Sequels are rarely as good as the first. Welcome to the exception. Last summer you may have read about my reluctant excitement and mounting anxiety after joining our first homeschool co-op in a post entitled, In a Moment of Weakness We Joined a Co-op. Well, I could not just leave you all hanging.  So here is that bit of information you all came back to find out….

 

No. I did not have to do diapers! Phew.

 

There you go.  If that is all you really wanted to know, you’re free to go.  Unless you are currently at a co-op. In which case, stay right there.  Moms can’t leave. No one gets out of the parking lot without at least their own kids and before locating a free floating parent to fill their position. So get comfy, chica!

Now, since you are stuck where you are at co-op, or at home waiting for your child to stop whining about flash cards while hiding under his desk (oh wait that’s probably what I’m doing while you are reading this), allow me to entertain and elighten you with my co-op reconnaissance:

*Disclaimer:  First off, I can only speak for the co-op we attend. There is word on the street that some more cultish co-ops may exist and are run by gossips who roast newbies and outsiders over the fires of conformity. If you join one of these accidentally, may the odds be ever in your favor.

Were the other moms righteous and judgmental?

We survived our first semester without any noticeable spiritual judgment or confrontation.  I was worried we’d be Christian-timidated,” which is a word that I just made up and here means– made to feel less than biblically adequate to hang with the click.  Of course, we proclaim we are Christians in this house, but we are not up on the lingo. Does that make sense?

For instance, I listen intently to moms who tell me or write to me about how God led them to homeschool. I’m inspired and amused by their words. Not in a judgmental way, seriously, but there is a real vernacular in certain Christian groups.  It intimidates me.  I do not use phrases like, “He is working through me to pour out my faith into my kids…” or “I am opening myself up to the Word” or “…letting his love flow through me.” I get the meaning and I see the poetry and deep heartfelt meanings.  But my dialect goes more like:

 

So, I asked God to slap me upside the head with a homeschool catalog or something, if this is what I was supposed to do.” 

 

Because of the lingo, and my natural emotionally introverted tendencies, I am a nervous wreck around these people when they get together in large groups and all start speaking these phrases.  I feel less than adequate.  Not that I want to learn to speak more poetically, just that I don’t want to be judged for failure to integrate linguistically.

I am happy to report that my fear of being called on to give testimony or lead prayer in a large group has not been realized. There are many children, more socialized than me, in the group who are eager and willing to lead everyone in opening prayers. I love hearing their hearts speak when they get up and tell God what is really on their minds. Such as, “Lord, thank you for this great day at Co-op. And please get these dead crickets out of the building soon.  They stink.”  And though I was thinking the same exact thing, it sounds so much better coming from a 7 year old.

Did your kids learn anything? How were their classes?

The D Boys, for the most part, enjoyed co-op.  But we were late on the registration frenzy, and thus we didn’t get to pick any of the classes they wanted. Because of this, D1 can now make a mean biscuit based turnover, D2 can read drumming music tabs, and Lil D learned that it was more fun to eat the cotton candy than to use it to make a cumulous cloud display.

The absolute best experience the boys had at our first semester of co-op was the opportunity to learn with a deaf teacher.  I didn’t care if they came away from Weather Experiments not knowing where rain fell from (though they learned monsoons worth), I was so excited when they told me all about their teacher and how they had to make eye contact and enunciate words, and her daughter would sign, and she would joke to them in writing.  They enjoyed her so much and they learned a new way to focus and see someone overcome life’s challenges. It was like a MasterCard commercial. Priceless.

So was it worth wasting a day of school and/or free time?

No. And yes, of course. At the end of the semester the 6th grade twins did not care whether or not I signed them up for the next semester. They had a good time socializing with the two or so friends they made.  But they were not sure it was time better spent than just staying home and working on their computer coding and guitar music. However, 3rd grade Lil D was willing to give up Coca-Cola and SpongeBob to go back to co-op after the Christmas break.  He began to love Mondays, like a psycho excited about going to the dentist, because it was co-op day.

