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04 January 2011

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Tabitha

That is so cool! Do you have any thoughts for families that would like to start some co-schooling with older kids? I'm thinking of 2 12 year olds, a 10 year old and the stair step on down in my family (basically adding a 12 year old to the mix of my 6 kids). All the kids would be girls. A friend and I are discussing this and I'd love some thoughts/pointers/help.

Cathie

Coolio! I would have never thought of that! We are running into all kinds of problems here, so I love your "out of the box" thinking on this one.

bearing

Tabitha, you might go back and read over the posts in my "Coschooling" tab and see if any of them spark some specific questions and thoughts. Are you thinking of teaching the two 12yos and 10yo as a "class" in one particular subject? I think maybe the best way to try it out is to begin by considering which subject you are excited about teaching (or your friend is excited about teaching) to a group of kids not all your own. Then build outward from there. You'll need to come up with things for the "other kids" to do, but those should be set up to be as easy as possible while you are establishing a routine and schedule. I think a lot of people who try co-schooling or other forms of "day sharing" start off with expectations set too high of "what will get done." Time spent getting to know each other's rhythms will pay off.

Never neglect to start and end the day with some time just to greet and review -- Hannah and I do it over a cup of coffee in the morning, and a cup of tea right before leaving, while the kids get some free play.

bearing

So, just to give Tabitha another example - let's say that one parent was excited about teaching a language, and another was excited about teaching art appreciation (to pick two examples that are good for a wide variety of ages and that can be done in once- or twice-weekly sessions). You could split the kids up into two age groups and take turns working with them.

Or, if there are small, middle, and large kids, you could rotate the middle and large kids between free play, independent work, and directed learning while the small kids are always being supervised by one mother or another.

We have found that it doesn't work for us to have kids working on material they don't share. So, for example, we shifted all our math to the days we're apart (meaning my oldest has to double up a couple of days a week with two math lessons).

Hannah

I looked at my Skype account to see how long we worked yesterday. We were connected for about 3 hrs of schoolwork time.

Hannah

Thoughts for Tabitha, no particular order (even though I numbered them):

1. A lot of us are homeschooling
because we have very specific ideas
about how we want our kids to be educated. Coschooling is an opportunity to let go a little and explore some variety! My schooling days when I'm not coschooling look
VERY different than Erin's. Part of
the success of our coschooling is that
we were willing to create something different from either for the kids' and
our days together.

2. The possibilities for this for enriching the educations for kids in
both families are amazing!

3. It's best not to try to 'fit in' a day or
half-day of coschooling around other schoolday activities. Too much time
pressure will be stressful for everyone and decrease the effective learning
time.

Hannah

4. A whole day works best for us, but it may be that a half day (say, 12-4) will work better for you and your friend. When I co school with my other friend, we have adopted a half day schedule. Consider how you each handle morning school in your home before deciding on a schedule. If either of you needs a lot of time to gear up in the morning, an early start will just be frustrating.

5. Trusting each other to have *all* the kids' best interests at heart is key.

6. First offer the help for your friend that is easy, enjoyable, and interesting to you. Then ask for help in areas that are difficult for you to homeschool... You'll feel so grateful for what she can do for your kids, and so glad that the little things you do seem to really help her.

This can be by age level, subject, or type of activity in a given subject that you are teaching together.

7. With older kids, who have a lot of academic work to get through, you have to remember that it's coschooling not cohousework ;).

Hannah

8. Good candidates for coschooling subjects are anything that requires discussion, anything that requires memory work or recitation,anything where different 'takes' or 'talents' can learn from each other, and participation subjects (art, music theory, singing, foreign language, handicrafts, physical education) My experience is to start with no more than 2-4 subjects being actively prepared for by each mother. Don't add anything else until that amount is running smoothly.

Keeping an eye on your relative 'workloads' is a good idea.

9. Kids over 8 or so can be trained to work semi-independently, and as a team.

10. Never plan it so it is "all work, no play" for you or the kids. (I guess the reverse is also true :) )

11. Meet and strategize without the kids, more often at the beginning.

Hannah

12. Be explicit for how you will each care for the youngest kids when you are engaged with teaching.

13.Don't micromanage each other.

14. Give your kids space to develop a student to mentor relationship to your friend, and vice versa. Don't get into "I handle my kids and you handle yours, exclusively"

15.There can be some uncomfortableness because you are making the switch to sharing responsibility for your kids' education. There's also a kind of euphoria that can happen at first--WOW! Look what we're accomplishing! Be prepared to give it enough time for both of these to pass ;). The real work, learning, and relationships that ensue will be much more satisfying and not as prone to burnout.

16. Don't be discouraged if people only want to coschool in the short term. I know from some other coschooling I do that on-and-off can provide some very worthwhile benefits. Even a semester or two with some different "teachers" and "students" is fantastic.

Long-term coschooling is even better, of course.

bearing

"It's best not to try to 'fit in' a day or
half-day of coschooling around other schoolday activities. Too much time
pressure will be stressful for everyone and decrease the effective learning
time."

yes -- you start with the presumption that making the coschooling work is high priority, and fit other things around the coschooling. A key part of that is finding the right rhythm for the day -- which to us looks like:

- coffee/greeting/free play
- morning school (mostly younger kids' work)
- lunch
- break for kids, regroup/tidy for moms
- afternoon school (mostly older kids' work)
-set out snack, let kids grab it when they wander in
- tea/review the day
- leave in time to get dinner on the table at our respective homes.
-

bearing

Whoa! You're productive when the kids are sick!

Tabitha

Thanks so much, Erin and Hannah. I will be sending this exchange to my friend!

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