Wednesday, July 23, 2014

So You Want to Start a Homeschool Cooperative

This time of the year everyone is getting organized and prepared for the new school year, unless like me you homeschool year round. If you homeschool year round you are still probably looking at new materials, etc. to start. With all the new planning going on I am also seeing many posts about families getting together and starting Cooperatives of all types. I thought after my vast experience (two year - so maybe not so vast) I could shed some light on what it takes to have a Cooperative run smoothly and what you are willing to give to make it work.

Most of my readers know the story but if you are new I will do a short recap. Two years ago me and a close friend started a fine arts Cooperative in our community, mostly for homeschoolers but we do also have a few public or private school kids that have attended. We meet August - December and January - May. Mostly we make available fine arts classes but occasionally throw in a light academic class to spice things up. For example this semester we have Keepers and Contenders of the Faith, Drama, Art, Choir, Current Events, Screenwriting, Mapping the World Through Art, Mock Trial, and Sign Language. Over the last two years I have made some mistakes and learned so much. I thought for those of you that are considering putting a Cooperative together I would give you a few pointers for things that might make it whole process easier.
  • Pick a co-director. Don't try to do this all alone. Even with the help of a co-director some times you will feel like your life is being taking over by said Cooperative. I have found that it does tend to creep into all aspects of your life. Share the responsibilities with someone else, preferably a close friend that you can bounce ideas off of and is willing to tell you the truth when you need it.
  • Like-minded families. Search out like-minded families that want to join a Cooperative. This might end up being two or three families or in my case 38! (Of course we didn't start with 38, but gradually reached that number for our upcoming semester)  Everyone should be interested in  working toward the same goal. Families who participate should also be willing to help out periodically when the need arises. This may be to teach a class, help with dismissals, costuming, refreshments, holiday parties, etc.
  • Location. You've decided to start a Cooperative - now where are we all going to meet. If you are starting with just a few families then maybe someone's house will be just fine. If you are looking at larger numbers of children and classes then it is time to secure a good location. This may be a community center, church, or building to rent. In our case we started with renting a huge event room at a local bowling alley, which we quickly outgrew. Now we meet at my church and we our bursting at the seams turning students away.
  • Raising Funds. Okay this one is tricky. In the beginning we didn't have any funds and worked with a very bare bones budget. Mostly we wanted our Cooperative to be a ministry but knew funds would still be needed for things like liability insurance, rent, and supplies. From the get go we decided to charge a small monthly fee that would include all classes that were available. Some Cooperatives may decide not to charge anything but rely on parent participation to pick up the slack. In our case we do have parent participation but funds are still needed for the above mentioned monthly needs.
  • Recruiting teachers. This one is really important. If you don't have teachers, you don't have classes available. Most times these classes will be taught by parents that have children attending classes, but occasionally you will need to go outside the Cooperative to find a teacher. If this occurs usually some type of fee will be charged by that teacher to teach which brings us back up to the previous section of raising funds.

This is just but a few of the items I feel are most important to discuss and consider before starting a Cooperative. It is a process and you must be willing to spend a large part of your life working on it. I do view this as a ministry and I love our kids and families that participate. Definitely you need to go into this with your eyes wide open, but it is so worth it in the end.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TOS Review - Apologia Educational Ministries - Flourish Balance For Homeschool Moms

Flourish Book Review
Recently I was given the opportunity to read and review Flourish: Balance For Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate from Apologia Educational Ministries. This review could not have come at a better time. In less than one month I will be embarking on a new adventure and without time management and the right organizational skills I could fail. The book Flourish was definitely something I needed to read for this next phase of my family's life.
Flourish Book Review
Flourish was written by Mary Jo Tate, a single mom homeschooling her children while also running a business out of their home. She wears many hats on a daily basis just like the rest of us that are in similar situations. No matter what stage of life you are in, Mary Jo has seemed to address it in her book. If you are a sing mom, stay-at-home mom, working mom, homeschooling mom, own your own business mom or all of the above - she covers it.
Flourish Book Review
First here are some of the book details you will want to know:
Retail Price $15.00
Softcover paperback book - 288 pages
Recommended for Moms from all stages of life
The first few pages of Flourish are devoted to glowing reviews from many prominent individuals from the homeschool community as well as other industries. Quotes are placed throughout the chapters from moms that have read the book or taken workshops from Mary Jo. She also shares many personal stories, some of them quite humorous. I read a chapter of Flourish each night before bed and mulled over the corresponding discussion questions.
Very early on the reader is asked to fill out various questionnaires. One was titled "Big Dream" and another "Yearly Goals". I have filled out questions like this in the past and whenever I was asked to write a goal or a mission statement for our family, I would simply freeze up. Not a single thought would be in my brain. Setting a big goal or big dream was just never in my vocabulary. Going through this book has changed that. So what does my "Big Dream" consist of: own a family business, a husband that gets to work from home, travel more, and own a small hobby farm.
Other concepts I learned from Flourish and plan on applying to my life are:
  • Create a separate area for office/business.
  • Dealing with mommy guilt.
  • Prioritizing.
  • Getting rid of time wasters.
  • Remembering to take care of my body through exercise, rest, nutrition, and strengthening my spiritual life.
  • Mental multitasking undermining my focus.
Chapter 15 - Home Business would have to be my favorite, simply because this is the next phase of our life with running a home business. Definitely something I will want to reread as we get further in the process. The back of the book has a wealth of resources and planning forms for the reader to use. Flourish would be a perfect book to read in a book club setting, to give as a gift to a new homeschooling mom, or a homeschool mom's support group. Mary Jo also offers services for one on one coaching and she speaks at  workshops/seminars you can attend.
If you are looking for encouragement or how to have balance in this whole life thing - Flourish Balance For Homeschool Moms from Apologia Educational Ministries just might be what you are looking for. Also check out TOS Review Crew to see what the other reviewers think of Flourish.
Crew Disclaimer
Review Crew

Monday, July 21, 2014

Another Day In Pictures

The life of Riley, right?! These animals have it so easy. Napping the afternoon away while I work on the computer.

