Thursday, December 14, 2006

Putting the "co" in "co-op"

I cannot say enough how much I love the co-op that my friend and I have. It is small. Small. As in, two students- my daughter and her best friend. When you say "co-op" in homeschool circles it usually connotes a group of at least 3 or 4 families. I know of one co-op in our area with 150+ kids! That's great if that fits your needs, but I just thought I'd share what we've found that works, why I feel it works so well, and how we do it.

The first reason I think our co-op works so well is that it came as a direct result of prayer. God brings about things that work! We had been in a couple of co-ops that had 5-6 families in them, and for various reasons, though we enjoyed them immensely, I didn't feel they would be a good fit academically as the kids got into the upper grades. (Someday maybe I'll post why, but today I'm focusing on our current co-op situation.) I pulled out of co-ops altogether and spent a year praying about it, resigned to the fact that we just might not do co-ops anymore. Then God brought this current situation about last year. It all started with one subject: science. They met one afternoon a week and did the experiments that went along with the chapters in the BJU Science 6 book. We knew the girls would benefit from working with someone else and we were pleasantly surprised at how much they got accomplished and how much they truly enjoyed it. So, at the end of last year we decided we'd add some other subjects to really make their time count.

The second reason it is so functional is that the other mom and I are very much on the same wavelength, both in our worldview and in our educational philosophy. When we meet to plan, it's almost funny to me because as one is talking the other one is nodding in agreement. Wow! That doesn't always happen in co-op meetings!

The third reason it has been such a blessing is because our girls work extremely well together. They are not the same learning style, and they have different strengths, but because of this they compliment each other. When one gets off task or distracted, the other one reigns her in. Where one is artsy, the other is strategic. Where one needs help getting motivated, the other shows organizational strengths that are a great model. Sometimes they take turns playing those various roles, but the end result is that they are both built up. It is a really good match because, as a result of working together, they are both better.

Here's the basic structure of it:

They are doing four subjects together this year:

We chose the first two subjects, Literature and Science, because we just wanted to partner up on so that they would enjoy it more, and because we feel that those are core subjects that it would benefit us to have someone sharing the load in planning and teaching. The second two subjects were those that we knew might fall through the cracks in our own homeschools without the accountability of a schedule and someone else with whom to plan and teach them.

Over the summer we decided on our subjects and we each took 2 to plan for the year. We met together once we had planned how to spread the chapters/ lessons out for both semesters, to make sure the projects were evenly distributed. My friend keeps a three-year-old, and I have a son to homeschool as well, so we swap off houses each week. We have a gas station that's exactly between our two houses, so we meet there in the morning and whoever has it at her house that week takes the other girl home. I teach the current Science chapter, go over their Literature with them, discuss our Texas History chapter and facilitate the IEW Writing dvd lesson. My son does his independent work while I'm teaching the girls, and they are so self-sufficient that while they are getting their chapter projects done or doing their questions or writing assignments I can work with my son. The weeks that they meet at my friend's house, they do more of their independent work/assignments and she facilitates their Science experiments. I am in another small co-op with 2 other families that meets biweekly on the weeks I don't have the girls' co-op at my house.

I couldn't be more pleased with how it's going this year. Today is our last co-op day before Christmas, and I feel it's been a very successful semester. We've covered a lot of ground in their subjects and the girls have worked extremely hard. We have raised the bar this year, and they've really risen to the task. We've kept each other accountable in some key subject areas and I've seen a marked improvement in my daughter's approach to her schoolwork.

There are as many different ways to co-op as there are co-ops, so I thought I'd share how it's working for us. If this sounds like something that might work for your family, I encourage you to begin praying specifically about it for next year, asking God to place a like-minded, easy-to-work-with family in your midst and and ask Him to begin speaking to their heart about it as well. I've experienced first-hand how He'll tailor- make a co-op that's a perfect fit!


marmeesez said...

what a wonderful post. You are inspiring me to pray for a like opportunity. I tried in the past to co-op and it was not a satisfactory situation. Maybe the Lord will lead me to the right family. Thank you for sharing.

Jenny in Ca

marmeesez said...

sorry, I had to get a google account to keep commenting on beta blogs, but I see it doesn't link to my blog...

I am here

i will be switching over soon.



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