Okay, since I popped back in here after a slew of angry spam, I realized I have another thing to say about schooling options right now for struggling families.
Now there are all these models floating around for support structures for homeschoolers. There are class centers where students sign up for individual classes, “microschools” where a group of parents hires a teacher for a small group of kids, online schools that offer just a few classes or do it all for you… I like a lot of these models and we’ve even used several of them. Especially as my kids have gotten older, it’s nice to have the option of sending them to a quality teacher at a center or enrolling them in an online class for a subject I can’t teach. And if other structures help families feel more secure or work better, especially for working parents, then I’m all for them. Education can be done so many ways.
But it has occured to me several times that the way we did it back in the day when Mushroom and BalletBoy were small, could be perfect for the pandemic times, assuming you can get a group you trust and want to “pod” with. I assume you’ve all heard about the pod concept where you stop distancing with a couple of families and share resources in various ways, as well as try to keep each other a bit saner. Everyone has to agree to limit their contacts beyond that group, but within that structure, it seems like it’s worth the risk for many people. Everyone has to follow the law and decide what risks you’re comfortable with, obviously. But since a lot of families are considering this sort of approach anyway, it’s out there.
When my kids were little, we did have a co-op, but we didn’t hire a teacher, rent a building, or charge any fees. We didn’t develop or choose a curriculum or try to figure out how to cover reading, writing, and arithmetic together. We were just about four families (though we were sometimes three or five) and met just once a week, though more often could have been fine, especially in this environment where you don’t have other activities taking up your time. We changed it at various points, but the gist was just that we rotated parents as teachers. The kids picked a topic to study. Dinosaurs, American history, secret codes, poetry, money, the human body, robots and inventions, and so on and so forth. Then each parent would teach something for a day. The kids would come over, do a bunch of activities, then spend the rest of the day playing hard and running around until someone decided we had to beat the traffic and stop.
Later on, we changed up our model so that one parent oversaw a whole unit with lots of meetings about a topic the kids were learning about. Then we rotated for the next unit. We were part of another co-op where the parents picked the topics and we picked big themes for the kids as well.
Math, reading, and writing? Those were for the parents to be in charge of because not every kid is ready to do the same thing at the same time. Not every program works for every kid. Plus, you should do those for a few minutes with younger kids every day.
I have the most idyllic memories of those co-op days. We were together for many years. The kids once learned about poetry and went to the aquatic gardens to write poems about lotuses and tiny wildlife in the pools. They once learned about the Gold Rush and spent several hours, in the rain, “mining” for gold. They once learned about crystals and grew colorful ones stretching down from strings into jars. They planned camping trips together. They cooked food together. They invented board games and put on shows.
All these other models could be right for these new families in this hard time. But also, you don’t have to have a school or a microschool or an outside teacher. You definitely don’t need an online based option or a curriculum in a box. Keep up your kids basic math, reading, and writing just a little bit. Get a math program, make sure they’re reading some books or teach them phonics if they’re still learning, and make sure they put pencil to paper sometimes. And then for everything else, it’s okay to think way outside the box. It’s okay if it’s loose and fun and wild. Whether you’re alone or with others, if you have elementary schoolers, whatever works is whatever works. But if you are with others, think about keeping it open ended and child led. You really can’t go wrong if you’re just trying something, letting them ask questions, letting them play.