Monday, February 22, 2010

How Cool are Co-ops?

The last time I participated in the Homeschool Blog Cruise the topic was about socialization.  I mentioned that since I only have one child/student and I look for opportunities for him to interact with other kids.  When we moved to Missouri I was thrilled to learn about two co-ops in our area.  They operate quite differently.

The first co-op was set up much like public school where the day was broken up into hour-long segments and students moved from class to class.  There were weekly art classes, choirs, Spanish, guitar and violin lessons.  As a mom, I paid the teacher for my Schnickelfritz to attend her course and that was the extent of my involvement.  Well, that's not quite true.  I sat in on the Spanish class so I would know how to pronounce the vocabulary Fritz was learning.  Since Fritz was just learning English phonics, I didn't want to confuse him with trying to read Spanish words.  The teacher, a former missionary, adapted the classwork for him so he could do it all orally.  

The moms had to stay on site, so we tended to gather in an empty room.  Some graded papers and worked on lesson plans.  Others, like myself, worked on craft projects--one mom offered an impromptu knitting lesson.  As someone new to homeschooling and to the community I was just glad to have other like-minded people to talk to. 

The second co-op only met once a month and fellowshipped--often with a potluck lunch.  A theme-of-the-day would be announced and age appropriate activities would be provided for the theme.  One of the annual favorites was the country study.  Each family would pick a country and do a presentation.  Usually the older students did most of the talking, but even 4 & 5 year olds would participate in some way.   One time we did a backyard critter study.  There were several box turtles, a snake (brave is the mother who brought that in her car!).  Everything was returned to the wild afterwards.  I credit that day with sparing me or my dog from great pain as one of the fathers showed us what a "cow-killer" bug looked like.  We saw one just a week or so later and knew to avoid it.  Fritz has been practicing magic tricks for an end-of-the-year talent show.

Both of these co-ops met in churches and unfortunately, they both lost their meeting places this year.  With the poor economy, the churches weren't able to provide free space and utilities anymore and since most of us are one income families, we didn't have much money to offer as rent.  One co-op has found a new, much smaller facility.  There is no longer space to offer more than the violin and guitar classes.  The once a month co-op  is still looking for an appropriate space in a centralized location (families are spread over several counties).  My Fritz misses his friends and we both hope that the co-ops can return, stronger than ever as people realize what a precious resource they are.  In the meantime, we sometimes meet  at the McDonald's playland or an afternoon of bowling or rollerskating.

 If you know someone who organizes a homeschool co-op, go and give them a big hug-- they need the encouragement.   It takes a lot of effort to coordinate finding space, thinking of activities, gathering supplies, assigning duties, etc.  One mom I know went to a lot of effort to host an apple butter making activity and of the dozen signed up families only Fritz and I showed up.    

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