Category Archives: Motherhood

Home School Co-Op…What’s that?

Most long-time readers here know that, not only do I home school my own 7 children, I, myself, was home schooled many moons ago. At 35, I am a bit of first-generation mainstream home schooler (as opposed to, say, a home-schooler-by-necessity-because-of-the-pioneer-days). And let me just say: it certainly wasn’t as popular as it is now “in my day.”

I get lots of questions about home schooling–most friendly–from fellow home school moms, skeptics, and the idly curious, so I thought I’d dedicate a few posts to answering as many of them as I can from our family’s perspective and experience.

I’ll talk about curriculum and schedules and such more later, but, first, I’m tackling one I get asked all the time, and that is: “What in the world is a home school co-op?” (I have a feeling that, at least for some, the follow up question is: “Is that, like, a cult, or something?”).

Oddly enough, even though I grew up attending a home school co-op, I couldn’t really have defined “home school co-op” accurately in its modern incarnation 5 years ago. We didn’t participate in one until two years ago, and I didn’t know much about how they worked until fairly recently.

The co-op my brother and I attended as kids certainly didn’t look anything like what we do now, but the basic tenets and benefits were still present: socialization, fellowship, instruction, and an outlet for the mamas.

Way back when, our co-op consisted of a gathering of 4-10 families who would meet up once a month or so at the local public park under the guise of picking up their health food orders. Most of them were crunchy granola mama types, and I can still remember the delight of watching the big freight truck full of spritzers and sprouted grain rumble up to our picnic table. Looking back, the concept seems quirky in the extreme. How had they convinced the driver to meet them at the park of all places? I assume that their orders were substantial enough to warrant his making a special stop. All I knew is that I loved the naturally sweetened orange gumballs and yummy fizzy drinks we got as a super-special treat once a month. We kids would snag a fruit leather or two and scatter pell-mell through the park–little kids to the swings and slides, middle ones to play tag, and older ones down to the lake to fish or skip rocks.

Of course, I thought that co-op day was all about the kids. We were there to play! It wasn’t until I was a home school parent myself that I realized that the mamas were at least as jazzed as we were to get a chance to “play.”

Somewhat regularly, we would have an organized lesson or field trip instead of just free play, but mostly, those days were a chance to fellowship and socialize (and buy giant bags of unmilled whole grain wheat).

Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that, these days, a home school co-op is a highly scheduled, curriculum-heavy, organized *thing.*

home school co op

This picture is from last year, and I kind of can’t believe how witsy bitsy everybody looks, but it exemplifies another fun thing we do at co-op: THEME DAYS! (This one was Nerds vs. Rock Stars). 

Of course, it depends on your co-op because each is run by individuals with specific tastes, but I can tell you how ours works.

We meet once a week (the norm for every co-op that I’m familiar with), and, in our case, each mother (or father) is required to be on site for the entirety of her children’s instruction (which varies, depending on age and circumstance). Not only that, but we are required to participate in some meaningful way. Some parents are floaters and do everything from P.E. to cleaning to nursery. Others–like I-are lead teachers. Last year, I was a grader for English and grammar, and I spent the day grading papers and worksheets for lead teachers. This year, I am the high school Spanish teacher, and I teach 3 periods of Spanish 1 and 2, then spend the rest of my day feverishly grading papers so that I can send the kids home with their graded work at the end of the day. I try to do as much work as possible there, but I pretty much always have some grades to record and vocab sheets and quizzes to make up at home.

I know that, just like my mama and her friends when we were kids, many mamas attend our co-op–at least partly–for the fellowship. We even have “women’s groups,” staggered throughout the day, which often consist of a Bible study or a craft or even just a meaningful discussion. But I rarely make it to mine because I’m usually still grading.

At this point, we are mostly enrolled in a co-op so that my children get a chance to play with friends and learn from other teachers (besides me and my mom), but I do love the days when I get to go to women’s group or just have a quick chat with a fellow mama. I don’t know everyone in the co-op (it’s fairly large), but I have met several kindred spirits I love to catch up with, at least briefly, each week.

The flip-side of the requirement to participate and remain on site is that we pay very nominal fees for our co-op. I know it’s different for others where mamas can drop their kids off and teachers are paid, but at ours, each teacher names a small fee per student per semester for her class (to cover supplies), and then the only additional costs are a minimal general purpose fee per family and then, of course, the cost of books and other supplies.

There is a set schedule for each grade, and we choose our offerings and time slots in the spring for the following school year.

Right now, Ezra and Simon (11 and 10) are enrolled in Spanish, Anatomy and Astronomy, World Geography, English, and Basic Computing. They also have P.E. classes. The younger ones have less strenuous subjects, but they are all learning and playing throughout the day as well.

My kids LOVE it.

I…dread it at least a little bit every week.

Even with the kids participating heavily (as in, they make most of the lunches and prep backpacks ), it still takes us several hours each weekend to prepare all of the lunches and clothes and backpacks and homework folders. Sometimes, it just feels like one more thing in our busy schedules. But it is definitely worth it because of how much my kids enjoy it. Also, once I’m there, I always enjoy teaching my students. I even enjoy grading for the “alone time” (ha!).

It’s a pretty classic example of something that’s at least a little hard for me but still good.

Because, as we all know by now, hard is not the same thing as bad.

And…there you have it! An explanation of (at least, our) home school co-op.

I have several more home schooling posts in the hopper, but feel free to drop a comment here if you have a question you want me to address!

