Wednesday, November 5, 2014

homeschool coop

People will ask me how we homeschool and I always have to stop and think about what I want to say before answering.  The only constant about the How is that it is always changing. I don't mean in a chaotic crazy sort of way (usually), but the tweaking, adjusting, evaluating - that happens on a regular basis.  For instance, we've belonged to three homeschool learning cooperatives (you can read about some of our experiences here) in our past. Some seasons it is what is floating us, providing an anchor to our weeks and a support system for the bigger picture.  Other seasons we find we do better going it alone, having more time to fill with our own family's flow...I also, to be honest, tend to over-commit, which eventually leads to a bit of burn-out and a need for a break.  I'm getting better at not saying yes to everything, but it seems to be in my nature.

Right now we are attending a coop once a week and it is going all right.  Actually, I really enjoy the days; it's the meetings that I have a hard time with. The kids are great!! This quarter I've started out the day with Anatomy, which Ani is in, while Eliza has Archery.

Jen taught the class and I helped come up with ideas  - mostly it was about bones! And tendons and muscles and joints...Highlights were the bone and muscle hokey-pokey and Simon Says, and Ani definitely learned the major bones.

Second hour, I helped with a micribiology class that used Microbe Hunters as its textbook.  It was taught by a grandparent who also happens to be a retired microbiology professor from Iowa State University! As it was a lecture class, I have no photos to share. Just lots of good stories about obsessed, curious people whose imaginations led them to consider for a second an invisible world and once the idea was planted, they couldn't let it go until they had proof. Hallelujah, curiosity.

Third hour I taught a Biographies class for the 6-9 crowd, of whom we have many.  I loved it. In the photos above, Ani is my guinea pig for an activity about chimpanzees and tools. Can you guess who we were studying that day?  Yes, Jane Goodall.  I imagine she was the hero for every young girl growing up in the 1970's, and I found a few charming books to share with the class, my favorite being The Watcher.  

The list of historical figures we studied was fairly diverse - Georgia O'Keefe, Jane Goodall, James Audubon, Roger Tory Peterson, Walt Whitman, Pablo Neruda, Julia Morgan, Ester Morris, Maria Merian - but my favorites were the ones that illuminated a passion for observing the natural world. The Boy Who Drew Birds was so engaging that we spent most of our time on the book and discussion.  Our drawings had to spill over into the next week's class, they were enjoying the work so much.

Audubon used the feathery terminal bud at the end of the pawpaw branch as a paint brush for the smaller details in his paintings, so some of the kids had a go at that.

What is most interesting to me is what the kids bring to class.  One boy is obsessed with trains, and is quite adept at working trains into every conversation (for example, while reading about Walt Whitman, he raised his hand to comment on how interesting the book was, and did I possibly know whether or not Mr. Whitman ever rode on a train, and if so, if it possibly was a steam train?).  Another asked me early on if we might read about Walt Whitman.  The next week he asked if he could do a presentation on Walt Whitman as a part of class. Um, heck yeah!! So Mr. Whitman, pictured below, joined us for a class, sharing information about his life, and reading aloud one of his poems. 

Interestingly, Eliza has cooled on the weekly coop, and Ani seems to be more engaged and fired-up by her classes (anatomy, astronomy and baking).  It has everything to do with the dynamic of the group and the teachers for the particular quarter.  It is not perfect for us, but I feel like the pros outweigh the cons for now and it gets us out of our bubble for a day. 

(Ok, so the truth is that this is a super bland post because I have several beefs about the way this coop operates and the personalities involved, but I am putting my best foot forward - well, almost! - and not entertaining my whine tonight. You just get the picture, not the dirt this time.  Look at the pretty birdies! Look! Over there!)

This post is a part of my attempt to write a post every day in November. So far so good.

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