Tag Archives: homeschool co-op

The Year of the Taxi

This fall is our first venture into organized sports. We live in the country, and it takes us about 15 minutes to get to the closest grocery store, or 25 minutes if we’re going to do any other shopping. Because of this, I knew that signing one or more children up for a sports program would require quite a bit of driving. And time. And driving… and driving…and driving…

But my daughter Cassie wanted to take the plunge. She loves meeting new friends, so we signed her up for a volleyball skills session in June. Twice a week, she met with other girls to learn how to play volleyball. I figured it was a good sport to learn, as that’s the game of choice when extended family gets together. Next reunion, she’d be ready.

And she loved it!  So when the teams form and she was placed on the middle school girls’ volleyball team, it was hard to say “no.” As soon as we received the schedule, I marked everything on the calendar — times and places of practices and games. And then I wondered how I was going to juggle it all.

All four of the kids are taking music lessons of some sort now, and my oldest son is also teaching piano to some young friends. That was already four places I had to be. We also have co-op classes twice a week. Then there are the spontaneous get-togethers with friends (especially for my 10th grade son).. Still do-able, except that when the school year started, my husband began part-time work most weeknights, so he’s not available to help run anyone around.

So far (and with extra help!), we’ve made it. We share rides with some friends to/from co-op, which cuts out one trip for me. Some other friends who also have a daughter on the team have been able to give Cassie rides to some of the practices and even a couple of games that were far away.

It does get complicated, though. Monday’s are the trickiest, and I actually have to write it all down so I don’t miss anything. On a typical Monday afternoon, this is the plan:

  • 2:30 pm – Co-op classes end
  • 2:40 pm – Take Cassie and her friend to volleyball practice
  • 3:00 pm – Pick up son John and 3 friends (we carpool with them) from co-op
  • 3:10 pm – Pick up daughter Lillie from friend’s house where she went there to play after her classes were done
  • 3:30 pm – Drop off John at the home where he’s teaching piano lesson
  • 4:00 pm – Drop off John’s 3 friends, pick up son Luke who’s been playing at the friends’ house with their little brother
  • 4:15 pm  – Drop off Lillie and Luke at their grandmom’s house (next door to ours)
  • 4:30 pm – Pick up John
  • 4:45 pm – Pick up Lillie and Luke, take all home
  • 5:00 pm – Leave to pick up Cassie from friend’s home
  • 5:30 pm – Arrive home and start supper

So far, so good, though I almost forgot to pick up Lillie last week. And since we only have about a month to go until volleyball season is over, I can soon take a small break from the taxi service.

But then, John’s wants to try out for basketball….


Photo by K Rosseel

A Little Help, Please

Tomorrow is our first official day of co-op, when all four of my children will have classes to attend. We joined the co-op two years ago, and it’s worked out well for our family. We’ve found friends there who could help us with our homeschooling adventure, and friend whom we could help out as well.

When we first started, my oldest son John was entering the eighth grade and my youngest was starting kindergarten.  While I still felt fairly confident about teaching the eighth grade curriculum, I knew I would have less time to spend with him now that all of the kids had lessons to do. His classes at co-op consisted of Geography and Physical Science, and he did well in both. He learned how to manage his time, keep up with assignments, and study for tests. The next year was even more challenging as he took Geometry, Biology, and World Literature.

This year, as he enters the tenth grade, he’ll be taking Algebra II, Chemistry, and American Literature. While I can help him with his homework, I’m not certain I could see him through the math and science courses successfully. But fortunately, there are other moms who can.

Part of the requirement at our co-op is that at least one parent from each family takes on a role, whether its in teaching a class, organizing activities, or helping clean up the facilities. This year, I’ll be teaching two writing classes and an art class. I love to edit the students’ papers and try new art projects, something that isn’t easy for some moms. So while we’re receiving help in some areas, we’re able to give help in others.

