Saturday, March 7, 2015

organizing a homeschool co-op part two

The first post about organizing a co-op had a ton of information in it.

This post will be a little less detailed but include a few things I have learned the past few years.

1. A central group of board members is really important. The larger the co-op the more important it is to have a small group of people who handle the schedule, new members, any financail matters. It also gives the other memebers someone to go to with questions.

2. End of year surveys are a good idea. Allowing the families to put into writing the good and bad things from the previous year gives the board a chance to see where changes might need to be made.

3. you need a written set plan for problems-families that don't show up, behavior issues, etc. this way everyone knows how problems will be handled and are not surprised.

4. The more prep work you do before each school year starts-the easier the year will be. Of course things will change throughout the year. One year a few families left early in the year once they realized the co-op was not a good fit for their schedules. This left gaps in our teaching schedule for the year. So early planning didn't prevent every issue-but having an overview of the year does help.

5. Be flexible. One of the other members pointed out to me that this group was more than just a homeschool enrichment group-it was a community. Sometimes one family may need a little more slack in certain areas while another familiy may be in a position to take on a little more. Needs change. Be ready to identify situations and reach out as much as you can.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Organizing a homeschool co-op (part one)

For the past few years our family has been part of a homeschool co-op. After many years of homeschooling I feel so blessed to have found this group of great families that work together to create this weekly adventure for our kids.

I want to encourage any of you out there reading this to just jump in and give this type of homeschool enrichment a try.

What is a co-op?

Co-op is short for co-operative. Every person in the group cooperates (works together) to make the group work. Everyone has a voice including the kids.

Activities are meant to be inclusive. Kids can participate at their own level.
Parents work together to solve problems, decide on community standards of behavior, participation, and what it will cost-if there needs to be any type of fee.

co-ops are not drop off tutorials or classes. Over time they tend to become communities where the families can come and find not only enrichment for their children but support from other parents who are homeschooling.

What do you need to begin a co-op?

first you need families :)  start small
Maybe you know a few families who are looking for a group or activity. join up with some friends.
Our co-op began a few years before we started. They were a group of five families who started by meeting at each others homes for planned activities.

As the group grew they found a place where they could meet each week. One of the needs they had was the ability to have a few spaces where they could divide the group into age ranges.

right now we have:
a nursery space for preschoolers and nursing moms
a space for children age 4-6
a space for the 7-11
a space for 12 and up

still pretty broad age ranges-but at this point the group is large and while we wanted to maintain an age mix in each group we found that to broad of an age range with varying abilities was difficult to manage.

Your group may need one large space or a space with a few rooms-one for older kids one for younger kids.

Is the space going to expect a fee? If so how do you divide this up among famlies?
Our space ends up costing each family $20 a month. One person is responsible for collecting the money and turning it in to the office of the building where we meet.

So now you have families and a space (or maybe you are going to meet at each others homes for a while)


What do you teach?

there are a few models for arranging classes in a co-op.

Since ours is divided by age we have lesson blocks that cover one topic over a six week timeframe.
Some co-ops offer different classes throughout the day similar to a day at school where the children change classes.

I am going to give details on the block schedule since this is what our current co-op uses.

At the beginning of the year we planned our start date, winter break, spring break, and end date.

We held a parent meeting about a month before co-op began and planned the topic for our blocks. This was our first year using this method. The whole group covers the same topic each week for 6 weeks. One week is a field trip based on that topic. Since the whole groupcovers the same topic planning field trips is much easier.

Block one was a nature study and we took a group field trip to a local nature station.
Block two was a science block and on our last day before winter break we held a science fair.
Our current block is a Native American block and we will be taking a field trip to the state museum.
Our next block will be an engineering block.

Preplanning the topics for the blocks allow time to organize field trips and for parents to plan which topics they would like to lead. We also had time to search out resources.

Who teaches?

Our co-op is a parent led group. Parents volunteer to teach the blocks.
We do have a five member board. There is a board member assigned to each age group and a board member who handles things like sending information to new and potential members and keeping the waiting list.

The board member over each age group helps make sure the parent who is leading each age group in each block is able to prepare and has materials available to carry out the topic.

This year we were able to get outside resources from places like the state museum and library.Often these need reserved ahead of time and the board members make sure these reservations are made.

Board members are just there for support-it is up to each parent to jump in and help lead activities.

When a new family comes to the co-op we give the man info packet that includes the requirements for leading blocks. Every family must participate fully for the co-op to work.




Friday, January 30, 2015

Decluttering

I found a great book on decluttering and tidying:



http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+magical+art+of+tidying+up&sprefix=the+magical%2Caps%2C437

(not an affiliate link) just sharing

I have spent quite a bit of time using this book to take control over the stuff in my house.
Some of the advice was a repeat of things I had read before-but her perspective is great.

You start by envisioning what it is you want your life and space to look like.

My vision is to have a space where I can create art, meditate, find the kitchen tools I need with ease and have an organized place for the kids to do their school work. All in about 1200 feet of space.

