Sunday, May 9, 2010

Co-op: How Does it Work?

Since my last post about Co-op Night, I've had several people ask me about how our co-op works... you know...the details.

The first thing you should know about our co-op, before I give you the rest of the details, is that the purpose is to give the kids a chance at some fun, extra-curricular type activities and to allow them time with other families. That's it. There are no hardcore academic objectives involved. So, you'll see that purpose reflected in some of the other nuts and bolts of our co-op.

  • When is Co-op? We meet on Monday afternoons from 1 to 3 pm.
  • How long is a session? We have a fall and spring session which lasts for 10 weeks (there are sometimes breaks for public school breaks and/or holidays- some families have kids at home and in school. Even with the break, there are 10 sessions.)
  • How long are the classes? We have two 50 minute class times with a 20 minute recess in between- this allows clean up and set up time. It also give me a chance to return Dan to campus after we teach class!
  • How big? Well we have a little over 40 families participating currently.
  • Where? We meet at a local church big enough to accommodate us. We need about 16 different meeting places plus nursery and preschool. We really use that building and the church considers it a offering of ministry to the community. A win/win.
  • How Much? We charge a $15.00 fee for each family to attend. Very nominal.
  • Are there class fees? Sometimes a teacher will charge a small fee for consumables or other materials for her class. Sometimes the fee is quite a lot- like for our LEGO NXT class/FLL team. Each child contributed about $45 last fall to participate (and that was with two corporate sponsors- this one is not cheap!)
Dan is showing the guys some programming details. They were trying to derive a program to allow the robot to follow the black line using the light sensors.

We had three laptops (this one is mine aka Froggy the green Dell) going so that smaller teams of the boys could try out different programs. Then we could see which way is best.

So, now you may be wondering who puts this all together and how the classes are chosen and offered. Here are a few details on that...

  • Co-op Committee: We have a committee of homeschooling moms within our LEAH chapter that get together to work on the issues of co-op. There are about 6 of us who meet several times a year and keep track of things in between to help get co-op off the ground. I was asked to join last summer and it's been a fun job.
  • Who Teaches? Well the homeschooling parents, of course. Mostly moms, but we are fortunate to have had some dads join the fun. Dan is pretty much signed on for each semester as we've been building our FLL team through the homeschool co-op. I'll share more about classes later, but seeing as how we are part of an Ivy League University community, we sometimes get to have very cool offerings from those dads. Some moms choose to team teach. Others go it alone and are assigned helpers.
  • Do you have to teach? Nope! But every family has a job assigned to them. So, if you are not teaching a class, you will end up with another duty like play structure monitoring during recess, black top monitor during recess, helper for a class, clean up after co-op, bring stuff for co-op night and that sort of thing.
  • How are class offerings decided upon? Before each semester begins a call goes out for co-op classes. Moms and Dads are encouraged to send in ideas by a deadline. Then the co-op committee chairperson makes up the list on colored cards corresponding to age groups. When we meet we talk about the class offerings and if it will be a good idea. Sometimes teachers are asked to tweak their age preference based on need or they may be asked to shift their thinking a bit based on our previous experience with a similar class, etc. Finally, the card set is complete and we lay them out to manipulate them into a workable schedule. Highly visual, very satisfying and it makes sure we don't leave anyone or any age group out!
  • How do the classes get filled? A sign up sheet goes out to each family which you return by mail with the $15 fee by a strict deadline. Then another talented member of our committee goes through the sign ups and fills the class rosters. She marks the forms with the order they arrive in so that takes care of any argument of first come first served issues which inevitably occur since class sizes are small and usually you have at least one very popular class.
  • What is co-op Night? That's the last day of co-op and it's an evening event. It showcases the work the kids have done for 10 weeks and offers performances if the class was action based. Always a highlight of the semester.

I helped in a birds class this semester and the last day the kids dissected owl pellets.

I offered up my bone chart from the book, Owl Puke. There is always something exciting going on at co-op.

So, now maybe some of you have questions about co-op in general. Maybe you don't have a co-op nearby and have thought about starting one. Or maybe you have one that you choose not to participate in. So, let me share a few thoughts on this topic.

