None of us has ever participated in a co-op before* -- classes geared at homeschoolers, playgroups, park days, etc, but not a co-op. What I was thinking was having a once weekly class geared mostly toward the school-age kids (say, Spanish, or doing a play, or science fun, or cooking) that ran 6 or so weeks, and then we moved on to the next class/topic...low-key but still organized and intentional.
What are some other ways to do a co-op for the younger grades? Common pitfalls? I'd like this to be successful if we're going to invest our time and energy into planning it!
*ETA that's not exactly true, when my Dds were an infant and a toddler a couple of other families and I were trying to get together a cohesive active group, and we did some classes. It was a rural area with families travelling long distances, so it was slow going. I did teach one class to multiple ages, and it was really fun for us all. My girls were way too little to participate in the Latin class that followed, but had a great time hanging out with the other tiny ones. So I guess I did have some involvement with something co-op-like.
"When I'm sad, I stop being sad and be AWESOME instead."
I'd start with what your goals are (social? academic? enrichment? shared experiences? connections with other families?) and go from there as those goals can influence so much about the way you might want to structure the co-op.
My favourite co-op by far is enrichment based with the primary goal of giving kids opportunities to share interesting experiences with a consistent group of kids We plan out a year's worth of activities on themes and use those as our anchors. We get together weekly, there are no academic expectations, our activities are hands on and varied, and allow for interaction and social time with some guided structure. We also didn't want it to be stressful for parents, be appealing to a wide age group and be relatively cheap.
So for example our programs have rotated through a series of 4 activities - things like: monthly nature walks with a friend who is a naturalist, monthly science program offered by a local university, monthly history program offered through our museum, artists days and/or programs at the local art gallery, handwork circles, monthly visits to a seniors home, explorations of world cultures/celebrations, programs at our nature centre, regular volunteering, field trips etc. (we try to balance activities between free and those with fees so that it costs $10 - $15 maximum per child for the month)
We've been running for 3 years and love it.
We've also done more traditional co-ops where the parents teach a group of kids and I personally found them exhausting and my kids didn't enjoy them as much. There were tonnes of expectations wrapped up in those that made things somewhat tricky at times.
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My favourite co-op by far is enrichment based with the primary goal of giving kids opportunities to share interesting experiences with a consistent group of kids n
I was thinking the kind where we each take a turn teaching, but I think the option of finding someone else to facilitate might be a really good thing to look into.
"When I'm sad, I stop being sad and be AWESOME instead."
This year we were fortunate enough to secure a meeting place (we had been meeting in our homes) and were able to let our co-op grow. We now have a preschool group and a grade school group with the preschoolers doing preschool topics
I'd love to hear more about the preschool group, mom2Avi, if you want to share. A friend and I are looking to start something with a few other moms. We are both interested in Montessori type activities, but also other ideas as well.
Some of the themes we have had this year have been:
Stone Soup - we read the book, made stone soup with everyone bringing something to add to the pot, and did a coloring, cutting, and pasting activity with a stone soup coloring page and then finished by enjoying our soup.
Noodles - we cooked noodles, did artwork and necklaces with noodles and then had noodles for lunch.
Trains - they read a few books about trains, sang some train songs and made train cars out of boxes and then put them all together and pretended to ride a train.
Apples - they did and apple taste test and charted how many kids preferred which type of apple, painted with apple slices, colored in an apple tree picture and read a book on Johnny Apple Seed.
These are just a few of the fun things they have done. The activities have included lapbooks, songs, fingerplays, cooking, reading, singing, all sorts of crafts, etc. Oh, and each of the kids brings a backpack with typical school supplies (glue, gluestick, crayons, markers, etc.) and if the host plans something that involves more than that then they are to supply it.
I personally enjoy classes (we're in a co-op) that go for several months in a row. I've seen classes about the states, or reading, science (animals) or the Little House. I'm currently teaching a craft co-op for kids ages 5 to 7 or so and it is really fun.
I'd first start with talking to the other parents to see what your main goal is. Then I'd do some research about class types you could possibly do, and go from there.
One other mom and I are going to try to get together to talk this week, however we'll have 3 kids with us, so who knows how much will get done!
We will definitely talk goals. I actually hadn't thought of that before. My goal is to provide enriching opportunities for the kids in a loving, gentle environment
I have talked with several mom's with preschool age children that are looking to homeschool in the future and I am going to try and get a playgroup/co-op started. It has to be appropriate for a range of ages up to 2nd or 3rd grade and as young as 1ish.
I'd love to hear what other ideas you have come up with!
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