If you’re not part of a co-op but are overwhelmed with so much to teach, here are a couple of things you can try:

  • Contact other homeschoolers in your area and find out what their interests or strengths are.  Ask if they would be interested in teaching a class in a home or at a local church. You could either pay the teacher or perhaps trade off by teaching another subject yourself.
  • See if there are any upper level high school students who would be willing to tutor your child in a particular subject. Often high schoolers can do the work but charge a much lower rate than a traditional tutor.

We’ve homeschooled all of our children since kindergarten, but I’m not sure if we could have done it alone. So if you find yourself needing some assistance, don’t hesitate to ask. As they say, we can all use a little help sometime. 🙂

Creative Collages

This year in our co-op classes, I have been teaching a senior high art class. We’ve worked on some interesting and challenging projects, but as the year comes to a close, I wanted to do some things that would be a little less time-consuming and really fun. One of those projects was creating collages.

The best part about collages is that children (and adults!) of any age can do it. Here’s what you’ll need to make your own:

  • Canvas (we used stretched canvases, 11″ x 14″)
  • Acrylic Paint (we used craft acrylics)
  • Paint Brushes
  • Sponge Brush
  • Cup with Water to clean brushes
  • Paper Towels for clean up
  • Newspaper for covering the table
  • Modge Podge (found at craft stores)
  • Items for a Collage: old game pieces or playing cards, coins, beads, dried or pressed flowers, fabric or lace scraps, old CD’s, words cut from magazines or newspapers, magazine or calendar pictures, old photos, silk flowers or leaves, broken crayons or pencils, dry pasta or rice, flower seeds, twigs, feathers, etc.

To create the collage:

1. Make a plan!  Help your child decide on a “theme” for his collage. The theme could be anything: animals, dogs, cats, space, nature, holidays, music, scouting, etc.  For example, one of my students created a collage with a meadow theme using dried flowers; another did a Biblical theme using a favorite scripture.

2. Paint the Canvas — Using the acrylic paints and paintbrushes, give your collage some background color. You can also paint the edges of the canvas for a finished look.

3. When the paint is dry (you can use a hairdryer to speed up this process), arrange the items you’re using for the collage on the canvas. Decide where each one will go.

4. With your sponge brush, dip into the jar of Modge Podge. This product works both as a glue and a varnish. Put some on the underside of your item and place it on the canvas (for larger, 3-dimensional items, you will need to use more). Then add more to the top, especially items that are very thin, such as pressed flowers or paper. Although the Modge Podge will appear white or cloudy, it will dry clear.

5. Go over the rest of your canvas with the Modge Podge for a uniform, glossy look.

That’s it!  Let it dry for a day or so (depending on how much Modge Podge you used), hang it on the wall, and enjoy!

The Homeschool Ball

This past month, our co-op sponsored a homeschool ball,  and this was our first year attending. And I have to say, it was a lot different than a typical high school prom.

We didn’t attend the ball last year because I thought it was only intended for high school students, and at the time my oldest was in 8th grade. But this dance is for the whole family! The high school students do receive special recognition, but everyone can enjoy the evening together.

As with any formal dance, the kids dressed up — boys in suits and ties, girls in formal dresses. My girls especially enjoyed this part, as they donned their prettiest dresses and had a friend fix their hair. Preparations also involved putting together a couple of dishes, as all of the families pulled together to provide enough food for the evening.

The dance itself was a lot of fun — English country line dancing. The instrumental music consisted of a keyboard and a violin player. A caller taught everyone the steps to each dance before it began, then called them out again as the dance progressed. The whole atmosphere was  casual and relaxed, as girls took off their shoes to dance without falling, older students danced with younger siblings, and friends danced with friends.

My children all danced every dance — all of them, including 7-year-old Luke! He and I were often partners, although he sometimes danced with his sisters as well. As we went through the dance, I would listen to the caller then tell him what to do, and he caught on very quickly. Who would have thought?

No, it wasn’t your typical school dance, and I was so glad! It was an evening of good, wholesome, family fun — one of those memory-making moments that remind you just why you’re homeschooling after all. 🙂

Is Your Artist a Perfectionist?

