Starting a Homeschool Co-op

I have written several times about our co-op.  I thought today that I might elaborate on it for those interested in beginning a co-op.  Our co-op began simply as a group of like-minded families who hiked together.  Eventually, we started doing some classes together such as African drumming, environthon, and a few other fun classes.  Two years ago, we did a physiology class together in addition to a few other families.  The physiology class went so well that we started talking about doing more classes.  The biggest problem was the space.  We needed a space (this seems to be an issue for most co-ops from what I hear).  We were also fairly picky.  We did not want to use a church if possible due to the diversity of our group.  We did not want anyone to feel out of place.  We also wanted a space with both indoor areas and outdoor areas.  And of course, it needed to be affordable.  Last year, we were able to rent a room at our local YMCA.  Once the facility was booked, we began working on our classes and the schedule.  We met one day a week for 3 hours each day.  Most days consisted of a class for an hour and 15 minutes, a break, another class and a lunch period.  We predetermined the classes.  Parents signed up to teach the classes.  Overall, last year went well. We did find that we wanted more freedom with our space and the kids wanted to get together more often.

Moving into this year, we went on the facility search again.  We found that our local American Legion rents its facility out.  The building is terrific.  It has a commercial kitchen and a large open room.  My favorite part is the location.  The building sits across the street from a local park with a baseball field, a stream, a playground, and picnic tables.  We decided to meet on two days a week for four hours each day.  The daily activities change and the rhythm remains the same.  We begin each day with a morning meeting at which time the kids make announcements about the plans for the day,  Next, there is a work period, lunch, a second work period, clean-up and a closing meeting.  My favorite part of the co-op thus far is the ownership by the kids of the co-op.  The kids run all of the meetings, oversee and participate in the cleaning of the facility, monitor the noise level in the room, come up with guidelines for the group, and teach each other.

So far this year, we have had several lunch and learns, classes in biology, experiments on electricity, art classes, chess club, cooking lessons, PE and more life lessons than I can discuss.

The parents are all required to facilitate in the co-op throughout the year.  We love the parents to be there as much as they can to help the kids with projects and to learn along with the kids.  There are at least two parents on-site at all times.  The community of parents is as strong as the community of kids.

Some of the technicalities that go into forming a co-op.  First and foremost for us was finding people who share similar life values and homeschooling styles.  Our original group of families definitely shared these things.  As we grew, we have found this to be a tad more difficult.  This year, we gained several families who recently left a schooling situation and began homeschooling.  With homeschooling being new to them, the co-op situation has been slightly tough.  They do not know their homeschooling styles yet!  Luckily, most of the families seem to be very comfortable with the environment that we have created.

Second, finding the right facility to meet your group’s needs takes time and patience!  We knew that we needed more space than we had at the Y.  We also needed more freedom.  The Y had a lot of people coming and going.  This made it very tough from a safety point of view.  Having a facility all to ourselves feels safe and free!  We can come and go as we want.  We can work outside or inside.  It also gives the kids a feeling of ownership over the space which has developed into a desire to keep the space clean and beautiful.

Third, you need insurance.  Even if you know everyone in the group and you do not think that you need it.  I highly recommend that you look into insurance for the safety of your group.

Fourth, deciding what your goals of the co-op are can be tough.  What needs are you trying to meet?  Initially, we were filling a social need by simply hiking.  Eventually, we started meeting the needs of our kids as they became interested in different topics and activities.  Your needs should be re-evaluated each year based on your participants.  Initially, we planned to start the year off by jumping into classes.  We quickly had to re-evaluate since we had a large population of new homeschoolers and newcomers to our community.  We decided to spend the first half of the co-op working on self-confidence, group dynamics, and teamwork.  In January 2020, this goal will have been met (we have already met it actually) and we will begin to work on more academic classes.

Have you participated in or started a co-op?  Any other thoughts or suggestions?

Another Year Older-Teen!

