Last year, we were part of a fantastic Charlotte Mason friendly classical co-op and loved every minute of it. I taught history, literature, writing, and art/music appreciation to the third and fourth grade, which was a wonderful experience. Michelle fell in love with Shakespeare because of the Shakespeare class she took there. The only little problem with it….it was clear on the other side of town – a very sprawling town. And we had to leave in the morning before rush hour ended. So, we sadly had to decline participating in that group again. I'm still sad about it.
For this year, our Plan A involved a co-op with a couple of friends from church who were planning to give AmblesideOnline a try this year. We made a lovely plan for the year, and I was so very excited about where it was heading. And then, one of those families had to move away. L I'm still sad about that t00.
So that left just my other friend and I. Thankfully, our children are very similar ages and get along really well, so we decided to go ahead and have a little co-op together anyway. We had to pare things down a little bit from the original plan that we had settled on when we thought we were 3, but we're both pretty happy with how things are going so far…so all's well that ends well I guess.
What are we doing, you may ask?
We meet twice a month. One meeting is at my house and for lack of a better name we are calling this an "enrichment class". In that class we are covering the following:
We start our meetings with an opportunity for any children who would like to share a poem, Scripture, or piano piece they have learned with the rest of the group.
Charlotte Mason style picture study involves studying a set of 6 paintings from a particular artist slowly, over a period of several months, so we can truly acquaint ourselves with the artist's work and style. This is done mainly by quietly studying a painting for a few minutes, and then turning it over and narrating all we remember about the painting, talking about what we notice, and what story we think may lie behind the scene or person depicted. Only after the students have given their insights do I share a few (very few) choice tidbits about the artist or the story behind the painting. We will be studying Hans Holbein the Younger this fall, and Giotto this spring.
We do an "object lesson" on a seasonally appropriate topic during our time together, and spend some time journaling together. So far, we have done lessons on seeds, fall leaves, and pumpkins (comparing and contrasting with other squashes and cucumbers). I didn't really plan it this way, but it's working out well to study a different aspect of plant life for each of our studies, so we will probably continue with object lessons on that topic as we continue on through the year. My method of conducting these object lessons is pretty simple: we collect samples, lay them all out on the table and observe them, discussing what we see. I have found using the prompts What do you notice? – What questions do you have? – What does it remind you of? a la John Muir Laws helpful to guide this process. And then we sketch something of interest in our nature journals.
We are studying Dvorak this fall and will do Medieval Music in the spring (going along with Giotto as our artist.) Ideally, we play the music of our chosen composer at home frequently to gain familiarity. During our time together, we do some focused listening on a selection of one of his pieces and discuss a bit what we hear (or what we see – occasionally we watch a YouTube video of an actual performance), and perhaps discuss a bit of what Dvorak's influences were. (This is really fascinating y'all. Maybe I'll write another post about some of the fun connections I've come across.)
This the most challenging since we range in ages from 4-11, meaning there is a wide range of skill and ability. This fall we are doing Paper Sloyd projects (measuring/cutting/folding to make envelopes, boxes, bookmarks, etc), which has gone okay for the most part. We do have two adults with extra hands, and we are learning how to help the children with perfectionistic tendencies not get too upset when it doesn't work quite right the first time. I'm not sure if we will continue paper sloyd in the spring, or choose a different handicraft. Handicrafts are neither of our forte…
We also have a recess break at the small playground in our subdivision, and our friends usually pack a lunch and stay and eat with us before they head home so the kids get some playtime together in too.
On our other monthly meeting, we plan a park day or other field trip of some kind. Thus far, we've just had a couple of park days, but I think we will need to be a little more creative during the winter when it is likely to be too cold to want to spend all morning out in the park. J But our crew has been pretty happy with this arrangement so far.
While there are times I find myself missing the more academic, discussion-based focus of the group we were part of last year, we are finding this a good fit for us this year. Because we only meet twice a month, we have some wiggle room in our schedule on our off-weeks, which has given us time to pursue other field-trip opportunities on our own or set up outings with other friends. These were things I rarely felt like I could give us permission to do last year when we were part of a weekly, more academic co-op (especially given the distance factor and how much that weekly cross-town trip took from all of us energy wise.) Our kids love spending time together, and it's been good for us Mamas to be able to chat outside of church time too (especially since I've been unable to participate in our women's Bible study this fall). So, all's well that ends well….