I think it’s possible to have the best of both worlds when you homeschool — customized and individualized instruction, as well as the advantages of group learning. For the former, there’s home. But for the latter, there’s our weekly coop.The easiest way to do this is to initiate activities that require children to gather together in groups to solve problems or work towards a goal.
Our weekly coop is a mix of amazing moms who are talented, dedicated and generous with their time. Moms take turns teaching for a quarter then switch it up again. Personally, I feel that our older children probably get the most out of these weekly meetings because they are challenged and pushed in a positive way.
When an oldest child is homeschooled, he is naturally top dog — the one whom siblings look up to and follow. Well, in a group setting with kids who are different ages, skilled in various ways, and opinionated, it’s good for their character development to learn to work together for common goals. Plus there’s the aspect of healthy competition.
At present, our older kids are taking up entrepreneurship, taught by Amanda Ross, and Make Your Own Country, facilitated by Andi Miller. The kids are especially enjoying the social studies one because it involves collaborating to create things like the name of a country, language, geography, history, commerce, etc.
Interestingly, all of the alpha kids, the ones who like to take charge and give their opinions, were lumped together. And the other group was a mix of “calmer” students who were doers and knew how to organize themselves. The second group got more done and was many steps ahead of group 1.
However, both sets of kids are benefitting from this activity. The aggressive and domineering ones are learning to put their ideas together and listen to one another to move towards a goal. And the more silent ones are learning to express themselves and give their inputs. Both must organize themselves and work as a team without parents hovering over them.
While it’s possible to homeschool without attending coops or playgroups, I do see the pros of allowing kids to connect with other children who will stretch their capacities, sharpen their minds, test their personalities, and not always agree with them. Character gets put to the test and friendships are forged as children get to bond with one another through by sharing challenges.
Edan was in group 2 and he stepped up to organize everyone. I don’t think this would have happened if he was in the same group as Elijah. And I am sure he is loving the fact that his team is, at present, “beating” his older brother’s. As for me, I am totally amused and thankful that our kids have other children to homeschool with and I have parents to share the journey with.
If you aren’t in a coop yet, consider forming one with a few friends and then let it grow from there. Ours started out with a handful of moms who would meet in a park while our kids ran around to play, and now we have grown to a sizable number with sections for age groups and organized classes. We adjusted as our kids’ needs changed, and we continue to think through what we can offer them to maximize their time together. If you want to read more about how to set up a coop, check out my post: You Don’t Have To Know Everything. I included a section that details how to start one.