We have gone through every aspect of co-op in this series. It is time to put the nitty gritty onto paper. Let’s get to the co-op practical planning!
Long ago I began creating a co-op syllabus each summer. With so many ages doing so many different things now, we can’t function without it! It is our master plan that tells us what to prepare each week. Nowadays it is a group effort. A syllabus isn’t a necessity for every co-op, but it sure keeps learning structured and in forward motion.
Our master plan includes what to come having read and ready to discuss for history, literature, and those related subjects (such as geography, writing, theology, economics, philosophy, government, worldview, logic, debate, rhetoric or poetry). It includes the piece of music, art, and poetry we are viewing and discussing (Charlotte Mason style) for the six week unit, sometimes with links for convenience. Check out my art, music poetry supplements! Our master syllabus reminds everyone of days off and unit themes for dressing up or bringing snacks. It lists when reports or projects are due and when family or individual presentations are to be showcased. Teaching kids to access their own assignments and be responsible for making sure they are ready for class is an important part of training students for college and, more importantly life.
The most important thing listed in our syllabus is memory work! It tells us exactly what we are memorizing and where to find it. Sometimes we are memorizing a portion is a timeline at the same time that we are working on a history sentence and geographical features, and a Bible verse. A syllabus printed and placed in every child’s co-op notebook (not to mention a copy for mom’s planning book) ensures that everybody is on the same page.
We have always met on Mondays. Nothing else is typically scheduled that day. Getting to co-op on Mondays gets our week started at a nice pace. We might tend to drag coming off the weekend if we did not have serious work (and social fun) to face first thing Monday morning.
We meet in the morning, when everyone is fresh. On years where someone has a baby that needs to get home to nap, our school day is a little shorter and there is more homework assigned. Nine to noon has been our formula for years. Sometimes we get carried away with the fun and go a little over time. Respect for those who need to leave for naps and other commitments keeps us from lingering all day. Lingering can be a problem for the host if you meet at someone’s home.
Consider how to kindly remind everyone it is time to go home if you have talkers and social butterflies in the group. A hard stop time, a clean up song, making an appointment for dance or piano lessons after co-op and getting on your hands and knees to scrub floors and toilets are all good signals that the co-op day is over.
If you are in the beginning of co-op practical planning it may seem early to consider scheduling. But at least start the process of thinking through the different type of schedules you might consider. Most co-ops meet once a week. I have a weekly co-op, a high school science based weekly spin-off, and a monthly kindergarten co-op.
Dad’s schedule can help determine co-op schedule as well. When our girls were young we enjoyed tagging along as my husband worked in another city once a month. We took the last week of each month off so we could take this one night a month pseudo vacation. The other co-op families enjoyed this day off for scheduling doctor appointments, catching up on schoolwork, and for field trips.
Later we had so much to study and to do that we gave the younger kids that customary week off and took a couple of those empty days for more intense study for the middle and high school students. Recently we switched to having six week units (Biblioplan history lines up nicely with this) and taking the seventh week off, as a sort of Sabbath. We get so much done, but we also get a consistent break.
For certain, specific types of co-ops a less frequent meeting schedule was preferable. We gathered two other families with teens that had a similar interest in film and took the FS4T (Film School 4 Teens) course together and benefitted from group discussion and accountability for projects. We wanted it to be minimum stress on schedules, so we met once a month. It was perfect for our needs.
When my oldest was little, our very first co-op experience was a once a month educational playdate. It was exciting to know that we had a regular, structured time for fun with our friends with an enormous commitment for a small group.
WHAT SCHEDULE WILL MEET OUR NEEDS AND SUIT OUR FAMILY?
Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It is time to examine our homeschool and co-op lives. This is the most practical of all practical planning. Get a pen you like, a cup of tea or coffee, and maybe even a pretty blank notebook. Put your pen to paper and apply this information to your own situation. Make the time spent reading this book worth your while!
Take an honest assessment of your current situation. God is truth and we are to imitate his character.
Where are you today?
Do you need help?
Do you have time for a co-op?
What does your spouse think?
What is your current situation costing you?
Why do you need a co-op?
What can you do better with a co-op than you are doing now?
Do you have a co-op situation now that is causing you stress?
Do I need to leave my current co-op?
What do you want from homeschooling?
Write out your prayer for co-op:
What subjects will we cover?
Which subjects can we integrate?
What is between you and your goal?
When would we meet?
Where would we meet?
How many weeks of the year?
Do we follow the public school schedule?
Take every seventh week off?
Take one week a month off?
Meet once a month?
Draft an outline of a co-op plan with what you have so far.
Step out in faith. Break your plan down into action steps.
Who will you contact? Do it now.
When will you start? Put it on the calendar.
Calendar mini goals, deadlines, prioritize your time.
When will you plan? All summer? Once a week? Once a month?
Do you have curriculum for the subjects you plan to teach?
What do I already have? What do I need to buy? How can I get the best deal?
What resources do I need?
Who can I delegate some of this to?
Try your hand at a sample syllabus or master plan.
Get feedback and assistance from your spouse and your co-op partners. Share your practical planning.
Commit your plans to the Lord and you will succeed! (Proverbs 16:30) That means to plan along with God. That is real practical planning. You aim should be to carry out His plans. Be faithful and diligent. The result belongs to God.
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