Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Question-to Co-Op or Not to Co-op

I know I've been a little quiet lately.  It seems that my creative writing side has taken a backseat to my mind's in overdrive planning side.  So, I thought I'd fill you in on the plans.  Maybe you have ideas, suggestions, insight, a good suggestion for drinks....any of the above will do :).

It all stemmed from the conversation with one of the other coordinators for our co-op.  She is leaving our Friday group to join a full fledged licensed Classical Conversations group.  She mentioned that there *might* be a chance I could be a tutor in their group, which would make it affordable for my family to join.  For a full 24 hours I was seriously contemplating (maybe even excited about) the idea of joining a full group, getting all the benefits of CC, all the fun, all socialization, you know all the hopes and dreams that a co-op or CC group offers.

So, I went home and excitedly told DH about the possibility, and was he interested?  Cause, if I did decide to join up I knew I had to be prepared to pay the full $$ if they didn't need me as a tutor.  And, then he started in with the questions.

To be totally honest, I don't remember exactly what HIS questions where.  But, as he talked and asked, I managed to form a whole new opinion on CC, our Friday co-op, and started SERIOUSLY re-evaluating what our 'school year' would look like next year.

These are the main questions:

1.  Why join an academic co-op or tutor group when the whole reason you chose to home educate was to be the one teaching the kids?

2. Why spend extra time, energy, planning, travel, etc just to go somewhere else and teach your kids alongside other children?

3. Why are you in a co-op?

4. What do you want from a co-op?

5. Are you getting that from the co-op you are in?

6. Is either group what you are looking for to fill those wants?

These questions TOTALLY STRESSED ME OUT.  To the point that I actually had to spend a little time on my knees at the altar during one recent church service.  It seems so small, but so huge all at the same time.  I mean, this is my children's education I was considering.  These groups are places they see their friends.  These groups are places I see MY friends.

But, in the end, these are the answers I feel the Lord gave me:

1.  Why join an academic co-op or tutor group when the whole reason you chose to home educate was to be the one teaching the kids?

This was a major eye opener for me.  I have no problem letting other people (even public schools) teach my children.  I'm not afraid of what they will teach, I just WANT to be the one doing it.  I believe God gave me the right skill set to teach my children, and because of that I can do the BEST job.  So, when DH asked me this question I had NO answer. ZERO.   He was like-if you want to spend 1000 a year sending the kids to a tutor, I know a school I can send them to for free.  Point was well taken!!

2.  Why spend extra time, energy, planning, travel, etc just to go somewhere else and teach your kids alongside other children?

IF I thought they were going to learn better in a group setting it would be different, or IF the lesson was pretty much EXACTLY what we were going to learn at home, I wouldn't have a problem putting in the time.  But, the problem is, it was neither.  We don't use the Classical style at home, nor do we use the CC material at home.  So, with either group I would be preparing for a day of lessons and then going and giving a day of lessons-taking quite a bit of time away from what I would really like to be doing!

3.  Why are you in a co-op?

At this point, I really didn't know anymore!!  It took me awhile to realize I was in a co-op for FUN and for ACTIVITIES, and for doing things we COULDN'T do at home.

4.  What do you want from a co-op?

I want ways to expand the learning we are doing at home, or to do things we couldn't possibly do at home, or-honestly-I just wanted an opportunity to socialize with other home schooling families.  Maybe not even LEARN with them??  You know, kinda the way that public school children just get together and play without having to be 'doing school?'  Hmm yeah.

5.  Are you getting that from the co-op you are in?

We have been getting a lot of socialization.  We have had some awesome opportunities for the kids to learn fine arts (art lessons, tin whistle lessons, the chance to see a bunch of instruments), and the timeline has been awesome!  So, it has NOT been a bust.  Believe me, I am thankful for all the amazing benefits our group has provided my family this year!!

6. Is either group what you are looking for to fill those wants? 

Kinda, but not exactly.  After MUCH prayer and thought, and more prayer, and more thoughts....I have come to the conclusion that weekly academic co-ops are not for us next year.  Maybe in the future, but not right now.

Why??  Well, because we are in our weekly co-op, we don't sign up for anything else.  We have Monday night small group, Wednesday night AWANA, Friday co-op, and Saturday church.  As you can see, we don't have any flex time in our weeks.

Our huge overhead co-op has MANY other activities we could be part of, but I don't have another day to give.  The local Salvation Army offers swim lessons (with special sessions just for homeschoolers) and FREE beginner's music lessons!  But, we don't have any extra days!  We went on one-yes, you heard that right-ONE field trip this year, because again-I didn't have any more days.

Do I think that giving up one commitment a week is going to transform our lives?  I don't know yet.  I am seriously considering dropping AWANA, but that is just really hard for me to consider now-so maybe we'll try that one more year.

The swim sessions and music sessions are 8 week commitments.  I like a short commitment for things that don't take any prep work on my part, so we will be looking into those.  And, maybe a few art classes at the Art Center.  And, some field trips...Short commitments, little prep work, socialization, and hopefully a big payoff in the form of a less overwhelmed momma.

So that's the nutshell:  Not to co-op.

I'd love to hear YOUR plans for this next year!!

God Bless,


The girl who painted trees said...

Well written. I spent a whole day yesterday with CC friends and almost changed my decision not to go next year! Reading your post confirms my original decision though, especially the point about why pay $1000 for a tutor when there's a free school down the road:) We are excited not to have anywhere to go early in the morning on Tuesdays this coming year. We do have one geography coop that we joined partway through this year that we will continue, but it meets only once a month so it is much less demanding.

Michele Chronister said...

Thanks for writing this! It's really helpful! We're just beginning our preschool homeschool journey, so I"ll be keeping your co-op thoughts in mind!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you have been doing a lot of praying and planning! Sounds like not doing it will be a good fit for you next year. We will continue to do ours next year. Ours is called creative kids coop.. they focus on things I don't always make a priority for at home. Music, Art, cooking, knex, etc. We also only have that on Fridays and community group (bible study) on Sundays. So we don't have too many commitments right now!

Mrs. Taffy said...

Good job Lisa! Love that you considered your husband's questions and concerns, love that you sought God and love your conclusion! From a longtime mom and home schooler, I'm proud of you!

Alicia said...

Great post! Such a hard decision - we will be doing CC and a hybrid school next year. For our family because we will have a middle schooler, 5th grader and 3rd grader plus, we will be adding a 15 year old we are adopting this summer from Latvia, I need help next year with teaching.

We make these decisions year by year. In our area alone there are at least 15 different hybrid school programs and it can be so hard deciding what is best for our family. It is definitely something I have to commit to prayer!

Discovering Montessori said...

Nice post! I ditto the comment from Mrs. Taffy.

I would also add that the Co-op's in our area hasn't yet offered classes aligned with our educational philosophy. Therefore I am in the process of forming a couple of classes a week that will allow more socialization for Ken and DJ that will still allow me time to be free as well as meet the needs of other like minded homeschoolers in our community. Basically what I was looking for was a playful learning class.

This way it meets Ken and DJ's needs and possibly others, which allows me to earn some money for those expensive Montessori materials.

Thank you for sharing.