Today is the day that I become the mom of all teenagers!  I am struggling with that thought and at the same time, I am so proud to be the mom to my three kids.  Parks turns 13 today.  I am struggling to put into words how much he has changed this year.  My child who struggled with being flexible, with focus, with making friends his own age and with being comfortable with who he is-has grown into himself-a confident, hard-working, outgoing, amazing human.  The past year was a year of hard work, and he killed it.  Over the last year, he stepped out of his comfort zone so many times including joining the snowboard team, jumping in at new skateparks and meeting people, meeting new people in the co-op, speaking up for things that he believes in and for those who aren’t able to speak up for themselves, and pushing himself to succeed at tasks that are tough for him.  Happy 13th birthday Parks!

October in Review

What a full month! You know those times that fly by and at the same time seem to never end?  Well, that was October.  There were so many sides to October.  One part of October included the moving of our close friend.  We spent many days cherishing our time together and packing up their house.

Another part of October we spent working through the kinks of our new co-op.  The group is amazing and includes many new-to-homeschooling families.  We have spent a lot of time working with families to learn the ins and outs of homeschooling.  We have spent a lot of time working with the children on communication, working as a team, and deschooling.  In addition to this, I taught the high schoolers a Medical Investigations class.  The class turned out to be awesome.  It utilized the information that the kids learned in past anatomy and physiology classes and added new information.  The kids really enjoyed the class and surpassed my expectations.

Sims spent most of October working on a project about Elon Musk for his literature class, Algebra II and physics.  He also began ACT prep.  He has impressed me with his study skills and initiation this year.  He also applied to take an online dual enrollment class through Landmark College in the spring.

Sawyer finished up her book, The House of the Scorpion, and began a class on the Hero’s Journey.  She is also still working through biology and Algebra 1.  She quickly finished up her Halloween outfit right before the big day!

Parks finished up Medieval China and Africa.  He read Along the River and a book about Mansa Musa.  He also worked hard on a fractions unit.

For fun, Sims and Sawyer have been climbing both indoors and out.  Parks has learned some awesome new skills at the skatepark.  Parks, Sims and I have gotten out sailing a little bit.  We went apple picking in the mountains,  climbing in the piedmont (climbing competition), and dreamt of the warm waves at the beach,  🙂

Overall, it was an emotional month.  I dealt with quite a bit of anxiety this month.  The kids worked with me and my moments of high stress.  The month was busy and full.  Thankfully, we have one amazing village to help during these months!


Weekly Wrap Up

We are still trying hard to get into a rhythm, and we are not quite there yet.  This week Sawyer finished up her first book, The House of Scorpion for English and began taking an online literature class for the next 10 weeks.  Sims’s literature class is on a break for the next few weeks due to the Jewish holidays; however, he still has a big project to do during the break.  Thus, he has been busy researching.  Parks is wrapping up Medieval China this week and next, including the book Along the River-A Chinese Cinderella Story.  Sawyer continued her Biology labs in co-op, and Parks worked on a lot of painting.  Saturday, we headed into the mountains for some apple picking and some cool air!


Weekly Wrap Up

Just a quick wrap up from the past two weeks.  At co-op, we did more biology and botany labs.  Art is a big hit at co-op as well.  We visited the barn that we used to ride at.  We all miss the barn.  Unfortunately, our instructor is no longer doing lessons.  (Our puppy, Bella, also go to visit her mom.). Parks started a history class on Outschool.  Sawyer and Sims are still working on their classes. The kids and I also got a quick hike in at Latta Plantation.

So Many Thoughts

I have sat down to begin this post many times.  I am overwhelmed with thoughts and I do not know where to begin.  I think I may list things and the post may be slightly fragmented.

  1. Homeschooling is different this year.  Having co-op two days a week is a new dynamic.  Sawyer and Parks attend both days.  Sims pops in and out.  Co-op is very different this year.  We have a lot of new people.  It is going very well.  The other main co-ordinator for our co-op is moving-requiring me to step up ALOT.  It is overwhelming.  Managing is not one of my strengths.  Luckily, I have an amazing village of ladies who help me.