I already know I cannot make myself do many of those things if I have piles of stuff everywhere.
I have tried decluttering by room-this book declutters by type of item-starting with clothing. I started with books though-because that is my issue. I only buy clothes when I absolutely have to and I have always been careful about the clothes I buy.

Books on the other hand....

anyway~~

Like many people who advise on decluttering you should only keep what you love-but she also addresses things we keep because they were given to us by people we love. Guess what! I DON"T have to keep all of those business clothes my mom gave me :)

I am still working my way through this book-but I can already walk through my house and feel SPACE!! My bookshelves look so much nicer and all of the discarded books are making their way to new loving homes.

I'm working on the kitchen right now-which is quite a challenge because I do not have a lot of cabinet or counter space. Still trying to figure out how to manage this issue.

Friday, July 4, 2014

the garden-July 4th

The garden is crazy-who knew all of those plants would actually grow food!!
This morning was amazing-crisp cool weather. In the South. In July!!

I dug through the massive jungle of plants--see the previous post to see them as wee baby plants--they are now giant crazy masses of tomatoes and cucumbers,squash and zucchini. none of them even came close to staying within the confines of the raised beds. The pathways are nonexistant.

but I grew food-lots of it.

here is this mornings bounty:


all of those tomatoes went into the canner and yeilded 4 quarts of canned tomatoes! I already had several tomatoes in the window sill for slicing and salads. Actually I have veggies everywhere. My current table center piece is made up of a platter of garden vegetables.

I'm not complaining-but I am amazed at how well this gardening thing works. Plant it,feed it, water it and then eat it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

gardening adventure

For the past few years I have sort of planted a garden. Which means I purchased seeds and let my youngest randomly plant them in the pile of topsoil that we still had not gotten around to spreading out.
It would be cool until June when the weeds would finally win the fight and take over.

This year the man decided it was time to do some proper gardening. In one weekend he managed to whip the whole garden into shape and give me a fresh start at a proper garden. a month later and I am still winning the war on the weeds.

of course its not quite June yet.

seriously though-I think I may win this year. I have nice beds and straw down on the paths. I feel like a real gardener. I have even harvested a few yellow squash and a zucchini that promptly became a stir fry breakfast. who knew that one day I might have a garden worth taking a picture of :)

so heres a photo of my own personal produce department:



garden 2014




Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Free homeschool year

First a little full disclosure here: I am a curriculum hoarder. I have been homeschooling for almost 15 years. I have managed to purge all of the things I know I will NEVER use but that still leaves a lot of books.

My goal this year is to resist the urge to buy any new curriculum. I have $30 budget that was from books I sold-so I am telling myself that I can put that back into our curriculum budget.

Other than that we are going to homeschool FOR FREE this year.

what I have on hand is pretty sufficient-I have things I bought ahead of time last year that will cover us for the coming year.

its actually pretty embarrassing the amount of curriculum and books I have managed to hoard.

While I have been working on my spring purge I found two complementary years of sonlight-world history on two levels-which I have most of the books for.
Konos volume 1 which I also have most of the books for and beautiful feet geography which I would need a set of maps to complete with the kids.

I'm still not sure what we are going to use-I have plenty to choose from-its like my own used curriculum sale from the attic.

My first step was to clear off the bookshelves and reorganize by topic.
The history books are in order from earliest to books about recent history and resource books that cover the full sweep of time.

the bottom shelf holds the teachers guides and reference books like dictionaries and some random books that just didn't fit anywhere else.

I went through our science books keeping only a few on each topic (how many books about weather do we really need?) I kept in mind the various learning levels of each child my kids are so widely spaced they need different levels on the same topics.

the top shelves of each bookcase have my books-fiction, parenting, etc. the books only I read or would read if I could find some time :)

It was after organizing the books that I realized we really could finish through high school and probably never need to purchase anything else.

Of course there is that used curriculum sale coming up.....

spring

Well hello there blog. we meet again.
Let me tell you what has been happening around here.

After three years of having no garden and a huge mess where my goldfish pond used to be-we have a garden.
I can't stay inside now-I can't stop looking at it.
All of my herbs were still there in the weed ridden beds-waiting to be uncovered.
The giant hole that was the pond of death for my lovely koi is now filled in.
I no longer have to face it with the guilty feeling of having let them die-quite by accident.
I have a garden of raised beds for the sun loving veggies and several rock lined beds for the lettuces and other plants that can tolerate a little less sun.
once again my secret garden nestled beside the house where no neighbor can see is beautiful and useable.

Once again I find the kids in the hammock enjoying the filtered shade sun dance created by the swaying willow tree.

I am so thankful to my husband who worked all week and spent a very long weekend helping me shovel and measuring and cutting wood for the raised beds. Who tolerated my grumbling over his need for perfectly level pathways. I am so glad he didn't let me get away with my slap dash do it fast way of hurrying through things. Some things take time.