At our co-op this year, I’m teaching a senior high art class. This is the first time in a while that I’ve taught older students, and we’re having a lot of fun with the projects. The purpose of the class is to show the students different techniques for drawing and painting and to introduce them to new types of media. Hopefully in doing so, they’ll find something they enjoy doing as a creative outlet, whether or not they pursue art in the future.

Recently, a comment was made that got me thinking. After working with oil pastels, one of the students stated that he really didn’t like anything he drew. This reminded me of my own 12-year-old daughter who, after participating in numerous art classes in my home, has sworn off art forever. Both students are perfectionists, and if the image on the paper doesn’t appear like the one they envision, they are unhappy with it. My daughter will even say that she’s wasted her time in drawing the picture.

But it’s never a waste of time. Every time you try something new, you learn something — you work your brain, you dip into your creative abilities (latent though they may be), and you grow as a person. And drawing, just like any other skill, takes time — it takes know-how and practice to become proficient. Why do we assume we should be able to create a great drawing just by picking up a pencil? True, some people are so gifted they can do that, but the rest of us need to work at it, just as we need to work at learning an instrument or learning how to crochet. Would we expect someone to build a house without first learning how to use the tools?

If you have a child who’s a perfectionist and become discouraged about art, remind him that drawing and painting are skills that he can learn. Then set it aside for a while, but encourage him to try other creative avenues (my daughter is currently involved in scrapbooking and really enjoying it). He may come back to art, or he may not. But either way, he would know that he could.

Let’s Have a Parade!

This week, we met up with family to spend a day together at a children’s museum. While we were there, we began talking about Christmas parades, and my grown niece commented that one of her dreams was to be in a parade.

“Really?” I replied. “That’s funny, because we’re going to be in a parade this Sunday. We’ve been in one every year for the last five years.”

“But I thought you had to represent a business or an organization,” she said.

But in our little country town, you don’t. Participation is open to anyone willing to pay the entry fee, which ranges from $10 – $20 depending on what you are entering. The categories always include commercial and non-commercial vehicles and floats, classic and antique vehicles, recreational vehicles, horses, pageant winners, and walkers/marchers.

Those may seem like difficult categories for a family to fit into, but they’re not. We enter every year as a non-commercial vehicle. We decorate my husband’s old pickup truck and dress up to fit the theme of the parade. My husband drives the truck, and the kids and I all ride in the back, waving and tossing out candy and wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas.”

Our parade offers plaques as prizes for the entries with the best decorations, and would you believe it, for the past five years we’ve placed either first or second in our category? When I first came across the entry form six years ago, I thought it’d be fun to enter it on a whim; now it’s become a family Christmas tradition. And the kids are always anxious to see if we’ll win again.

If your children would like to be in a parade next year, check into your town’s entry requirements. If you do need to enter as a group, you could enter as a club, a church organization, or a homeschool co-op. Then, with a little creativity and a lot of planning, you’ll be ready to join in the fun!

Photo by gracey

A Disadvantage to Homeschooling?

While homeschooling offers many opportunities and advantages for students and their families, every once in a while I come across a disadvantage. This week was one of those times.

There is something to be said for the accountability that a traditional classroom affords. While all homeschooling situations are different, with some stricter than others, ours tends to be on the less-strict side. I don’t always feel the need to administer tests if I know the children are learning the information; if the kids are a day or two late completing an assignment, I’d accept it from them just the same. It was helpful to us, then, when we joined a co-op last year; now, for some subjects, my children have someone else to be accountable to, someone who won’t let them “slide” by. It has helped encourage self-discipline and time-management skills.

But this week, I taught a class in which a student just didn’t want to participate. While the rest of the class was working on the assigned project, he just sat there. By the time the other students were finishing up, he had only completed half the project, and he left with it undone.

