Thursday, September 27, 2012

cooperative learning - joining a homeschool co-op

what I saw of Eliza all day
 We started a new journey this week: fall semester with a homeschooling co-op that has been operating here for the past 5 years.  It is an eclectic bunch; some online homeschoolers who use the virtual academy, some unschoolers, and some of us in-betweeners.  We have gone this route before. I wrote about it here and here and you can click on "coop" in the labels at the bottom of this page to read about some of our adventures, like re-introducing American Burying Beetles on the Wayne National Forest (it was soooooooooooo coooooooooooool!), and you can click here, here and here to read about the class I taught on poop, but I digress. Sort of. (Oh, go ahead and click it! The class was so much fun! And Eliza was so little!!!)

I have noticed a pattern for myself since we started homeschooling: Join a group. Get Very Involved. Burn out. Quit. Recoup for a year or two.  Repeat.  We were a part of a rich homeschooling coop in Virginia, when the girls were very small, and it set the bar high for us in terms of being truly cooperative and, well, happy.  The coop we joined when we first moved here was very lively and introduced us to the homeschooling community just as I had hoped it would, but it was exhausting and I over-extended myself trying to help craft it into something more right for us, and burned out.  Quitting felt great and we expanded into the "free time"  that was left after the planning and the long day and the day-after recovery was no longer a part of our life.  Then came Farm School, and with it some deep joys and  also over-extending and frustrations.  See the pattern?

This is "the other coop" in town, the one we haven't tried yet.  I have felt reluctant to try it out, because I really feel like our richest times are when we have time and nowhere to be, or at least, no obligation to be anywhere, but Eliza and I have had some conversations this summer that lead me to feel out this option for us.  She is a sparkling fiery child, a girl who wants to know the world, who wants experiences and new people and new ideas and challenges, and after talking it over with her, we decided that this might be one place where we could explore finding some of those things for her.  Ani and I were not so sure we would be happy, but we were willing to give it a try. 

Tapestry class for Ani
It helps that there are people in this group who we really like to spend time with and don't see much of otherwise.  Our first day was this week, and though I had some serious reservations about how it would go (based on a slew of really tedious and grouchy emails that seemed to address old history), we all came out of it feeling like it had been a good day.

My favorite moments came while acting as a liaison for a couple of Ani's classes, including a math class where we measured everything, including the baby.  One of the things I love about this kind of community learning is that we are all just in it, babies and all.  I got to hold this little one (16 pounds of him) for a good bit of the class.

I think the girls will find ways to grow with this group.  Eliza is taking Spanish with a woman from Argentina, and is reading The Hobbit for a book club.  Ani is taking a form-drawing class with an experience Waldorf-trained teacher, which is unlike anything she has ever done before.  It was astounding, walking into a classroom of 13 children under 7 and it being so quiet you could hear the crayons gliding smoothly across the paper. And these children are nice kids, but they're not particularly concerned with being overly proper and polite, so I'm guessing they were spellbound...

I am still feeling reserved about this experience - I'm not jumping in to teach a class, though the ideas are starting to stir - but I have to say, so far, so good...

1 comment:

alissa said...

It looks so awesome, especially the baby. Chunker.