We’re one week into the 5th year of our homeschooling cooperative. Its always a chaotic, over-stimulating scene, especially the first couple of weeks as we work out rooms and schedules and such, and figure out how to be with so many bodies in one place. But I never forget to be appreciative of the bounty of resources, people, and children within this community.
We have about 20 families with children aged birth-20 years, helping to organize and run 3 classes for each age group (4 age groups) every Tuesday from October to June. Classes are based on what the kids say they want to learn, and are taught by parents, community members, and hired teachers/experts. This year we even have some classes for older teens and parents! Its pretty amazing to have the opportunity for such organization in a small(ish) town. This fall Juniper is in a puppetry class where they are constructing costumes of paper mache with a professional puppeteer, a running club (led by Heide and me), and a singing group. Wylie is in a role playing class about the Oregon Trail, a Robot Club, and a Young Entrepreneur’s class. Kale is doing our running club, an animals class, and group games.
We also participate in a 4-H group (made up of many of the same families) where we gather for various activities such as cider pressing, monarch tagging, and robot building (to name a few). Of course many weeks it feels like socializing is the main event at coop–but of course that’s good too. I really appreciate the chance for our kids to be exposed to so many different ideas, subjects, hobbies, and teaching styles.
The other days of the week we’re busy with our own schedule. As usual we are starting off fairly formal and structured, but will no doubt find our focus ebbing and flowing throughout the seasons.
This fall we’re working 3 days/week in hour long rotating blocks of chemistry (per Wylie’s request, using Ellen Johnston McHenry’s “The Elements”, along with a few experiment books; Writing (short story, poetry, and formal) Math (right now a mash up of multiplication review, Life of Fred Fractions, and Teaching Textbooks), and History (early America using historical fiction, and “A Child’s History of the World” for Kale). Interspersed with a bit of keyboarding (keyboarding without tears) and handwriting, Music lessons, and nature study. These are all for the big kids. Kale does a bit of handwriting, nature study, loves listening to anything historical and associated coloring pages, and plays math based card games. For now that feels about right for him. Juniper and Kale are forever coloring and drawing and creating on their own, and Wylie is very involved in electronics using the Arduino processor and all kinds of other bits and pieces I don’t pretend to understand.
Whew. It sounds like a lot, and it feels like too much. But, next winter when we’re spending days by the fire reading, and taking off for a day or two skiing, I’ll re-read this post and think of the see-saw. All of this structured learning will surely balance the unstructured learning, and all of this wide exposure to topics will surely lead to in-depth personal exploration when an interest is uncovered.