P.S. I think Olympics Hangover is a legit thing. I can’t help myself. They only come around every couple of years, and I always stay up way too late for two weeks straight taking in all of the excitement. Any fellow Olympics lovers out there? Is it starting to take its toll on you too?

 

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

The Twins are FIVE!

(…and have been for a little while [see title]. Their birthday was September 24th. I’m a slacker).

If I can just indulge in one of the ultimate motherhood cliches, may I just take a moment to say that it is both IMPOSSIBLE to me to imagine life without “the twins” (yup, each one of us in this house is guilty of taking that little verbal shortcut on a daily basis, and Evy and Nola answer to it readily) and equally as impossible to think that they been with us for FIVE whole years?

I’m the mother of 5-year-old twins. 

Those are not words I ever thought I would write. And yet, there they are in black and white, as stark and real as you please.

And joyful.

Because, as I’ve said many times here before, as much as I did NOT care for the idea of multiples, the Lord knew that I needed them. And, of course, I wouldn’t trade them for a centillion (my kids’ favorite number) dollars plus a planet or two.

I wouldn’t have traded them for anything back when they were losing their ever-loving minds every time I buckled them in their car seats (or woke them up from naps or looked at them cross-eyed) either, but I feel like I have to take a moment to stop and declare what the Lord has done in Evy’s and Nola’s lives over the past year.

Remember my post about my stronghold of mothering pride and how the twins had managed to defy practically everything I thought I knew about training and child-rearing? At the point when I wrote that, I was already seeing glimmers of progress in between the shrieking and the fits of prostrate, abject misery, but it was only flashes. Certainly nothing I was willing to trust. And, boy, was it inconsistent. One day, they seemed capable of responding somewhat rationally, and the next, it was back to floods of tears over a button being too tight or one twin’s getting the last pink cereal bowl and thus forcing her sister into the horrors eating out of a red (or worse, YELLOW) bowl.

I wish I were exaggerating, but I can’t emphasize enough how genuinely distraught those cute little blue-eyed girls could get over the tiniest hiccup (sometimes, literally…oy vey).

And yet, here they are, at 5-years-old, and we’re all still alive and well. Not only that, but Evy and Nola have become two of the most delightful little creatures I know.

twins3

(Such sweet little grannies…this is actually a screenshot of a GIF from my IG if you want a little more cuteness in your life)

As much as I hoped and prayed for it, I don’t know that I ever genuinely believed, in the middle of the “lost months” (dramatic much?) that I would ever think, much less write, those words.

But it’s true. Our little twinsies are kind and considerate. They’re full of spunk and energy without that energy needing to devolve in bouts of manic distress. They are helpful and bright-eyed and clever and endearing.

twins

They are now capable of riding in the car without subjecting the rest of us to episodes of hearing loss.

They are–dare I say it?–FUN.

twins2

And while a large part of me isn’t surprised (I’d already been through toddlerdom and the recovery process thereof three times, after all), the twins’, ahem, “challenging phase” (which lasted almost 2 years) felt a bit like that moment when you’re 42 weeks pregnant, and you’re convinced that the baby has made your uterus his/her permanent home and will never, ever leave. It just seems surreal that anything other than your current reality could ever be true.  (Can you tell I’m speaking from personal experience on both counts?).

And yet, life with the twins is very different than it was a mere 6 months ago. And then 6 months before that. It’s been such a gradual process of perseverance and prayer and training and repentance (me, usually)…rinse wash, repeat…that I can’t even point to a moment when the changes really began to be obvious.

Instead, it’s the little things–Nola’s wearing jeans instead of leggings without dissolving into tears (because buttons and zippers and restrictive fabric…come to think of it, jeans kind of make me want to cry too), Evy’s being able to push through having her hair rinsed at bath time without panicking, both of them playing happily together for an hour without one single hair-pulling, shriek-filled fracas.

Because, as it turned out, all of that praying and teaching and training (both of them and me) was having an effect, just like James 1:4 says:

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Not that we’re anywhere near perfect. But we are (all of us) better at dealing with adversity than we were before.

Praise God for that!

I want to encourage any of you fellow mamas who are deep in the trenches of tyrannical toddlerhood, I’ve been there. Shoot, I’m still there (Theo has taken to hurling himself off The Cliffs of Insanity at least 4 times a day recently). Wishing the hard away is never where the breakthroughs happen. Instead, the maturity comes from “counting it all joy” (yes, even when they pee on the floor mere inches away from the toilet or go into volcanic meltdown mode because of the line of their socks not being straight across their toes) that we are privileged to be counted worthy of these “trials of various kinds.”

I am privileged to have twins. Not everybody gets that chance, you know. ;)

The mother with a disabled child is privileged to have him.

The mother of one who longs for more is privileged to have her one.

The mother of many who wonders what she was thinking is privileged to have her multitude of opportunities for sanctification.

My challenge my not be your challenge may not be her challenge over there, but we are all privileged to have them, whatever they are. We are being shaped and molded and renewed and loved by a Father who will absolutely, yes, give us more than we can handle so that we get over our silly, prideful, I-can-handle-this-thanks selves and fall at his feet in recognition of our lack. It was always there. He’s just been gracious enough to give us something that makes it painfully obvious.

Praise God that, even when the “payoff” doesn’t come for 2 years, or 5, or ever in this lifetime, hard is not the same thing as bad. And we are more than overcomers in Christ.

Oh, and praise God for the unexpected blessing of twins. We sure do love you girls!

twins1

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):