Ever since Britches was about 3 years old, we have been homeschooling. At the time, I didn't know I would continue to homeschool. We were just playing and learning together. And when Little Man got a little older, we included him in the fun. When they hit school age, Brient and I decided we were going to keep them home and school them. So my children have never been to public school - ever.
One of the reasons I chose to homeschool is because I wanted to be my children's one and only teacher. I didn't want anyone else to take that fun from me, and I didn't want any outside influences coming in and messing up what took me years to instill in my kids. So it has always been just me and them.
OK, well, there was the time when I teamed up with my 2 friends, Kayla and Angela, and we had a small co-op going. Each week, one of us would plan a lesson and teach it to all the kids. The next week, someone else would do it. And we rotated whose house we went to. It was so much fun! But all the while, I was right there with my children overseeing everything they were being taught. After awhile, our little co-op came to an end, because life moved us on and we all went different ways. And so, it was back to me being my children's one and only teacher.
A few years ago, the homeschool group of which I am a member, The Christian Homeschool Association, started up a large co-op. It was to be at a central location so that anyone in our homeschool group could participate. There were people from all over coming and joining in on the new co-op, and everyone was so thrilled to be a part. But I stood back a little skeptical, because these were people that I didn't know well or even at all. My idea of homeschooling has always been to teach my own children. I didn't want a public school teacher or some other homeschool mom that I didn't know teaching my children. So I watched as everyone signed up and got involved, and I continued schooling in the way I had chosen.
After a few years, and another baby, I began to feel a little overwhelmed. I not only had 2 older ones that I was still trying to homeschool, but I now had a baby who cried A LOT and a 3 year old who thought the world revolved around her and that everyone in our house should drop everything and play with her whenever she took the notion. I was, shall we say, a little STRESSED! I just couldn't keep up with all that I wanted to do in school with the oldest and also handle these other 2 distractions. (Yeah, I know - BLESSINGS. Whatever!)
One day, the thought of co-op popped back into my head. I began tossing around the idea, but not seriously. There were still a lot of issues that I had with co-op. One was simply the drive once a week to the co-op location. I can barely get 4 kids dressed and ready for church every Sunday, and it doesn't start until 10:45! How could I possibly get them all the way to town by 9:00? And the other issue was still my original problem - I wanted to be the one teaching my children!! I didn't know these people. But I got on the phone with my friend, Kayla, and got a little more information.
One thing she told me was that, while the 2 oldest were in a class learning, the baby would be in the nursery and the 3 year old would be in a class of her own with friends her age. She would be learning on her level, and she would be able to play ALL DAY with kids her own age. WOW! Someone else could play with Little Sister while the other 2 actually LEARNED something! What a thought. Right at that moment, I didn't feel like Britches and Little Man were learning ANYTHING, because we were constantly getting interrupted by something or someone. So I kept thinking.
Two weeks ago, the co-op held an open house day, which is where anyone thinking of participating in co-op can come, check everything out, and ask questions. We went. I wanted to get a good idea of what was going on, so I could make a good decision about whether or not we would participate.
Getting there on time was a little crazy, and we did pack lunches and have everything ready the night before. But we made it. Right after chapel, we dropped Little Sister off in her class. She was so excited, she could hardly stand it! The rest of us then started making the rounds to check out all that was offered. One thing I realized was that, over the last year or so, I have actually met a lot more people than I realized. I knew most everyone that was there teaching! And I knew them well enough that I felt OK about my kids being in a class with them without me! We sat in on several classes to get an idea of the things being taught and the different styles of teaching from each teacher.
When lunch rolled around, we went outside for a picnic, and the kids had a blast visiting and running around with other homeschool friends that we don't often get to see. And I really enjoyed having some time to talk with ADULTS!!! And besides that, I just love a good picnic!
One of the highlights of the day for Britches was when we passed by Donna's cake decorating class. She said, "Oh I wish I could go check out THAT class!" So we went in. And Donna was so sweet to let her participate!! She handed out 6"-8" cakes for all the people in the class, and she had an extra cake that she was planning on using for an example. She let Britches use it! How exciting!! We spent the next 45 min. with her learning how to make a cake that looked like the beach, complete with beach ball and lounge chair! And boy was she proud when she brought it home to show her daddy!
And the highlight for Little Man was at the end of the day when he was able to participate in Penny's "Boys" class. On that particular day, the boys were learning self defense! And, boy, is that right up his alley! So he spent the 45 min. class learning how to defend himself should a stranger try to snatch him up and take him away. When he got home, he asked his daddy if he could go outside with him so Little Man could show him the new moves he learned. His daddy, very wisely, said, "NO!"
And Little Sister played for the entire day with her friends, some old ones and some new. She made crafts, read books, and had her snack in the gym with the other kids. (She helped pack her snack the day before, and could hardly wait to eat it!!)
By the end of the day, we were all worn out! But it was a great day, and I learned a lot of things I wouldn't have otherwise known. One of the things I learned is that I now feel OK in letting some of my friends teach my children. I can say this now that I have known these ladies for awhile and know them better! I also learned that co-op is very flexible. If I am unable to make the 9:00 chapel time, it's OK. They won't be mad at me. I can get there at 9:30. And for anyone not able to stay all day, you can go for only half the day. I had no idea that it was so flexible.
So for the next few days, Brient and I weighed out all the pros and cons, and ultimately, we decided to give it a try. My kids are so excited and just cannot wait until the fall when co-op starts up again!
One of the rules at co-op is that everyone must help out. No one is allowed to drop their kids off and leave, so everyone is doing "something" during every hour you are there. Well, being that I LOVE to plan fun lessons and LOVE to teach fun things to kids, and being that I am very opinionated and have my own way of doing things, I decided to jump right in feet first and teach! I volunteered to teach 2 classes: an American Girls class to 3rd-6th graders, and a "Big Book of Boys" class (Penny decided not to teach it again.). I am so stinkin' excited about BOTH classes!
The more I think about the road we have decided to take this next year, the more excited I get! I will still get to teach both of my oldest children in separate classes. I always want to do a "girl" lesson with Britches, but I still have 3 others to think about. And I would LOVE to do "boy" stuff with my Little Man, but the girls wouldn't enjoy it much. So now, I will have 45 min. a week set aside to teach each of them something I have wanted to teach for a very long time. And instead of it being just us, I get to include lots of other kids who would love to do "girl" and "boy" stuff, but their parents maybe are in the same position as I and are unable. And the best part of all - the 2 little ones will be having LOADS of fun in their own class with kids their own age, and they won't be underfoot while I'm teaching to the others. I am so excited!
Now I realize that it will not be all great. There will come a time next year when I just really don't want to get up on co-op morning and get out of the house! There will be a week when I just cannot get it together and my lesson just won't be quite what I had hoped. There will be a cranky baby to deal with when we get home each day. And then, since co-op is on Wednesday, there is the issue of an early supper so we can get to church on time. But all in all, I am very optimistic about this next school year. We will still do lots of great unit studies at home together, but we will have one day a week that will be a nice change from it all.
This is my year for change - in many areas of my life. And in the area of our homeschool, it is time for a change.