It seems that this week that the last of the schools have begun! And me?
Today I took the kids to a Not Back to School picnic with the co-op that I’m joining this year. Most of the kids had a great time but dd14 was bored most of the time and ds11 was bored after the boy he was playing catch with had to leave. It really isn’t interesting when you don’t know anyone and are waiting around for your mother to finish shmoozing. After eight years of homeschooling in this area, I’ve bumped into a number of moms in various venues over the years so I had a chance to get reaquainted.
We’ve never been part of a co-op before but one thing that is constant about home education is that nothing stays the same! Kids get older, have different needs, interests, abilities, and what was appropriate in the past needs to adapt. That’s what home education is about, isn’t it? Personalizing according to what your children need.
The co-op meets once a week and there’s an option to take as few as one or as many as four classes on that day. ‘Classes’ sounds formal and academic, but there’s quite a variety of classes – everything from belly dancing, sewing, and baking to more traditional type classes, with close to 40 different options for kids ranging from 2.5 through high school. The classes are given by other homeschooling parents so while the approach varies from parent to parent, in general they seem to be more hands on and concerned about enjoyable and engaging learning.
I’ve signed all the kids up for last two classes of the day, which will allow us to spend the morning at home and hopefully give ds1 a chance to take a nap before we leave. My goal in choosing classes was to find something that I didn’t do much of at home or that the kids showed a special interest in. It took a bit of finessing to figure out the schedule for everyone, but I’m happy with it and mostly confident that all the kids will enjoy it.
Here’s what I’m doing: in the first time slot, the littles will all take a music class, “a lively, fun class involving rhythm games, singing, dancing and exploring musical instruments”. While they’re doing that (I’ll be with them), ds8 will be taking a multi-sensory language arts class (this is for beginning readers and he’s definitely beyond that, but I think it will be fun and encouraging for him to see how easy it is for him and the other language arts class at that time is more formal, with a grammar focus – not my thing), dd9 and ds11 are signed up for improv and drama games (though ds told me he doesn’t think he’ll want to participate, so he might end up bringing a book to read if he makes that choice), and dd14 will be doing a class based on the Trisms curriculum, a cross curricular exploration of early history that is heavily research and writing based. This is a two period class so it’s the only class she’ll be taking; she wants to work more intensively on her writing skills rather than do a ‘fun’ class and this was the option that seemed most suited to her.
Then for the second slot, ds4 will be doing an art class for 4-6 year olds, ds8 will be doing an art class for 7 -9 year olds, and dd9 and ds11 will be doing ‘Mapping the world with Art’, a geography class that integrates history and art. I wanted to put dd9 and ds11 into a botany class with lots of hands on activities instead of geography, since they already will be participating twice a month in geography club (this will be their third year in geography club, but in the past it was only once a month) and I thought they’d enjoy the science as something interesting and different. But the botany class was full and the geography one was the only other choice for their age during that time. I didn’t have to sign them up for anything but I thought they’d enjoy it – it will be different than the geography they do with their club, so I don’t anticipate much overlap. (I’ll be with ds1 and ds3 in the nursery during this time.)
It’s been five years since my schedule was so full of homeschool activities out of the house. In the past I found it was very easy to schedule lots of activities but that being out so often left me feeling like I wanted to homeschool – but I wasn’t home enough. It was at that point that I chose to simplify by saying ‘no’ to a lot of things and I think that was a great choice; it kept our life sane and balanced, and we still had plenty of trips and activities.
While this year will have more regular outside activities than in the past, I’ve been careful not to schedule anything until after lunch (with one exception), to allow us to keep our routine in place. That way, the activities will be supplementing our home life, not replacing it.