  • Is co-op necessary? No! Not at all. For many, many years we did not participate. When I had still had a napper in the house, one afternoon of fun was not worth J4 missing his nap! We got along quite nicely without co-op and thought seriously about not bothering with it.
  • What do you enjoy about co-op? I love that it gives us just the right amount of outlet during our week AND that it isn't every week all year long. Ten weeks per semester is perfect. Nice and lengthy but not forever. I love that my kids love it! I love that it is only two hours long and is just a nice afternoon without taking over a whole day. I love that the classes are fun and not hardcore. I love that we all get to see other homeschooling families on occasion. I love that my kids have made new friends there. I love watching parents share something they enjoy with the kids. I love watching parents teach something to kids that they knew very little about before preparing for the class. I love watching how creative other homeschooling moms are. I love that my kids get a glimpse of the creativity of others and get to share in it for a time. I love watching families interact with each other whether it's on a large or small scale. I love hearing my kids chatter at the dinner table every Monday night to share what happened at co-op that day.
  • Is longer better? I love our co-op because it's all those things above but not a dominating factor in our week. I was asked just the other day while speaking to a MOPS group what my biggest challenge as a homeschooler is and I replied- being purposeful about staying home and doing school! There are so many offerings out there for homeschooled children that if you took advantage of them all, you'd be hard pressed to be home enough to school. And with that in mind, much longer than 2 hours and I'd be much more hesitant to join the fun.
Finally, you might be wondering what sorts of classes we have taken and taught and what classifies as extra- curricular rather than hardcore academic. Have fun taking a look at the classes I've seen in recent years and the fee that went with them if there was one.

  • Knots- all kinds of knot tying (taught by the wife of an Eagle Scout who decided she wanted to make knots on family camping trips too)
  • Battery Science- taught by a mom who needed to cover this science with her girls and decided to use the Klutz book by the same title (fee $14.95 to cover the Klutz book for the class)
  • Games- there is usually a younger and older class time for this one so different games
  • Chess- how to play and strategy plus a tournement
  • Coin Collecting- which included a field trip to a local coin shop (which we now frequent with our collector)
  • Pioneer Crafts- a class surveying Laura Ingalls Wilder's books. This was a lot of fun! Class fee $3 to cover consumables.
  • Play Dough
  • Fun with Five Senses
  • Mixed Media Collage
  • Cut and Create
  • Making Things with Stuff (two age groups also)
  • Explorations in Science- basically taught a class on my favorite science labs/topics
  • First Lego League
  • NXT programming
  • Inventors 101- a lot of building type challenges in this one. Very fun!
  • Space- taught by a man who works on the team with the guy who has the Mars Rovers still on the planet.
  • Knitting
  • Sewing
  • Costume Design
  • Props, Set, Lighting (for a play)
  • Cake Decorating- very popular this semester and word on the street is that two levels will happen in the fall.
  • Jump Rope- these girls were inspired by the movie Jump and their mom agreed to teach it. This involved learning all those cool tricks and they performed at co-op night and it was so fun to watch! They learned a lot.
  • Presidential Physical Fitness- for the award. Remember those??
  • Soccer- taught by a teen with his mom and they had devotional tags that supported different aspects of team work. Very fun.
  • Watercolor Art
  • Story and Fun
  • The Saturdays- a Beyond FIAR unit
  • Recorder- 1 and 2
  • drums
  • Sing for your Spirit, Sing for your Soul- GREAT class with wonderful voices heard the other night
  • Live Like No One Else so you can LIVE like no one else- a Dave Ramsey finance class for high schoolers.
  • The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe- and other dramas usually smaller than this big play.
  • Midget Math
  • Math Games and Puzzles

And the list goes on! Click here if you'd like to see more posts on co-op classes. There's a lot there so scroll to the bottom work your way up to check it out. We've had some fun times!

Let me know if you have more questions now. What do you enjoy about co-ops? What makes you stay or walk away?


Sue said...

Your co-op sure sounds like a lot of fun! Unfortunately we don't have one near us. If we did, I would sign up in a heartbeat.

Kylie said...

Awesome and thanks...I love our co-op although not a true co-op since we have paid teachers. I am definitely taking this info with me to our next committee meeting though.

Thank you so much for taking the time to post about it. :)

Valerie said...

Thank you, Heather! This is great information and I've forwarded it to a couple of moms in our co-op. I love the idea of the kids being able to choose the classes that they're interested in as opposed to just putting everyone in a class based on age.

Shonda said...

Great post, heather! Clap clap clap!!

Lecia said...

Wonderful post! We are trying something a little different with our co-op this year. We are having five six-week sessions. The children can take all five classes or just choose what works for each family. I think it will be the best co-op year ever! Thanks for sharing your tips and ideas!