Sunday, June 2, 2013

Chapter 8 – Homeschooling Together

Chapter 8 – Homeschooling Together

We never did get that support group thing figured out, but they did let me rejoin since I started homeschooling again.  In the spring an email came across the email loop that there were a couple of ladies starting a co-op and this group would be meeting about 10 minutes from our house.  What was a co-op?  A few internet searches later I discovered that a co-op is a wonderful group of people who actually support each other in their homeschooling and trade services to teach kids.  It is also a place where kids and their moms can make some real friends!  I never knew anything like this existed!! We were sold!

We went to an organizational meeting, and then we went to a teacher’s meeting.  As these moms explained their vision, they asked for help, for volunteers to teach classes.  So, I volunteered to teach science classes.   I had purchased some awesome books from Apologia the year before and as I hauled them out to ask the other moms what they thought, several commented on how nice they were and that they too had wanted to use that curriculum.  I was in!  I was teaching science! I was so relieved!

It is impossible to tell you about all of the friendships that grew out of that first day meeting with those other mothers, or the friendships that my children found with the other kids at the co-op, but our lives were completely changed for the better! 

Having a Monday co-op day helped us to get focused for the week.  Kids were excited to get up early and go to classes with their friends.  The kids were actually excited to learn and getting SO MUCH done in one day helped ease the burden for me to teach the rest of the week. This also kept me from falling off the homeschooling wagon again!  Knowing that I had 5 other teachers to ask for help, and having a clear, and yet reasonable, schedule for the kids helped me to plan for both school work and fun days with Daddy.  Drason had Fridays off work during this time making it possible for fieldtrips and other activities as a family.

Making friends was clearly critical.  It was one thing to have virtual support through an email loop, and it was somewhat helpful in selling curriculum or asking for a recommendation for a plumber, but having a physical group to attend with the support of moms who had been where I was and could help shed some light on how to teach a certain subject or how to teach a certain child was priceless.  These weren’t just other homeschooling strangers, they knew me and they knew my children, so their recommendations and insight was often inspired!  The difference the friendships with other MOTHERS made in my life helped me with feelings of despair, loneliness, and overwhelming fear that I could not home school my kids. 

My children also made friends.  These friends have become life long friends.  I have watched these kids grow up together, learn together, and become close.  These kids come to our home to hang out and my kids go to their homes to hang out. Seeing the kids growing up together I am encouraged by their love for their friends and their ability to cultivate these relationships.

Co-op also gave us access to curriculum.  We were able to look at other’s curriculum and even ‘try before you buy’ with some items.  When looking at spending hundreds of dollars on a curriculum, it was very helpful to be able to try out and look through a curriculum BEFORE dropping the cash.  Talking to the other moms about what they liked and what they did not like about the curriculum also helped me to be able to understand what type of curriculum would work best for our family.  I remember one mom commenting that she didn’t like the structured lessons with her history curriculum, and thinking that I would LOVE that feature.  Another mom talked about doing unit studies, and hearing her describe her vision, I knew that this was not our style.  At the same time, we were challenged to try things that we outside of our comfort zones and while sometimes they fell though, other times we were very pleasantly surprised.  There was a rather intense curriculum offered for writing and I hesitated to place my oldest in that class.  At the end of the year I was amazed at how much he had learned.  I still use this curriculum to this day because it is so effective, although we have backed off on the intensity. 

Co-op became a real tangible part of the body of Christ for us.  We weren’t just talking about helping others, we were helping others and each time a new family joined you could see that realization come about in their own lives.  The three cord strand is not easily broken, and we quickly saw that this band of homeschooling families would be able to withstand quite a bit because we stood together.  When one mom would be discouraged, others would uplift her.  When a child had an issue, teachers and parents (which is to say parents and parents) could work on it together.  When one family had a need, all the families pitched in to help them. 
As spring approached, I realized that the group of 5 or 6 families who had met to organize in the fall, had grown into about 10-15 families.  Every week more and more people were finding out about this co-op and really wanted to join us.  As we discussed the upcoming school year I had an idea, what if we put together a book?  Sort of a handbook and class catalog combined into one?  Everyone liked that idea and so we began writing down all the rules and guidelines the church had given us, all the ideas for the coming year and all the information on how to register for classes.  Other families now stepped up to start helping and it was a blessing to have so many people willing to help.  The co-op began to grow and the following year about 15 additional families joined our group.  It was homeschooling together on a much larger scale, and homeschooling together works!

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