Saturday, August 10, 2013

What Are We Doing This Year? Co-op

So, a question you may or may not be wondering is what are we doing this year for school.  The answer is lots and lots of exciting stuff.  Of course.  :)

Something totally new to us though is an academic co-op two days a week, 4 hours a block.  We have been enjoying a circle of homeschooling friends as a park day group for several years now.  Gosh, Eden was in a baby carrier when we first started with this group.  We have been incredibly blessed with a core group of families that have stuck with us pretty much the entire time now, meeting weekly for play at the park, adding in things here and there, a PE day with with EMH Sports, play dates, moms' night out, etc.  These families have been our support network. 

This year we branched into new, exciting and scary territory by attempting to take our play friends and learn with them.  Ah, I should have mentioned that most of these families have at least one child we term "quirky," meaning typically that kid is outside the normal range in behavior for that age group.  An example of course is that Zach is bipolar and ADHD.  We have in our group anxiety, ADHD, shyness, dyslexia, other unnamed quirks or whatever.  These kids often have a hard time in the social setting, a big reason we homeschool in the first place.  These same quirks often make it hard for many of the kids (NOT all though) to fit into a traditional group learning environment.  We decided to attempt our own group learning to help our kids get more used to learning in a group, teach things we love teaching while having others teach things we don't and generally continue to all guide our kids in acquiring necessary social skills for life.  Our co-op was born. 

We are now a little more than a month into this, and what we have doesn't look exactly like what we first thought.  This isn't a surprise, right?  None of us had previous co-op experience AT ALL.  We have learned a lot, and continue to tweak it.  But here is our framework: 
  • Two days a week 11-3ish.  [Note:  That first week we tried 6 hours!  Yep, that bombed right away.  Those of you with co-op experience are probably laughing here.]
  • Four moms teach, each one subject.  We cover geography, science, history and art.  
  • Each subject is taught once a week, so each co-op day 4-hour block is broken into two subjects.
  • We added a "circle time" or checkin time and an explicit teaching of a social skills topic each co-op.  This is probably pretty unique for our group due to our kids!  It was needed for sure.  It has ranged from how to raise to hand to speak, not interrupting in class, body language listening to others, what impulse control means, etc.  
  • Our kids are ages 3 to 11 basically.  After the first week (that first week was a shocker), we got our groups into 2 basic groups of the youngers who hang out and learn to play together (two 3yo and one 5yo) and the olders.  We have in addition one 5yo who is a girl (Lily) and more neurotypical in general than some of the older boys, meaning she has no real diagnoses and is pretty quiet in general, loving school.  Hence, she floats between the olders when the topic is of interest to her and the youngers when she feels tired or the discussion is beyond her.  She is really in the middle right now of the groups. 
The moms had another meeting today where we adjusted things more, refining.  Our biggest challenge has always been and continues to be the behavior of a group of boys with varying skill levels in social and academic settings.  The actual "school" part of it is the easy part!  

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