Every July, all four of us co-op mommas get together for coffee to discuss the upcoming school year and our hopes and dreams for our co-operative learning. (OK, so if truth be told, we spend 95% of the evening just chattin' about nothing/everything and only 5% of the evening ACTUALLY planning co-op...but, fellowship is important too...right?!)
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We meet once more in August to solidify our plans and tie up any loose ends before the BIG DAY...our first co-op meeting, which usually happens the first or second week in September.
You may well remember that last year, we created a Geography Club, of sorts. We chose to use Galloping the Globe as our main curriculum and supplemented with Eat Your Way Around the World and other homespun activities. Every other week found us learning about one country of the world, its culture, religion, and people. At the end of the year, we had a wonderful spring program at which each co-op family highlighted their favorite country from our "travels."
This year, we have chosen to continue our Gallop around the world, but have put a few new twists on our original plan. In addition to adding a kid's presentation feature, we have also created a Book Club for the younger kid's group which will correspond with the happenings of the big kids' club.
We had our first "club" meeting a couple of weeks ago, and it was a great success!
Here's how we have planned out our meetings...
We start the morning with EVERYONE...big kids, little kids, babies, mommas, ringmasters (Nope, not really. But, a ringmaster would probably fit right in with our one-room circus!)...all of us in one room. All kidding aside, it is a wonderful time for ALL the kids to meet-and-greet for a few minutes.
After 15 minutes of semi-structured play (We meet in a library, so our play has to be somewhat orderly and quiet...board games, legos, puzzles, etc), we say the Pledge of Allegiance together and then gather 'round to read a picture book. It is a living history/geography book suggested by the curriculum that tells a great fictional story and introduces the country that we will be studying that day.
And then, we split up. It just so happens that we have a ten year age range in our group of kids. This year, the moms have decided to capitalize on this naturally divisible range and form TWO separate clubs/classes. We hope to have the kids remain in these two groups and grow together in the coming years, as opposed to slowly graduating the younger ones into the older group.
So, after our group story....everyone six and older stays in the main room with two of the moms and everyone five and under heads to another smaller room with the other two moms...for their own unique lesson.
As moms, we will continue to rotate ourselves on a teaching/helping schedule. Only NOW, we will each teach EVERY month as opposed to every-other month, as we have done in the past. The rotation will look something like this...
Week 1 (first Monday of the month)
- Mom A- Teach the older kids (geography club), provide a group snack
- Mom B- Help Mom A, bring toys/games for the free play time
- Mom C- Read the group story, teach the younger kids (book club)
- Mom D- Help Mom C, watch the babies, bring coffee for the moms
Week 2 (third Monday of the month)
- Mom B- Teach the older kids (geography club), provide a group snack
- Mom C- Help Mom B, bring toys/games for the free play time
- Mom D- Read the group story, teach the younger kids (book club)
- Mom A- Help Mom D, watch the babies, bring coffee for the moms
With a continual rotation throughout the year.
Geography Club: 6-10 year olds
Our geography club for the 2013-2014 school year will be run in a similar way to last year's club. We will introduce the basic geography of the country, some key historical events, the religion and how we as Christians can pray and minister to that people group, some interesting cultural elements, a national snack, and a game or craft.
The Book Club kids will join us for a "real" snack sometime in the middle of the morning. (I use the word "real" because most of the time, the national snacks that we try during our meetings are just for sampling purposes only...a bite or two, at most. Shortly after our little taste-test, we indulge in a larger, more familiar snack food.)
The NEW element to our Geography Club is a kid's presentation feature. As we, moms, brainstormed during our gabbing...I mean, PLANNING session...last July, the one piece-of-the-puzzle we felt was missing was a chance for the older kids to begin to form leadership and public speaking skills.
We decided that prior to our club meeting, the "teaching mom" would help her kids explore some project-based learning. Each one of her older children would be responsible to present his/her project to the group at the up-coming co-op meeting. (Case in point...I was in charge of teaching about Japan at our first meeting of the year. Sweetie Pea taught the other club members how to make a simple Japanese origami fish and Super Boy helped them all create a faux woodblock painting which is a historically popular art form of Japan.)
Book Club: toddlers-5 year olds
Prior to our Geography Club, our co-op had been a Book Club. We gathered together twice a month to read a book and participate in a Five-in-a-Row style kid's book club, complete with field trips, games, crafts, and themed food.
When contemplating what to do with the littler learners, all four of us, moms, longed to give them the same wonderfully enriching, Literature-based learning that we had provided for our older kids when they were Littles. We also wanted to form a natural connection to what the older kids were learning in the Geography Club, so that siblings could feel a continued closeness in their educational journey. (In case you haven't noticed, "relationships" tend to trump "book learnin'" in most homeschools.)
So, the natural solution came with the introduction of the "group story" at the beginning of the morning. The story will always feature the topic country that the Geography club will be learning about and will be the book that the Book Club activities are based upon. Because of the nature of the two clubs, many of the activities will overlap allowing siblings to create shared memories. It's a win-win!
So, that's our plan for the up-coming co-op year!
I look forward to bringing you along for our international travels...