  2. Sims and I are finding junior year to be tough-and he is only taking three classes right now.  He did a staggered start for each of his classes.  Now that he is in the midst of all three, he is finding it to be a lot of work. img_2410
  3. Sawyer is finding a slew of people who love art as much as she does.  Her art club has grown from 2-3 people each week last year to 5-8 people each week this year.
  4. Parks is finally open to school-not thrilled about it, but very willing to work through it.
  5. We have hiked twice so far.  I posted on the first hike last time.  Last week, we hiked in a park outside of Hickory, NC.  We found some amazing treasures there including some beautiful and large quartz builders, salamanders, and lots of neat geology.
  6. All extracurricular activities are in full swing-climbing competitions, sailing, parquor, band, art and hanging out.
  7. Our house is a hot mess.  We have gotten out of the groove of doing a 15 minute clean up.  I am trying to figure out the rhythm for the year since we leave two days a week by 9. (I am not going to post a picture of this.  You can imagine-laundry not completed, dishes in the sink, books EVERYWHERE, puppy toys taking over the house…)

2019/2020 Let Us Begin

As all things go around here, the first week of school did not go as planned.  My plan included beginning school for everyone together this week.  Well, on Saturday I received a call that Sawyer could do her driving portion of driver’s education beginning on Monday-uhm, yes!

Soooo….the first week was off.  I had to driver her back and forth to driver’s education.  We weren’t all together. Some classes haven’t started yet.  I ended up with a couple of appointments, and that is how school started this week.  Luckily, we are flexible.  So here we are,

MGVJ8a%eRjW98e9L68RvyASims is working on eleventh grade this year (OMG! HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?).  He is taking most of his classes online.  He is taking Algebra II, Physics and two semester long English courses (one in the fall and one in the spring).  He also plans to take the Wilderness First Responder course in May.  Sims is also planning to look into the local community college to take a class in the spring-maybe.  He is still debating it.  In addition to school work, Sims plans to continue rock climbing on the team.  He began sailing bigger sailboats this summer.  He would like to continue doing that and maybe even rehab a race boat to race in the spring (this is his goal for the year).  He took the Red Cross life guarding class this summer so he may work as a life guard too-just a possibility that he posed this week.

8tq5riLkTkKNiZuSwoFBtgSawyer is working on ninth grade this year.  She is taking Algebra I,  Biology,  English I, World History, and Marine Biology.  She will also participate in the co-op two days a week which is where she will do her biology labs and I am sure many other fun activities.  Sawyer plans to continue rock climbing on the team and to begin climbing outdoors (this is her goal for the year).  Her band dissolved at the end of the school year, so Sawyer is also working on finding a new band to sing with.  On her own, Sawyer will also keep working on her arial silk work.  I guess she will also start driving soon!

DSC_0042Parks is working on seventh grade this year.  He still does not love school or even like the idea of school, so we have to be creative.  He is working on fractions, decimals and percents in math in preparation for pre-algebra.  I think he could do pre-algebra now, but I want it to be very easy when he does it so that he is successful.  He is also going to take a couple of classes on Outschool to learn history of the Middle Ages around the world and possibly some conservation science.  He is very excited about co-op this year because it is student led.  He has some classes that he wants to teach such as soldering.  His goal for this year is to snowboard in Colorado.

As a group this year, we are going to really focus on executive functioning skills!  Yep, we are forgoing our Waldorf traditions to work on planning, goal setting, timing and follow through.  We are going to work on self-reflection and working on how to work and to just get through life (like why are the breakfast dishes still on the counter-it’s mid-afternoon? Smile).

Even though the first week of school didn’t quite go as planned, it went well.  We had fun and ended with a trip to the mountains.  Happy New School Year!