Sunday, August 11, 2013

Trying a Co-Op

Have you ever pondered a cooperative learning structure for your homeschooler?  I'm part of a fantastic group that is focused on the education of our children.  As a group of moms with mostly preschool and kindergarteners we feel like we're trying to figure things out.  If you've been around Little Adventures Preschool long you'll already know that I ran a very successful playgroup for nearly 3 years.  I started the group with a few moms that I hardly knew when CJ was a year old.  I was once asked by one of the members what it was, in my opinion, that made the group so successful.  My honest answer is hard work and constant motion.  We utilized where everyone could see the calendar and RSVP to events.  I made sure that there was an event EVERY day at different times of the day and on weekends.  I had a full calendar that I sometimes despised because I just needed to stay home and do laundry, but we were having an excellent time playing and making new friends.  We tried a number of times with this group to put together a co-op preschool.  Tried, and failed.  One of the benefits of this group was that it was an open group to anyone who wanted to play.  We all had different goals and desires for our children and we enjoyed playing together.  For the co-op however this proved to be a problem.  It was something everyone wanted to take part in, but not do any work to make it successful.  As time went by the playgroup split and with my closest friends we started a new group.

The new group (called LEARN = Life Explored And Responsibility Nurtured) has some high expectations.  It's a small group with a common goal of being intentional parents with education for our children a top priority.  It is a group where each member is expected to put into the group as much as they get out of it.  It is a group of families that I trust with all of my being.  I know they will follow through with tasks and assignments.  They hold the same values that I do and will work to achieve common goals.  We thought that this type of group will run a successful cooperative style learning experience.  We were wrong.

We met one Monday to talk about what a co-op would look like.  Perhaps our experience will help you ponder yours.  We set a plan where we'd meet once a week at a set time.  Each mom would be in charge of a short lesson plan based on her interests in life.  Some wanted to do art, others math, myself: reading.  We had great goals.  One even went home and prepared six months worth of curriculum.

The exciting "trial-run" day arrived.  Families joined together to experience well thought out lessons from each mom.  It was an exciting day.  However, it was rather disappointing.  It was harder than we imagined to address everyone on their level (2 year olds to advanced kindergarteners).  We debriefed the experience and determined that in order to spend our time and effort doing this we need to feel that our children are getting out of it what we'd like them too.  Unfortunately, the co-op fell apart before we even started "for real".  I was hoping and planning on this co-op working.  However, it didn't.  I learned that co-op style learning isn't necessarily interesting to me.  Perhaps in the future I'll try again.  Maybe someone discovered how to make the co-op wheel spin more efficiently.  Or, maybe they just have much different personalities than we do.  For our group, we can remember a lovely day of a fruit based TouchMath lesson, a memory game, Cubism art and a transportation lesson.  It was fun, but it simply didn't work.

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