Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Co-ops for Teens

One of the reasons I loved co-oping when my children were younger was the fact that they could all stay together (for the most part) in the co-op and I could be a part of this experience as well.  I love participating in my children's education and I love it even more when we can all study together.  Once my youngest child became a teen I began directing the co-op studies towards matters that pertain to teens only.  The first co-op with teens only was a ten week co-op entitled "Current Events and Persuasive Speech." This particular co-op was for boys only and we met at night so dads could join us.  The transformation from boys standing before the group, shaking in their boots as they read their presentations, to boys standing behind a podium, on stage, delivering a presentation without notes, was amazing.  And in just ten weeks time!!

We have since enjoyed teen co-ops based on the following units of study:

  • The Scopes Trial that took place in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925.  
  • Foundations of Truth
  • Vocation and Calling
This fall my youngest will be part of a co-op that is based on the Constitution and U S Law.

Next spring the co-op plans to include the newly published curriculum entitled Adventures in Philosophy!  I wrote a review on this curriculum here and am excited that it will be included in a co-op.  

One of our main goals with each co-op is to create a group environment conducive to asking questions, having discussions, doing research, and sharing information both with one another and in front of the group.  We have learned that dividing the students into smaller groups for break-out sessions tends to encourage everyone to take part in the discussions.   We assign student leaders for these groups, but rotate assignments so that each student has an opportunity to lead a group (whether they like it or not).  

In order to teach teens to ask questions, question answers, conduct research, and give presentations, it doesn't matter what subject you choose to study, it only matters that you have a subject to study and a plan for carrying out the study.  The subject can be something as specific as the Scopes Trial to something as general as Truth.  Don't be intimidated!  Gather a group and plan a fall co-op!  Feel free to contact me with questions, concerns, or suggestions!!  

We are in the midst of publishing and updating co-op guides so that parents can use the materials we have put together.  Check out or website, bettertogethercoop.com,  periodically for updates. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fall co-op ... do you need help?

There's still time to plan for an eight or ten week fall co-op.  All you need is a location and time to meet, a few families to join you and a theme for your co-op!  Right now I'm helping to organize three different co-ops, two for grandchildren and one for a friend.  Because I have organized and conducted co-ops for more than 20 years, helping others is not only easy, but it is also enjoyable.  If you have been wanting to be a part of a co-op, but have been afraid to get one started, message me.  I'll be glad to help via email or phone! Our website shares a little bit of information, and we'll be adding more to it in the near future:  http://bettertogethercoop.com/

We have an instruction guide to help you start a co-op as well as unit studies that are easily used in a co-op. Because I have a large family, I love having my children together in the same classes, sharing the work load with parents.  Creating a safe and friendly environment for children to share oral presentations provides
public speaking experiences that are vital to raising children who are not afraid to communicate in public! Including breakout sessions for discussion helps improve critical thinking skills, as well as teamwork.  Having children of various ages learning to work alongside and together with one another is socialization at its best!

The fall co-ops I am helping organize now are based on The American Girls books, transportation (boats, planes, cars and trains), and a co-op for teens (I will share more about teen co-ops soon).  With the advent of Pinterest, the task of finding thematic snacks, crafts, and science experiments has become much easier than before!   Take a look at the board I'm putting together for the transportation co-op:  http://pinterest.com/mamaweso/transportation-co-op/

My email is mamaweso@gmail.com.  Feel free to write with questions or suggestions.  If you want me to call you, send your phone number!!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cars, Planes, Boats and Trains

The previous blog post spoke to making boys into manly men by teaching them important life skills.  This post is about organizing a co-op for the younger boys and girls, based on the history of transportation.  My daughter who lives in Texas with her three sons (ages 6, 4 and newborn), will be hosting a co-op this fall and she has asked me to help her organize it.  Asking me to help organize a co-op is like inviting a chocoholic to a "Death by Chocolate" event.

One of the reasons I love co-ops, as a homeschool mom, is that children of various ages can participate, keeping families together.  Another reason I love co-ops is because the parents share responsibilities, lessening the work load.  But, one of the better benefits of having your children participate in a co-op, especially at young ages, is that you can create a safe and friendly environment for the students to give presentations.  The earlier a child begins to speak in "public," the less afraid he'll be of speaking in public later.

With a co-op centered around transportation, it will be easy for a young child to give a presentation to the group because he can do something short and simple, such as holding up a picture or a model of a mode of transportation and saying a few sentences about it.

