Archive for January, 2012
Have you ever wondered why some co-ops seem to work better than others? Have you ever thought you’d like to be part of a co-op but didn’t know how to get started? I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the subject of co-ops.
Co-ops come in all shapes and sizes. Some are quite large while some are just a family or two getting together to do some activities. Some of them offer academic type classes while others are all about the extra-curricula activities. Some incorporate both.
I’ve been involved in a small co-op for the past 6 years. Before that, I had dabbled in participating in another co-op that was just getting started. The rest of my 20 years of home schooling have been co-op free. I never considered co-ops an essential part of our home schooling. I knew that if one was convenient, and fit into our schedule and our lifestyle, I’d probably give it a try but I didn’t seek out a co-op. Thankfully, a good co-op found me.
The co-op I’m part of now is a Charlotte Mason co-op. We offer classes in Music (appreciation, shaped notes, folk songs, patriotic songs and hymns), Art (appreciation, drawing, painting), Shakespeare (reading, discussion, performance), Latin/Spanish, Nature Studies/Science. Our schedule gets tweaked, expanded, compressed and adjusted every year as we continue to strive to give our kids the best education possible. We have approximately 30 kids representing about 20 families.
That briefly describes our co-op. There are successful co-ops that involve 100s of children. Some cost lots of money. Some involve paid teachers. As you can see, there are all kinds. They all fill a need. Which ever one fits your family’s style is perfect for you. But there are a few things that I think can help a co-op succeed. Here’s my thoughts:
A successful co-op will:
- Have a focus. Our co-op has a specific educational philosophy. Another one might be focused on sports or unit studies. Perhaps religious affiliation or age of children is the focus or field trips. The focus might even be one person — the person that started the co-op, makes all the plans and organizes all the events. Whatever the focus, it needs to be understood. A well-defined focus will keep the co-op tight and running smoothly.
- Respect the Families’ time. Everyone is busy. The co-op should keep in mind that they are a small part of each family’s home schooling. Keep co-op events limited to co-op day. Excessive planning/preparation days that take mom out of the home or field trips that are time-consuming can cause burnout and dissatisfaction.
- Involve everyone in the planning and preparations. Everyone in the co-op should feel like they belong and are a part of it. Including everyone in the planning stages and the preparations will help build cohesiveness among the members. Even if the co-op has been started and run by one individual, including the members in as much of the planning as possible will make it a stronger group.
- Keep the costs down. Most home school families are on a tight budgets. Keeping the costs down will be appreciated by everyone. Finding a low-cost or free location for the co-op is a huge help here. Asking families to pay for copying is fine but be sure to only copy what needs to be done. Our co-op has some supplies lists sent out at the beginning of the year. These can be expensive if you have several children. Be aware of what you’re asking families to spend.
- Keep homework to a minimum. Unless the co-op is academically focused and a major part of the students’ regular school work, home work should be little or none. Again, this goes back to respecting the families’ time. Sending home extra work for Mom to supervise may be more of a problem than a help. Personally, I prefer no home work.
I’m sure there are others that could be added to this list. I’d love to hear your suggestions and experiences with your co-op. Before I finish here, I’d like to make one more list. An excellently organized co-op with a strong focus won’t succeed if individual members don’t follow some basic guidelines. These are the same guidelines that need to be followed no matter what group you might be involved with and they are just good manners.
A successful co-op member will:
- Be flexible. Things happen unexpectedly. A teacher might have a sick child at home or a class might run over time because the children are so engaged in their learning. Be willing to go with the flow and everyone will be much happier.
- Seek opportunities to help. Anytime a group of people gets together, there are always things that need to be done. The trash needs to be taken out, floors need sweeping, snacks need to be brought, moms of nursing babies might need an extra set of arms for a little bit. Always be on the lookout for ways you can make the day run smoothly.
- Control her children. Sometimes, our precious darlings and their antics are not appreciated by others. We need to be aware of our children’s behavior towards the adults and the other children at co-op. Insist that they treat everyone with respect and do as they are told.
- Be on time. Gathering the family and all the stuff you have to carry to co-op is hard. Remember that every family is doing the same thing. Being habitually late shows disrespect for others and teaches your children that co-op is not important.
- Use her talents. If you know something, be willing to teach it. We are blessed in our group to have a mom that majored in art in college teach our kids art. We have a grandma that shares her love for Shakespeare in such a way that the kids love it as well. The mom that teaches outdoor games to our youngest class has a degree in physical education. You don’t have to have a degree to teach something but if you have a love for something, offer to share it with others.
I wish everyone could see our co-op at work. We have a such a wonderful group of moms and their beautiful children. I get to teach the music classes. It is so much fun. The kids seem to really enjoy our time together. If you’re interested in a co-op, I hope you find one you enjoy as much as I enjoy ours.