The exception that I referenced is a 30 week history class for everyone in the family ages 8 and up that I’ve literally been waiting three years for, given by an incredibly knowledgeable and entertaining historian. The class is 2.5 hours long, with 30 minutes at the beginning is actually a viewing period since he brings in period weapons, artifacts, tools, etc to look at and explore, and supposedly he keeps even kids of all ages riveted. It will mean an hour drive in each direction every Tuesday morning, but I feel it will be worth it. My only regret is that I couldn’t do this class when dd15 and ds17 were still homeschooling – four years ago I wanted to register when my oldest was in eighth grade, but a friend suggested I wait until the following year so ds could use it as a high school credit. I took that advice but the opportunity didn’t come around again until now! I’m hoping my inlaws will watch the littles each week at this time, since I really would like to sit in on the class, too. Otherwise, I’ll keep them occupied during the class, something I’ve spent many hours doing in the past with my middles when they were little and my bigs were at the class taking stage, but it’s not something I especially find relaxing. The littles will be much happier with their grandparents, too!
Wednesday will remain our day for activities with our local homeschool support group. Two of these are geography club for ds8, dd9, and ds11 – one meeting is going to be more information based, the second meeting will be a trip related to the learning they did. Two years ago in geography club they learned about the world, then last year they did the US, and this year they’ll be doing our state. The kids really enjoy doing this with a long term home educating mom who enjoys it and makes it lots of fun for the kids. They have friends in the group, too, so that also adds to the enjoyment. Since these are close by, it doesn’t mean much of my time, only 10 minutes to drop off and then another 10 when it’s pick up time. I’ll probably be accompanying them on trips, though, when it works for our schedule.
Then another Weds. is our monthly homeschool gathering, and the final Weds. will be a Lamed Tes melachos (39 categories of work) class for ds4, with projects relating to three of the melachos at each meeting. All of these will be in the afternoons, so again, they won’t supplant our regular schedule. I do usually do my monthly shopping on Wednesday, and I’ll have to decide how to handle that if I need to be in this area mid day on those days – with Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays spoken for, it doesn’t leave me a lot of options!
Dd14 has had a number of steady babysitting job requests in the last couple of weeks for the coming year but has only accepted two jobs – one for 5 hours every Tuesday afternoon (so she’ll babysit very soon after we return from our history class), and one for the mornings from 7:15- 8:30. She likes this because she finds it breaks up the flow of her day to babysit for a couple of hours midday, and she likes to go to sleep early and get up early so late night jobs are hard for her. She’ll be home in time for breakfast, and it will allow her to continue with her regular schedule undisturbed. I think she’ll also be tutoring some younger homeschooled girls in Judaics on Monday mornings, but she’s waiting to finalize that. She also practices piano for 1 – 1.5 hours a day (the other three kids don’t practice more than 30 minutes daily), so her schedule is comfortably full right now, and she’s feeling very good about how it’s come together.
I was considering registering dd14 for a college class but made the decision to include the co-op classes for everyone instead. I told her I’ll consider it again for the spring semester, but I don’t like squeezing a schedule too tight and neither does she, so we’ll see how we’re feeling about things at that point. I reminded her that she can go together in the coming year to college classes with dd15, which I think that will be the best option.
So these are some of the plans I’ve been busy organizing recently, in addition to sending off ds17 to yeshiva and dd15 to Israel. (I always do my planning for the coming year before the year begins, and then only have to make minor adjustments during the year.) I’ve also been thinking about how to approach different areas of Jewish learning with various children, as well as making plans for ds3 and ds4, who are both ready and desirous of having something ‘big’ (ie official) to do. I don’t have it all decided on – the biggest remaining question is about ds11, who was learning daily with ds17 and would like more learning time than just with my dh. All of this has taken a lot of time and brain space, and it’s definitely been expensive, with the fees for all of these classes coming due right now, the same time as the expenses to get the older two kids taken care of. It helps to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to afford these opportunities.
We’re gradually easing out of our summer schedule towards our ‘school’ year schedule. With Rosh Hashana just a week away, I don’t anticipate doing very much outside of getting ready for the holidays. We’ll start a bit of official stuff in the coming week, along with beginning new read alouds with the middles at that time. The real focus will on Rosh Hashana (started baking yesterday), with plans to start academic type work in earnest at the beginning of October. That’s one wonderful thing about homeschooling – you can do what works for you, regardless of what everyone else is doing!
I always enjoy seeing everything coming together, and I’m looking forward to another wonderful year of learning with our family!