A Guide to a Fun, Effective, and Efficient Co-op
I am publishing this series as a e-book next year, so enjoy this preview!
I love my co-op. We have been together since most of our children were in kindergarten. Now our oldest children are in high school or college. Several of us have recently had babies, so it looks like we will be “co-oping” for quite a while. These ladies have invested so much into my children, just as I have in theirs. They are my dearest friends and closest confidantes. Our children are the best of friends. We are iron sharpening iron, as the proverb says. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17. We have been through so much together where we have encouraged one another and built each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We continue to spur one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). We have walked through health crises, miscarriages, family problems, interpersonal conflicts, and financial issues. And we have also experienced lots of joy and fellowship together. We have created community, an element so vital to human happiness, and so lacking in our transient culture.
Academically, we have accomplished memorizing timelines, a number of poems, the U.S. presidents, the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem, the Constitutional Amendments, every country in the world, a number of history facts, the major battles of World War II, the royal houses of England and Great Britain, the Ten Commandments, the seven wonders of the ancient world, and a bunch of other cool stuff.
We have learned to draw the world and put all states and capitals on the U.S. map. We have enjoyed favorite classic children’s literature like Wee Gillis, Courdroy, and Ping. And I have met new favorites in Another Celebrated Dancing Bear and Maybelle the Cable Car (which we had to look for on our trip to San Francisco until my 8 year old was sure we found her and rode her). We have wrestled with difficult texts in Paradise Lost and Divine Comedy. We have agonized with St. Augustine in Confessions and debated Thomas Paine versus Edmund Burke in Reflections on the Revolution in France and The Rights of Man. And in between we have dressed as knights, ninjas, and serfs, made hundreds of maps, and reenacted battles, Bibles stories, fables, and Shakespeare. Mostly we have sought to cultivate the souls of our collective children.
We have had a few precious families come and go as needs change and friends relocate. But we have been blessed to test our educational theories and carry through our long term plans on the same set of kids from preschool to highschool. This has afforded us time to see how different setups, methods, curriculum, and styles work with different learning styles and different ages and stages.
Many have asked me how we built this long-lasting and productive co-op. This book contains our best tips, our founding principles and our ground rules, as well as our mistakes. Much has been learned through trial and error. I was homeschooled and involved in a co-op myself, as a kid. However, and I cannot emphasize this enough, our real bedrock has been prayer.
Before planning each school year we pray for God’s guidance and for wisdom. After all, he gently leads those with young (Isaiah 40:11) and promises wisdom for the asking (James 1:5). Every year, indeed every day, you must ask yourself: What does He want your children to know?
Prayer has also been our go-to solution for interpersonal conflicts or misunderstandings. We have never had to take action when an issue arises, beyond prayer and gentle, honest confrontation. So, what are the keys to rocking your very own co-op? Here are some of the principles and ideas we have refined through the years and are excited to share with you! And grab a pen, because you have some homework to do.
I have found the key to efficiency is good planning. We are busy parents and do not have time to waste. If you jot down your thoughts and ideas as your read through my experiences and tips, you will save time and brain power in the end. If you spend just a few minutes answering the reflective questions sprinkled through and at the end of each chapter, you will be ready with a plan to implement at the end of the book. It is tempting to skip the step of writing out answers and thoughts, but you will waste time and energy that could be put into implementation of your exciting, new co-op plans!
MY PRAYER FOR MY CHILDREN’S EDUCATION:
To Meegan, Lorri, Katherine, and Tatiana. You are much more than co-op partners. You are sisters.
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