Whilst co-ops are an important resource for many home educators in the States, they don’t play a major role in Australia, although they exist in the major cities I haven’t experienced any in rural Australia. Periodically local home education groups may gather and parents share and impart skills, but formal co-ops certainly haven’t been part of my experience within the home education movement of the past 30 years.
Co-ops haven’t flourished in rural Australia for a number of factors, primarily our numbers are low, in our region, population 50,000 we have approximately 10 home educating families. Then many home educating families aren’t interested in mixing and there is a general unwillingness to sacrifice time to commit.
Most families find it easier to gather together with another family or two and share and impart skills on a more casual basis. A few years ago a couple of friends and I discussed this, we wanted to create an environment that fostered synergy to not only inspire our children to write, but to nurture our enthusiasm as their ‘teachers’, to encourage us to place a high emphasis on writing skills.
Thus began a collaborative effort to encourage our children to write, we began gathering together weekly for ‘Writing Club’. Initially we began with our children between the ages of 8-16 but soon the younger children clamoured to join in. We focused on creating and fostering the children’s interest in writing, creative writing is the most popular genre, sometimes we ‘stir the creative juices’ with an exciting beginning paragraph, other times they have their own ideas, but their favourite are always ’round robin’ stories. Each child begins with a paragraph, passes their writing pad to their neighbour on the right to continue and takes the pad from their neighbour on their left and continues their story. We have also challenged the children with speeches and research topics. Most incredibly the synergy from the group has enabled us to accomplish far more as a group than we were accomplishing as individual families.
After a year of beginning ‘Writing Club’ it became apparent that our wide age range was ‘holding back’ our highschoolers, so feeling rather bold I set out to find a retired teacher who would enjoy mentoring our children. An answer to prayer was Sr J. from our local Convent, she has become a treasured part of our children’s education, bringing more to their lives (and ours) than just English skills.
Each week whilst the teenagers meet with Sr J. we continue to gather together with our children aged 6-12. We have expanded our repertoire to include further skills such as note taking, play writing, descriptive paragraphs, advertisements, poetry, etc. We discuss banned words, and suggest more expressive words, we encourage the children to edit their work and to stretch themselves. We have been thrilled with what they are capable of. The synergy created is incredible and the children are eager to participate in Writing Club each week.
This post is part of the Homeschool Help Series, I am honoured to be joining a team of awesome writers, feel free to click on the links below to see whether other families choose to Co-op or Not? Next week we will be chatting about Local Homeschool Groups – Are you involved? Why? Why not?