There are some things we have learned through trial and error that do not work well for homeschool co-ops meeting outside. If you meet outdoors, then prepare to leave these activities out, or have an occasional indoors co-op days to accomplish them.
While outdoors is a great place for messy glue, cutting out small pieces is not. Even with clipboards the wind can be frustrating for snipping paper and gluing it down. We managed with a few large lapbook pieces, but anything where you must manage several sheets of paper at the same time is not great for an outside activity. Do it indoors!
We love creating paper collages when we study art. But unless the paper collages are make of random scraps grabbed from a bin, they are better suited for indoors. We have done it, but it creates disappointment when specially designed and cut slips of paper are suddenly gone with the wind.
While sharing a treat together is better outdoors, cooking activities must be done indoors. We once had an indoor co-op to go along with our history study of the Ottoman-Turk Empire, so the kids could create Turkish Delight. It was worth doing but we obviously needed a kitchen for it.
I do not give them very often, but long tests with several pages, where quiet concentration is necessary, is best done indoors. I find borrowing a table in the library to be the perfect final exam spot for the “blue book” style essay questions I use to gauge my student’s progress in writing and literature at the same time. Often I just send them home for the parents to proctor. This is homeschooling, after all.
Save the multiple choice questions for SAT preparation when it comes to literature. Essays show you the students’ grasp of grammar, language usage, the literary material, the writing format, and where they are at in their thinking and analysis skills.
Put large fold out maps firmly in the category of things that blow away outdoors. I still use them occasionally, but the winds rips them to shreds eventually. And maps can be expensive. I like to put little army men on them to share the events of a war or battle. But for finding a city, river, or mountain range, individual atlases are the way to go. Large maps are fun and educational in an indoor or at least wind-sheltered setting.
Maybe this is a no brainer, but occasionally the kids feel a need to straighten up or reorganize the thick history notebooks we’ve created. We typically use a binder with looseleaf paper. So cracking open that binder means centuries of timeline thrown to the wind. Tell them not to do it. Organize indoors, at home.
A park pavilion is not a place for a paper timeline, outside of a notebook or chalked on the sidewalk. I love those timelines that stretch across a room and keep getting figures added as they are studied. The more detailed they are, the more interesting they are to look at. That is an indoor sort of thing to enjoy!
Anything you have to watch on video, slides, power point presentations, music selections, and artwork pulled up on a screen are best viewed indoors. Even if you have great equipment, like a wide screened laptop, charging capability, screen viewing in the sun, and sound quality are never optimum outdoors. I still do it occasionally, to view a famous painting, listen to a classical composition from a certain time period, or share a clever logic meme, but it never goes as well as I had hoped unless we do it indoors.
Screens in general should be used sparingly in co-op. I encourage my students to read from paper books and highlight, write notes in the margins, and not to be afraid to mark up a book. Technically you can do this on an e-reader, but paper book help you make solid brain connections necessary for memory.
Children get enough screen time. They will eventually be forced to watch cold, distant lectures on-line. Let them avoid it now as much as possible. Caring, relational teachers help us love a subject matter.
We have a number of large families in our co-op, which means a broad swath of ages, including babies that need naps. We sometimes invite grandmothers to help supervise, or walk babies around in a stroller until they fall asleep. We implement a cut off time of noon to accommodate naps. And we meet with smaller age groups and special subjects in a house in order to let babies sleep where they are comfortable. Babies and toddlers that need naps can shut down a co-op faster than a flash thunderstorm.
Make plans for babies. When I had my youngest daughter, I was in charge of the high school group. My husband altered his work schedule to give me an hour or two baby-free so I could concentrate fully on the big kids. We have brought play yard fencing, small ride-on toys, playpens, and bouncy seats to help occupy our tiniest ones. Extra hands are always helpful.
I call small children that run as fast as they can away from the group “runners”. We always seem to have one. Make plans if you have that type of child. Have someone to watch them. Meet in a fenced area. Keep reinforcing the rules. Or just meet indoors. But that admittedly doesn’t help with that explorer kind of kid that needs to investigate every room!
We live in tropical south Florida. When everyone is picnicking and camping during the summer, we are swimming at the beach, in pools, or hiding out in the air-conditioning. Places with extreme heat and cold need to meet indoors, or have an indoors option. Kids do need to build up some tolerance to being uncomfortable, but don’t expect a lot of learning if they are very hot or cold. I keep hoodies in the car, just in case. Swimsuits, too, but that is a Florida thing. Always bring enough water, hats, and sunscreen.
WHAT ARE SOME OF MY IDEAS FOR DOING CO-OP INDOORS? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
WHICH WILL WORK BETTER FOR MY FAMILY – OUTDOORS, INDOORS, OR A COMBINATION? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
WHERE WILL WE MEET? ARE THERE ANY SAFETY CONCERNS? ______________________________________
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