Thursday, November 8, 2012

How I Make Teaching Homeschool Co-op Classes Work for ME

Coming up with ideas for classes to teach in our homeschool co-op used to be a challenge for me.  Each year, as I was planning what needed to be taught to my own children at home, I got this gnawing panic that co-op may overwhelm both me and my girls.  There was no question as to whether we would participate in co-op. I knew the experience and fellowship was well worth one morning a week.  But HOW was I going to cover everything that needed to be done at home AND teach an extra class?  And HOW were my girls going to get all their work done?

It took me a couple of years to figure it out, but I came up with a plan.  The first thing I did was to plan for a 4-day school week. Each week, Monday-Thursday, regular lessons were done.  Fridays, during co-op sessions, would include co-op classes and park time.  Fridays during the rest of the year would include finishing any work not completed M-Th, or they got the day off.  Of course, I planned for more to be covered during M-Th, but once everyone got used to it, we never turned back. The second thing I did was to start coming up with ideas for classes to teach at co-op that would be an extension of what I was already doing with the girls at home. This covered two things at once. I didn't have to come up with any new material or lessons, and my girls were able to get the extra time needed to learn about a particular subject.  This worked particularly well when they reached middle and high school grades.They were still able to choose classes that appealed to them, fun classes or serious material, but for at least one period, they HAD to choose MY class, if it was an extension of what we were doing at home.

I'll be honest, there were some semesters that I really didn't WANT to teach my own children at co-op.  And they enjoyed the break as well.  Those semesters, I planned fun classes, or classes outside of their age groups. I still used the same subjects as what we were doing at home, just on a different level.  Fall 2010 was a good example of how I used a fun idea and got the most out of it. That semester, we were doing an extensive study of Latin America at home.  The girls were doing A LOT of reading and research, but they were interested and we were all learning so much. It would have been overkill to do more on Friday. That year, I exempted them from taking my class and I taught 2 classes using the things we were covering at home, one for younger students, the other for older students.

"Now Leaving South America" was a class I taught to 3rd-5th grade students.  I used a notebook style approach.  They were each given 3-ring binders with a blank map of South America on the cover.  Each week, I chose a different country and we studied the EXPORTS and history of that country, along with geography. Every week was different.  Some weeks we ate and studied the history of a particular food, other weeks we played games or did activities to learn about specific products.  The list of possibilities was endless.  That was a fun class.

"Latin America and US" was more of a history class. We did cover geography, but instead of only South America, we also covered many countries in Central America.  The title of the class was a play on words, because as we went through historical events in Latin America chronologically, we also looked at events in the United States that coincided. We did some role play activities, jeopardy type games, and sometimes watched a video. Things my girls were researching and learning at home made their way right into my class, so the work load was not difficult.  The hardest part was how to present the information without boring them to death. I used a lot of props.

In the Fall of 2010, LIFE Co-op had many other great classes also.  Below is a list of them all.  If you'd like information about what curriculum was used or how we taught any of the classes, leave a comment or email me at fourelevenrox at gmail dot com.  If I don't know the answer, I'd be happy to ask our members and pass the 411 along.

Fall 2010

Kindergarten- 2nd Grades

Crafts and Games
Exploring Nature
World Geography

3rd-5th Grades

Now Leaving South America
Zoology-Birds of a Feather (Notebooking using Aplogia's Zoology Book)
K-nex and Lego Club
American Girl Book Club
Food and Nutrition

Middle and High School Grades

Middle School Only Classes:

Forensic Science
Equine Science (study of horses, taught by a local expert, a horse was even brought to co-op!)

Middle and High School Grades Combined:

Inventors, Inventions, and Entrepreneurs 
Card Making
Advanced Drama
Latin America and US
Music Theory

High School Only Classes:

Plays From the Bard
Foundations of Personal Finance (Dave Ramsey)
Essay Writing
Beginning Microsoft Publishing


  1. That's because you are awesome! I'm barely covering the basics with my own kids!

  2. You are covering a lot more than you think, trust me. One day I will post about the "early years". The good, the bad, and the ugly

  3. you're a great teacher.