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Friday, March 14, 2014

To Co-op or Not to Co-op...

I had made the decision to homeschool long before I ever even had children.  My experience working with special needs children quickly made me realize that I would be the best and most attentive teacher my children could ever have.  After sitting through many IEP meetings where poor parents were begging the schools to give the services that where needed and watching mothers tormented by not having control over what their children where learning, I knew that for me, there really wasn't a choice.  Let me just note here that I have deep respect for teachers and this was nothing against anything I saw in them.  It had more to do with the politics of school government.

When our oldest reached kindergarten age, we were living in PA.  There were so many guidelines that we needed to maintain.  I was nervous at first, wanting to make sure I didn't miss anything important.  I spent months researching curriculum and options for our family.  Finally we settled on a Virtual Charter called Connections Academy.  The experience was very good for the one we used.  Although there were others out there that I know where not as good and were giving Virtual Charters a bad name.

We did this for K-1st grade.  When we moved, Perry was getting ready to go into 2nd grade and Buzz was just starting Kindergarten.  The state we moved to gave much more leeway to homeschooling parents and so for the first time I felt comfortable going out on my own.  I spent the summer piecing together curriculum that I thought would work well for us.  For some subjects, I just wrote my own because I couldn't find anything that I really liked.  I was happy with the way that year went, but still ended up switching about 80% of our curriculum to things that I liked better.  I am always looking for better curriculum, and better options for my kids.  I love homeschooling them, but if something better is out there, I want to know about it.

While with Connections Academy there was a community feel, much like a co-op offers.  The kids of the same grade level have a teacher that calls once a week to check in on them.  They interact on field trips and via email, and sometimes online via a Morning Meeting which is a video chat set up by the teacher.  It was a nice experience for Perry.  When we moved, I wanted to try to get used to homeschooling "the real way"; on my own without the input of others.  I loved having the freedom to make all the education decisions for my children and the ability to change it if something just wasn't working.  For that reason I decided not to join a Co-op.  Each year I have reconsidered this, but always come back to us sticking to a single family homeschool.

This year Perry is in 5th grade.  He does well in most of his subjects, and really loves science.  He needs to be pushed a bit more in writing (as I imagine most boys his age do) and he really struggles in math.  I have tried several different programs, flash cards, timed tests, and even a paid online program to improve fluency of math facts.  While he has improved, he still is behind.  I knew he needed something that would push him a bit more than I do.  While I work with him constantly, I have found that for some things my son just responds better to someone different pushing him.  We saw the same thing with swimming.  He would not let me teach him to swim.  I signed him up for lessons and with in a few months he was a wonderful swimmer.  Sometimes it just takes some outside help.

Because of this, and the fact that he will be entering 6th grade next year, I want for him to start to get a feel for a traditional classroom, but without the full time commitment of it.  Co-ops are a great way to get this.  I have been looking at several in our area, but to my dismay, none of them work on math!  :(  So what is a mother to do?  Should I higher a tutor?  Should I just push him harder over the summer?  These questions kept rolling around in my head as I tried to decided what would be best for each of my children for next year.

A dear friend suggested I look into some of the umbrella type schools in the area.  These are one day schools designed for the homeschooling family.  The student attends classes of his/her choice one day a week.  The rest of the week is spent at home working on other subjects or reviewing the work done in these classes.  I was intrigued by this idea.  It is much like a co-op runs, only on a more formal scale (plus they offer math).  So right now that is the way I am leaning.

We are going to be going to look at some shortly.  I still have to decide what to do with my other two boys for next year whom will be in 1st and 4th grades.  Do I want to sign just them up for the Co-op?  They don't need the socialization.  They have enough outside activities that provide that.  Maybe I should I sign them up for just some art and music classes somewhere? What do you think?  Is it better to go it alone or to be in a community? What has your homeschooling experience been like?

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  1. Hi Meredith - Thanks so much for linking up with the Let's Get Real Party this week.

  2. Wow, what an amazing accomplishment - homeschooling. My oldest is intellectually disabled but we worked hand and hand with the school and teachers and he graduated with a High School Diploma in 2011. Our youngest will graduate on May 22nd - we have been blessed. Good luck with your decision, but I am sure that whatever you decide will be the right choice.

    1. Homeschooling isn't the easiest thing I have ever done, but it is certainly one of the most meaningful! I do enjoy it and the time it gives me with my children. I am so glad that you were able to get what you needed for your oldest. I have seen so many families completely failed by the system. It can be really heart breaking. It is always encouraging to hear that it worked the way it should! Congratulations on that upcoming graduation as well! Busy year for you!

  3. We started a homeschool co-op for our church this year. I provide filing services for those who are interested, but most of the people just participate in the co-op for the added fun. We all do our own thing at home for curriculum. We offer Bible class, PE and a class time that varies with each semester. We did science classes last semester and are doing a study of the 50 states this semester. We also do field trips and book reports/oral presentations. It's been very fun and successful. My son looks forward to it every week. Thanks for linking up with let's Get Real! It was great to "meet" you :)

    1. Thank you for sharing that with me, Nicole. I am always encouraged by these types of testimonies. Most of the Co-ops around here are lacking in the electives, but supply the core classes minus the one I actually need...math. It will be interesting to see what happens next year. Thanks for visiting. ;)


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