Here is a preliminary schedule for a transportation co-op:

Week one:     Walking with mention of wheels on carts, early boats and animals
Week two:     Chariots, wagons, bicycles
Week three:   Cars
Week four:    Trains
Week five:     Boats
Week six:       Planes, balloons, dirigibles
Week seven:  Emergency Vehicles
Week eight:   Rockets
Week nine:    Future transportation (driverless car, trips to moon)
Week ten:      Review and party

The subjects we will include are as follows:  devotions, songs, manners, timeline, science, thematic snacks, student presentations,  geography, craft, games and pre-view of next week.

One of the highlights of our co-ops has been to publish a newsletter that includes a re-cap of co-op highlights as well as the children's presentations.  Of course photographs are included as well.  The newsletters are great to share with others, put in your child's portfolio, and keep as a memory to enjoy later.

Below is a chart of what the first week of this co-op might look like.  Eventually we plan to publish all of our co-op guides as a part of our "Better Together" series, but for now you can use this and if you send me your email address, I will share the plans for the other nine weeks as they are developed!

For thematic snack ideas, go here:  http://pinterest.com/mamaweso/transportation-co-op/

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Making Boys Manly Men via Co-ops

If you have boys, then consider starting a co-op like the one Linda, here in Dayton, Tennessee, is organizing. Her son enjoys using both his mind and his hands and, at this point in time, desires to go to welding school instead of college.  She has a vision for a fall co-op that has many parents excited in this area.  Arriving at our meeting with a stack of books Linda shared her idea of having retired men in the area teach our sons (daughters are not necessarily excluded) how to do things like repair small engines, tune up a car, replace the inside workings of a toilet, build a computer, do wood working, replace screens on iPods, and more!

As you can imagine the moms are quite excited.  People began throwing out names of retired men who would probably love to be a part of this co-op.  One mom, who only has a daughter left at home, suggested having a co-op at the same time for the girls who aren't interested in learning those particular skills.  The idea was shared that the young ladies could prepare home baked goodies for the men who will be volunteering to help with the boys co-op.

Although I am a huge fan of co-ops that include a variety of ages of students, both male and female, there are definitely situations that call for separating ages and genders and this is one of those cases.  Not only will this co-op be blessing to the retired men, the men will be blessing our families and we will be raising boys who will be able to bless their families with the skills they learn!!

Better together -- co-operative learning at its best!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Co-ops Can Coax the Shiest Ones Out of Their Shells!

When we organize a co-op we allow children of all ages to attend (unless the subject is too mature for a younger audience). We insist the children not be disruptive, but we allow the parents to decide if their child has to give a presentation, or not. We encourage everyone to give presentations, but realize that sometimes it helps to let them observe for a few weeks. During this time they will realize that co-ops are a safe place, and that no-one is going to make fun of them or belittle them. They will be inspired by watching other children give presentations and, more-than-likely they will soon ask to give a presentation!

My youngest son was extremely shy when he was 4 years old. I called him my "clingon" ... not from Star Trek, but because he was always clinging to my leg. To be honest, I didn't expect him to show any desire to do a presentation at co-op, but after a few weeks he surprised all of us by his presentations. After he decided he wanted to participate, he readily memorized a report and then presented it with relish. His first report was about Galileo's law of falling bodies. He not only explained the principle, but he illustrated the law by standing on a chair and dropping items.

At another co-op we had a mom attend with her two young children to observe, but not participate. By the third co-op the young children had asked if they, too, could give a presentation and the next week they shared about their new kittens, showing photographs to the class.

The geography co-op we had one year was so large that in order to have everyone give presentations, we had the entire family give one presentation each week on a particular country. We found this worked out great for larger families. The youngest child, usually 2 or 3 years old, would hold up a flag of the country while the other children would share little bits of information about that country, oftentimes wearing costumes or bringing props to share with the class. I'll never forget the presentation given by one family on the Easter Islands. This was the first time that they participated in a co-op. As they got out of their chairs and headed to the stage they sang, "Do your ears hang low? Do they wobble to and fro?" and then they proceeded to talk about the huge stone statues found on the islands, many of which had low hanging ears. It was great!

Statistics say that people are more afraid of speaking in public, than they are of dying. If you began encouraging your child to give presentations to groups at a young age, then they are less likely to be deathly afraid to speak in public when they are older. Not only do the young ones participate, they often do a better job than some of the older children who, until trained otherwise, stand in front of the group and read a written report in a monotone voice.

Don't be afraid to organize and/or participate in a co-op this fall! More-than-likely you'll be amazed and impressed by the presentations given each week and it won't take long before the shy ones are not-so-shy any more!