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Creating Synergy

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?

Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses – Together Everyone Achieves More
When we share the load we move forward in strength.
Hwee @ The Tiger Chronicle – Our Co-Op Experience
Sharing our afterthoughts about joining a co-op.
Nicole @ One Magnificent Obsession – The Co-op Question: Yeah or Nay?
How to evaluate if a homeschool co-op is right for your family
Bernadette @ Barefoot Hippie Girl – Beneficial Co-op(eration)
Why I look forward to organizing or joining a co-op in the next few years.
Julie  @ Highhill Homeschool – How does homeschool co-op work?
Three different ways to run a co-op.
Savannah @ HammockTracks – The Ins and Outs of Co-Ops
Why are you participating?
How to get the benefits of being in a co-op even if joining one isn’t right for your family
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  • Chareen

    Great post Erin. It's good to see the benefit of having a group to encourage one another. We were a part of a writing group when my older two were little and it was really helpful. In fact it was so helpful that I am looking at starting one with Sir N in a years time.


  • jmommymom

    I love this idea. We were part of a large co-op, but now meet with only 2 other families to study history. It is much more my speed. The meetings are focused and the kids learn a lot.

    They have writing assignments and present their work the following week, but the focus is history.

    Writing comes easy to my daughter, but is difficult for my son. I think being in a writers co-op would provide lots of motivation. Thank you for sharing how this works for you.

  • Ingi Mc

    We are in the same regional, Aussie situation and the scope for co-ops is limited. I like the writing group idea (although I doubt my son would).

  • Erin

    I bet they have great memories:)

    Isn't it wonderful when you find the 'key' that works for your family:)

    Our oldest girl was part of a book club for a few years and that was great too:) Glad co-op's working for you this season.

    Encouraging you to start one:)

    I dare say he wouldn't (giggle) but yes the lack of numbers is difficult on many levels:(

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