Homeschool Co-op? Yes or no…

imageA really great conversation is taking place over at The Pioneer Woman Blog about homeschool support groups. Click HERE to read the post!

And click HERE to read the comments attached to the post.

The conversation was precipitated by a question from someone in the community who asked:

The following question is from Melissa M.

“This is our first full year of homeschooling and we joined a co-op that meets 4 afternoons a week. There are positives and negatives with this but we want to know the following questions about how others structure their co-op groups:

1. How many days a week do you meet?
2. What subjects do you teach or explore?
3. How do you deal with parent involvement?
4. How do you address discipline or behavior?
5. How many years have you been in co-ops, what do you love/hate about it?”

I really enjoyed reading the whole thread and would encourage you to go take a look if you are curious about the different types of support groups that exist.

I belonged to about ten different groups over the years and even started one in Boulder that met monthly at our Stake Center when my children were little. The Stake President was extremely supportive of us using the building once a month for our group. And we met there for about a year.

I have since heard that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has made it impossible for Home School Groups to use the facility for support groups, which I think is a crying shame, but I understand why they would feel the need to do so, (don’t want the Moms who send their kids to public school to feel bad or somethin’). I admit, that was mean snark, but I don’t get why some groups are OK and others are not…here is what the book says:

The Facilities Management Guideline says this:

HOMESCHOOL

“While the church strongly encourages education, meetinghouses should not be used as home school or day care facilities or for hosting homeschool activities. Adherence to this policy will promote safety and avoid tax liabilities for the church.”

Our stake back in Boulder hosted several community support groups for people who were not LDS, including a Sexual Addiction group and a toddler Music Class. So, the church is OK for the facility being used for some weekly activities like those for Sex Addicts, but not for parents who homeschool. I think it is pathetic that those big beautiful spaces are largely empty during the weekday when they could be teeming with productive activities in every nook and corner of the building!

We sent our children to a small charter for a couple years and then pulled them out to homeschool while my oldest daughter was in the 6th through 8th grade.  It was during this time that we met weekly with a dynamic group of LDS Moms who gathered at the Arvada Stake Center.  This amazing group of parents, The Liahona Home Educators, was the most organized and fun to be with.  We did a musical, went on a family camping trip to Golden Gate State Park for three days and we  also did PE, Music, Sports, Language, Nutrition, Science Fair, Parties, and had many field trips to various museums around the Denver Area.

Lifelong friendships were formed and I will always be grateful for the hard work and dedication that went into that group.

There are as many philosophies and beliefs about what makes for a successful homeschool as there are families.  It really boils down to what type of lifestyle you want to live.  I found that some of the time and energy was wasted by infighting and clashing of religious or educational beliefs.  The Fundy Christians did NOT want Mormon kids rubbing shoulders with their precious babes and the Waldorf Moms were not comfortable with the Conservative mainstream Moms.  These issues inevitably led to Mom war type schisms  as groups broke up and reformed around various ideological beliefs and practices.

Going forward, what I plan to do is simply reach out to one homeschooling family, one time, to have a play date or engage in another activity like a field trip or an outing.  We had many of these types of interactions with the families in our circle of friends.  We baked cookies or went sledding, or had a night of singing.  A one time event takes the pressure off everyone and really puts the focus where it should be; a joyful memory with parents  and children who are making the same difficult choices you are.

I observed in a couple of my support groups that the Mothers would gather in a corner and let the children run wild while they socialized.  I am not dissing on this type of support, Lord knows Moms who teach need all of the support they can get.  But I did not last long at those types of groups.

I wanted to be engaged with the children in some productive activity.

Ben has been very clear that he has no interest in joining a support group.  He has plenty of daily interaction with his siblings and this year everyone has pitched in to help teach.  I am doing Math and Music, Paul is doing History, Shelly is covering Language Arts, Allison is doing PE, and Andy is in charge of field trips and Current Events.  It has been fun to see how he has responded to all of this individual attention from the family.  He eats up that energy like a dry sponge.  I have told him at various times when he has complained about Allison requiring him to run and do pushups and Shelly pushing him in his writing that he needs to just relax and enjoy the ride because next year when Andy leaves on his mission and Allison is married, life will look very different for our family when it is just Ben, Paul, and I here alone.

Next year I plan to do a little more outreach in our community and find those families who would be interested in a one time outing or gathering.  I don’t plan to attend a once a week support group, at least unless if it is organized around a certain goal like a musical or a sporting event.

We like spending most of our time at home together, eating and reading and working on projects around the house.  We are planning to plant an amazing garden this year and all of the children are going to be referees for local soccer clubs this summer.

Good luck with your Homeschooling efforts!

Jenny Hatch

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