(this post is 1 year old. a lot has changed since i wrote it! we moved far from florida, joined several other learning communities, delved into more online learning, and our long standing florida co op has transformed into a bigger and more community based project. a new post might be in order when i wrap my head around all that has shifted. the take away is that homeschoolers can make anything they want.)
our prehistoric month ended with a cave man party complete with caves to paint, raw meat to eat and costumes
Learning co ops are essential for most homeschooling families. They provide friendships for both kids and adults, create a community of learners and allow for parents and kids to share their expertise. There are different kinds of co ops, and you might need to explore what works best for your family.
Here is what we have in my community:
The big homeschool group. Many communities have a huge homeschool group with up to hundreds of families as members. Don't let the size of these scare you! Even if you do not plan to be super involved these are often good groups to join. They are often excellent places to find out what is happening off your radar, to meet new friends and to join in field trips or group rated programs. There might even be several in your area. Give them a try. From these big groups, you can find your tribe and create ---->
The small learning co op. This is the most vital part of all our groups. This co op (in its many forms) has been a weekly part of my kids lives for 8 years!
I am going to explain how ours works - the beauty is you can redefine the group as it changes. Kids will get older, people will come and go…
We have 4-6 families. Our group has just organically stayed at this size. We usually have about a dozen kids which makes us compact enough to go places easily as a group.
We are a learning coop as opposed to a play co op, although there is a lot of play in our meetings
We meet once a week. Wednesdays have always been a good day. We have met in the morning, afternoon and for a while all day. It changes each year as our kids and our meeting places change.
I think this is important to realize. The group will most likely change as the years go on, and sometimes in dramatic ways. That is ok! We have had people come and go in graceful and contentious ways. Recognizing and appreciating the organic nature of the group has been helpful.
learning about arches by some local arches
We use monthly themes. A month seems to be a perfect amount of time to study an idea in depth and we find ourselves incorporating and circling back to content as other areas bump up against its boundaries.
Last year, we emphasized science and it was really successful so this year we are continuing. We used to do more cultural or historical themes but realized that we all study culture easily on our own (based on our interests, travels, books we are reading etc). We decided that science is particularly fun to study together and experiments are MUCH funner. In addition, our kids are all fascinated and knowledgeable about science and we have a great resource in that 2 of the moms in our group have scientific backgrounds. Each semester we do a month of physical science (engineering and building things), a month of biology (bodies and dissections), a month chemistry (blowing things up) and another area based on interest and local events (astronomy, electricity etc.).
The parents meet every month or so to discuss what is working, what needs to be adjusted and what is coming up. We each take a week to lead but all the weeks are organized together. Each person creates an event for their day in our FB group and then adds links and information to share.
I love this approach because the women involved are smart and have a varied backgrounds. They all bring something unique to each subject.
We strive to learn about subjects in creative and interdisciplinary ways. Even though we might be learning about the chemistry of the stars, we will also read what poets have to say about the stars and we will write our own constellation myths and listen to heavy metal songs that reference astrology. The planning meetings are where we really plumb the creative depths of how to explore a topic.
Families study the subject in what ever way makes sense to them through out the month. They might read picture books, watch documentaries, do projects, write etc. The session leader will let families know if there is something in particular they should study, watch or prepare for before the meeting.
Past investigations have included prehistoric times, bridges, stars, navigation, brains, the periodic table, colonial American culture, molecules, the planets, and more. I would love to talk more about these (as well as your) awesome themes in the FB group.
We have also been a part of many auxiliary groups over the years. These have allowed us to meet new friends and study particular subjects with a focus. They include: scouts, church groups, Roots and Shoots, writing groups, book clubs, and mighty girls camp. We also have organized one time events to gather our people like pop up picnics, art nights, and cooking classes.
Think about your tribe.
Is it where you want it to be?
Do you need to create something new?
What works well with your group?