|Our first field trip: A Lewis and Clark Hike|
We started as a conversation between three families who were attending Classical Conversations and had concluded that we did not want to continue there. (See Why the Switch?) We had a very high set of expectations, and wanted to continue with the good things that we had learned in CC, such as memory work, regular meeting times, and fellowship, but we wanted to craft something that was more to our style. All of us wanted to regain a very hands-on approach to the instruction of our own children, as well as have everything we studied be relevant to the spine of our studies.
All three families agreed that we would start with TOG Year 3, so we all ordered the print and DE editions. Over the course of the summer we prayerfully added two more families, and then at the midway point, one more family joined. Throughout the summer of 2011, we met together regularly and pored over the curriculum. The goals we set at first were very high, and would have required a certain amount of "reinventing the wheel," so we backed off those initial goals, though the core intention of the group remained the same. We ultimately concluded that the purpose of our group was to provide our kids with an opportunity to engage in discussions and projects that they would not otherwise have the chance to do if we only did the curriculum ourselves, in essense, we desired fellowship and accountability for ourselves and the kids. We also saw the great benefit of a quarterly "Unit Celebration" where the children present their work at the end of each quarter. We have had two and they have been so much fun! Field trips together is another fun thing that we try to do from time to time. We have had one per quarter so far.
|being goofballs at the Unit Celebration|
We have three groups of students - a lower grammar group (LG), which focuses on activities and craft projects that the younger kids enjoy, an upper grammar group (UG), which is a bit more focused on discussion of the reading, but also on projects and activities that are best done in a group setting, and finally a dialectic group (D) which is discussion based. That group discusses the history, literature and geography points of each week's study and does not engage as much in the hands-on projects. We meet on Monday Mornings from 9:30-1:00. We pack lunches and stay to play and fellowship after school work is done.
Due to the fact that the location we had set as our meeting place was under its final stages of construction, we began the first weeks in one of our families' homes. It was really ideal in some ways, as they have the kind of house where we could spread out and do different activities in different places. However, from the outset we all agreed that we did not want to impose on any one family week after week--17 children plus moms is lot to host every week! It was wonderful in the fall, but we knew that the rainy and colder weather could really make for a more stressful situation if we continued to meet in a home.
|Learning flag etiquette|
|Field trip to hear Jim Weiss|
Where Do We Go From Here?
We will begin Year 3, Unit 3, Week 22 on Tuesday. Because of the President's Day holiday, we decided that this would be a field trip week, so we are planning an outing for Friday. As things stand now, we will finish the year with the current configuration. Our UG mom who has done the bulk of the teaching is going to have a baby in a few weeks, so the other UG moms will fill in for her. Once we finish out the year, we will take a look at the things we feel have worked well and what has not worked as well and make changes based on our collective ideas. One struggle that the I have is that meeting in the morning digs into valuable time of instruction. It is simply human nature that once we get home from co-op, the day is shot. There is not the energy or the time to get math, grammar or writing done, so essentially we have four days a week to be sure that the core subjects get covered. Right now for my kids it is okay, but for my 10 year old, it is a squeeze. We have to be very disciplined those other four days. If we were to meet in the afternoons, as we do for our French class, we would still have five mornings a week, plus a comfortable two hours or more in an afternoon to have group discussions and do projects. This is the biggest struggle I personally face. As of yet, I cannot offer a solution, since the group has not discussed this as a whole. It will be interesting to see what next year brings. TOG has suggestions for how to run co-ops based on their curriculum. I see the value in meeting more often for older students, less often for younger. Nevertheless, this year has been so delightful as we have met together each week, and we have learned so much.
|Listening to a presentation on Gold Mining in VA|
|Good fellowship at the Christmas party|
I'm sure that each mom has her own thoughts and feelings about what she would like to see done differently, but as a group we have not sat down to evaluate those things yet. We are all content with things as they are and will consider any changes to come at the end of the year. I will be sure to update with any changes as they come!