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It's me again with more on the subject of Co-ops.
As I stated in I THOUGHT CO-OPS WERE FOR FARMERS, I have been involved in 3 different co-ops. We didn't call the first two "co-ops", but looking back, I see they were.
The first began when 2 burned out homeschooling moms determined that they would not ever do any of those enriching activities they talked about with the children unless they set a consistent, weekly date and stuck with it. My sister Jeanne and I were the two desperate moms, and the kids were the 5 children we had between us.
We decided that, 'BOTTOM LINE', we were going to get together once a week and do SOMETHING with the kids, if it was nothing but let them play educational games together. Hopefully, some weeks we would rise to higher levels of energy and creativity, but at the time we didn't feel very hopeful!
So we came up with something we called "Learning Centers Day". We decided to set up a few learning centers around Jeanne's kitchen table, living room and school room (known to some as a 'den'). Then we would let the kids rotate from center to center. Some centers were "one kid" centers; others allowed for more.
We loaded an educational game in the computer. That was one center. We placed a variety of books in the Papa San chair and called it "The Reading Chair." Center number two! We put the V-Tech laptop computer "toy" at a small desk, set up to review multiplication facts. There's 3! I taught "skip counting" for multiplication at one table, while she played a phonics or spelling game with a child at another. So, we had five centers. We rotated every 15 or 20 minutes. We had to make some adaptations for the ages and abilities of the children. When little Jordan was at the computer, Reader Rabbit was in. When Eddy was there, it was Geo-Safari. We focused on different math or language skills with each child, based on need, at the tutoring table.
Naturally, we didn't do the same thing every time. We did seasonal activities, like making Christmas cookies or ornaments. We made pizza from a mix, allowing each child a small mix packet for him or herself. They got to measure and mix, and finally dress their pizzas. And eat them, of course!
Once we made bookmarks with fall leaves, then went outside for "music". Eddy "played" the galvanized metal tub turned upside down. Joel played maracas. Maria, Brian and Jordan played the rhythm sticks they had stained and painted the week before (under the supervision of Jeanne's husband Mike). Jeanne led them in singing "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain" and other folksy songs, strumming along on her auto harp.
Anyway, once in awhile we would go to the zoo or a museum, or some other point of interest. But BOTTOM LINE, we had "Centers Day" every week unless something important prevented it. When we did have to miss, we tried to schedule it for another day in the same week to make up for it.
The kids loved it. It gave both moms a chance to contribute from our own strengths and interests, so everyone benefited. Dads even got to pitch in on the odd "day off" or vacation time, teaching wood burning, carpentry or archery.
"Hey! That's not a co-op! That's just 2 sisters and a bunch of cousins visiting together!" Well, you may see it that way, but we all got a lot out of it. However, that's not the end of the story.
I don't even remember who our first "addition" to the group was. But whenever we were around other families, naturally we mentioned "Centers Day" and the kids talked about it, too. It was something we enjoyed, and they looked forward to it. We were constantly planning what we would do next, so it was a frequent topic of conversation. Pretty soon, other moms were asking us, "What is Centers Day?", and our group began to grow.
At one point we had around 5 or 6 moms coming and bringing their kids. One mom was a piano and voice teacher, so we added music lessons to the rotation. We might have the following activities going on in several centers at once: a sentence making game, with two players at the kitchen table; a skip counting session with two children at the school room table; and a geography center where kids could look up learn about a particular country, find it on the globe, and place stickers in a book to represent the various animals and landmarks they read about as they researched the chosen nation. Then we would divide into two groups. At one table we'd make Christmas cards or Valentines (whatever), while the group at the other table played a multiplication card game similar to "Go Fish".
After an hour of this, we might have a science story and then just let the kids play outside while the mom's chatted. During the spring and fall we sometimes just went to the park together.
We asked the other families to bring their favorite educational games to share. We told the other moms, "Any time you have an activity you would like to plan, go for it. We'll just close down one of our "regular" centers to make room for something different."
Centers Day was a very flexible event. It did depend upon the participation of all the moms, even if all one had to do was supervise a game or keep a couple of toddlers occupied with clay or crayons.
After a couple of years of this, Jeanne decided not to continue having Center's Day at her house, so another one of our group, Ginger, decided to host it the next year.
After several people asked her what "sinners day" was, she changed the name to "game day", but it was, in essence, the same. We did less rotating, perhaps.
After a year, Ginger was unable to continue hosting, but continued to lead another co-op she had started. This one really was called "Co-op", and is another wonderful way to increase the variety of your family's learning experience.
I'll tell you about that one another time!
But, remember: ALL IT TAKES IS TWO DESPERATE, BURNED OUT MOMS TO START A CO-OP.
You don't have to call it a "co-op" if that stresses you out. You don't have to call it anything. But it'll be easier to talk about it if you have a name for it... Centers Day, FunSchool, whatever!
I DARE YOU! I dare you to start a two mom co-op... and still be a two mom co-op after 4 months. Even if you want to contain it, I think it would be a hard thing to do. You'd have to guard your mouth all the time to keep it a secret... but then the kids would spill the beans.
It would take the pressure off if you didn't even have a goal of "growing"... just get with another desperate mom or two and decide what the "BOTTOM LINE" is going to be. We'll all be waiting to hear how your experiment turns out!
May God bless your efforts!
P.S. Don't let me forget to give you some more ideas of good activities to do together in co-op situations. And, let us hear your ideas as well!
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