What’s a homeschooling parent to do? If the parents of this student force their child to attend class, he will be difficult to teach, and it will affect the other students. If they don’t make him go, they will be giving in to his disobedient and rebellious attitude.

Parents of students in a traditional classroom aren’t faced with this type of dilemma; a student must attend class and must do the work in order to make the grade. They may not like math or history, but they must pass those classes in order to make it through school.

Then it occurred to me: while parents with children in school don’t have those issues to contend with, the teachers still do. In one class they may have students who are eager and ready to learn right beside those who won’t do any work at all. Often, teachers can’t move ahead with the material because some students are continually (and intentionally) behind.

As both the parent and teacher, homeschoolers are forced to deal with all sides of the issue, no matter how difficult it might be. But then, isn’t that what being a parent is all about?

Gesture Drawing

This fall, I’m teaching several art classes — some in my home and one at our homeschool co-op. This week, we worked on drawing a still life, a project that included lessons in proportion and shading. To get the students warmed up and focused, however, we did a quick activity before working on the main pieces — a very quick activity. The students created some gesture drawings.

Gesture drawing is the name given to the quick sketches an artist creates of a particular subject — sketches to capture the mood, feeling, emotion, or movement of the subject. The sketches are created as a series of overlapping (often circular) lines without any erasing — no changes can be made once a line is on the paper. These drawings are done quickly; depending on the subject matter, one may spend as little as 10 seconds drawing a particular object, while more difficult compositions may take five minutes or so.

The purpose? This style of drawing helps to literally “loosen” up an artist; no erasers can be used to make corrections, and the artist is encouraged to draw quickly and freely. Gesture drawing is also aids in sharpening observation skills as the artist must focus all of his or her attention on the object.  Here’s how we did it:

I found a number of objects to use from my kitchen, some symmetrical, some not. The objects included mugs, syrup bottles, bananas, pears, cooking utensils, and toys (yes, we have toys in our kitchen too!).  I placed one object in front of each student, then provided them with a piece of scratch paper on which to draw. I gave them all a pencil but no eraser. They then had 30 sections to draw the object they were looking at.

We all found out that thirty seconds goes by very quickly when one is drawing. Next, I had everyone pass their objects two people to the left. We then spent another 30 seconds drawing the second object. We followed this procedure two or three more times. I even had them try drawing the object while looking only at the object and not at their paper at all.

The best part of all — you don’t  even need an art class to try this fun activity!  You can do it together with your children around the kitchen table, and everyone can create a gesture drawing (or two or three). You’ll find it’s good practice for everyone — and a lot of fun!

Why Take an Art Class?

This past week, we started back with our co-op classes. Instead of teaching the younger elementary students, though, I’m teaching classes to middle school and high school students, and one of those classes is Sr. High Art. As I introduced the course, I asked the students why learning how to create art is important.

At first no one answered my question — I wasn’t sure if they were just shy, or if they just didn’t know. Finally, someone said, “Because it’s fun.” And that’s a great reason. For many people, creating art — whether they are working on a two- dimensional piece such as drawing or painting, or whether they’re making a three-dimensional carving or sculpture — is very enjoyable. It can be a way to escape the stresses of the day and concentrate on something else for a while.

And there are other reasons. Art encourages children to use their imaginations — to do more than sit and watch a television show or video game. Also, the arts often help children develop a their self-confidence and self-esteem, as students can look with a sense of pride at something they created themselves.

Since our co-op is a Christian co-op, I shared with my students yet another reason for taking the class: sometimes the arts can reach people with the message of the Gospel when logic and reasoning cannot. Half of the people in the world out there are  logical thinkers, who want to hear something that’s black-and-white, cut-and-dried. The other half, however, — those creative-type thinkers, may identify more with the images and emotions conveyed through the arts. I can remember so many times I have been moved by a painting, a song, or a melody.

God, as the Creator, is the greatest artist of all — and he’s created us with an appreciation for beauty along with the desire to create beautiful things. And we can do that for His glory — what better reason could there be for taking an art class?

Photo by mindexpansion