What did I have to do?  Did I enjoy it?

If I am being completely honest, and I usually am to my own detriment, I was bored.  My duties included assisting in two “For Credit” classes, which are classes that include homework and testing to count for a credit on a homeschool transcript.  The subjects were Anatomy and Physiology and a literature study of The Giver. In the first, I did not do much more than collect paper scraps and help them to the garbage can and pass out scissors and glue. The mom in charge had everything planned to perfection from the crafty labs, to the homework reminder slips and even the after class treats.  I did make a really good playdough man one day. He stood for over 1 minute before folding under the pressure and lack of a skeletal system.

In the literature study class I really enjoyed discussing theme, plot, characterization and utopian misgivings with the teens.  It was hard to rein in my thoughts and just assist and monitor, or whatever I was supposed to be doing.  I really hope the amazing mom who taught the class very well was not to annoyed with my outbursts of thought. And if she is reading….I finally watched the movie. It sucked.

And for third period, I sat. And waited. Crickets. Crickets. Crickets.  I tried to stay off my phone. I did get to sit in on the elections class one day during the presidential debates of the fall when another mom had to take a feverish child home.  Good excuse, btw.  It was seriously fun to be a fly on the wall in a room filled with opinionated homeschoolers ranging from 4th-11th grade.  They really would have made much better, intimidating, and fair moderators. But most days I spent the third hour waiting to leave and occasionally chatting with some of the other homeschool moms floating around the building.

There are, of course, worse ways to spend an hour. Laundry comes to mind. However, if I had been allowed to run down the road to Walmart and pick up a few necessities, or down to Starbucks for a pick-me-up….but we’ve already beat that dead horse.

Are we there to stay?

Well we went back today?! So there’s that. Lil D was so excited he actually got up with his own alarm, combed his hair, and put on actual socks and then fixed himself breakfast before I had to count to five and threaten legislation. And when we got in the car I was aware someone in the backseat had gotten into his father’s cologne. I will be getting to the bottom of that new development very soon!?

The boys are in their first pick classes this time. Robotics, Hands-on-Equations, military tactics, Paper Rock Paintbrush! etc. I made sure and filled all my hours with classes to occupy my mind. I am even helping in PE now.  Clearly I was feeling frumpy on registration day. An hour of wrangling 8 year old boys around a basketball court is basically a Spinning class without the sore crotch. I’ll bring tape for my over eager mouth in A Tale of Two Cities literature study so the teach lets me stay.  And Anatomy and Physiology 2 is going to be great because the kids remember me from last semester and were much more into discussion.

Should all homeschoolers be involved in some kind of co-op or program?

Absolutely not. Unless you feel you must congregate, then absolutely yes. The experience thus far has definitely added to their educational experience. We have made friends, even me. But I don’t think in the long run that their education will have benefited in terms of GPAs and test scores.There were days I was sure we would not come back the following semester.  There was no measurable knowledge being gained, I was tired, bored, hungry, and not too impressed with some of the classes I was witnessing.

Then I remembered why we chose to join in the first place. None of the reasons included academic fluffing. It was to get out and meet like minded families and fun enrichment activities. So I had to put a check by that. Though not all of the folks at co-op are like minded.  But that just makes for good discussions on the way home. I don’t know how long we will be a part of co-op. We are hanging in there for now. Maybe I’ll get bold and teach a class next semester? Maybe we will move on and try another way of homeschooling.  Who knows?

The moral of my co-op review is that all co-ops are different, and though I did not experience any of the frustrations I had heard from other moms, or even my own fantasized horrors, they probably do happen from time to time. But its okay to give it a shot.  You may find it surprisingly enjoyable. Or not. Or your kids might and you will go along to keep them happy.

And maybe, just maybe, if you make enough friends on the board you can talk them into letting you make runs to Starbucks with the promise of Latte’s and perhaps teaching medical terminology next semester!?  Hahaha. Just kidding, ladies. Unless you’re going to let me?

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