serve even though it doesnt get to help out often it would be a disaster if it wasnt there ready. We then went through a poem that Character First supplies, it expands on how to be Available. There are actions that go along with the poem, which we all learnt.
The kids had a little play time where some chose to play more games others ran around outside regardless of the heat! Most families left at 12.00 with little ones needing to be in bed. Some families stayed to share lunch together.
It was a great day and we look forward to more Co-ops next year in this relaxed style.