Finished up a review for the book Flourish which will post tomorrow.

Grace worked on one of our review products which will post in about three weeks. This is a map reproduction project.

I received the scripts for my first directorial debut. We will start practicing these when Cooperative starts back on August 12th.

This morning Grace went to help with another art camp and tonight we are back at play practice. No time to be tired. Tired will have to wait until sometime in late August.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cast of The King and I

This is probably the biggest cast we have performed with in a dramatic production and we didn't even have all the cast present for the picture this night. We are down to less than two weeks from show time.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Our Experience So Far - The King and I

Most of June and just about all of July (in the evenings anyway) we have been spending our time at the local community theatre. Little did I know when I volunteered to be an extra wife how much of my time would be involved with The King and I this summer. Blocking, dancing, singing, memorizing and so on. Participating in a community play is a lot of work and can be very fulfilling, especially if you are already involved with the arts in some fashion. I have made a list of the advantages or special perks for participating in this type of endeavor.

At the top of my list would have to be meeting new people from the community. Four years ago Grace participated in The Wizard of Oz and our experience with the community theatre was good although I didn't get to know the actors or other families that much during the experience. This go around it is completely different. The group of wives consists of 13 women and teenage girls. They are all wonderful in their own individual ways and it is quite fun getting to spend time talking with them during the down times.

Next on my list would be learning and experiencing new skills. As I have mentioned in previous posts I will be taking over the high school drama department at our Cooperative this year and I am gaining a world of hands on experience by being in the musical. That was actually one of the main reasons I agreed to participate. Blocking, choreography, scheduling, costuming, and so much more.

Last but certainly not least is probably one of the most important parts of the whole experience. Getting to spend quality time with my daughter doing something she lives for. Since the age of nine performing has been one of Grace's greatest passions. Now I get to experience what she experiences and share it with her on stage. In that respect it really has been great. We are both wives which means our parts are identical. We can practice together the songs and dances and bounce ideas off of each other. She is so much better than me and I rely on her to remind me blocking, order of scenes, etc. when I get a little frazzled. Performance nights will be something special we can always look back on as time spent together doing something she loves.

Small House of Uncle Thomas - the 15 minutes ballet that it our biggest part in the play
We also have another intense dancing scene with Western People Funny
I hope our friends will come out to support the community theatre and watch a really great performance of the King and I. We have only two more weeks from today until we start a 8 show run.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Algebra - Finally!

I did some rethinking about what 75 percent of the Teaching Textbooks would actually be. For some reason I kept having in my mind that we had 10 more lessons to finish to accomplish that. Today (because we are so dang tired of Algebra) I decided to look at the numbers again. Before I had taken the actual number of lessons. This time I did page numbers. Low and behold we have just made it to 75 percent of the book and we are calling this math class DONE!!!!!!! I cannot tell you how happy we are to be done with Algebra I. Looking forward to a much easier year with general math and personal finance. I'm thinking of throwing us a little party. Kidding....or maybe not kidding.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

10th Grade Class Choices

The past 3-4 months have I have bounced back and forth between many class choices for Grace's 10th grade year. After much discussion with Grace I think we have finally decided on what she needs for 10th grade and what she wants for 10th grade. There is a fine line that we as parents have to adhere to when deciding curriculum from year to year. We know what the state requires, we know what our child's strengths and weaknesses are, and we know what the overall population expects a child to know and learn. Next we have to look at and I mean really look at what our child wants for the future and what they feel like they can handle curriculum wise. I truly took all this into consideration and this is what we came up with for Grace's 10th grade year.

American History - Originally we had already made the decision to study World History with Streams of Civilization. Then Dave Raymond's American History came to us for review through the TOS Review Crew. This course is rocking our socks and Grace really likes it. I will have more information about this course soon in a review post. We were blessed with an entire year of this curriculum and plan on taking advantage of it. This course starts with Meso-America and goes through the end of the Civil War. Lucky for us they are currently in production of the next set of DVDs which will cover modern American history times and that we can use in 11th grade.

Biology - Again we had thought we would ultimately move on to Apologia Biology and in essence we will still be using it just in a different way. We discussed the choices available on our book shelves and decided to use High School Biology in Your Home. This is a research based course. Up to 10 questions are presented to the student each week and it is their responsibility through using multiple research materials to fine the answers. Grace will use the Apologia Biology book and Biology 101 DVDs to answer those research questions. The questions should be answered Monday - Thursday and then Friday is a lab day.

English 102 - Multiple educational products and one outside class will make up Grace's 10th grade English credit for the year. She will go back to her beloved teacher Ms. Christy at Creative Canvas to attend an analytical literature class. Some of the books they will read include: The Outsiders, The Pearl, Animal Farm, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Giver, The Great Gatsby, and Fahrenheit 451. Grace will work on grammar with Easy Grammar, vocabulary with Marie's Words, and writing through the literature class and some other possibilities.

Spanish 1 & 2 - The past few months Grace was studying Japanese and had all intentions with Japanese being her foreign language choice, but of course with teenagers things change. At the last minute she decided to attend Ms. Christy's Spanish classes on Thursdays for two hours each time. This class is taught in a manner that one year of Spanish is taught each semester which means both years will be finished in one year.

Current Events - We will continue to watch CNN Student News and add that time to this past year of watching the same. I will add in Student News Daily for Grace to read and pick an article each week to summarize in a journal. She will also be attending a Current Events class at the Cooperative starting in August that will end in December.

Drama - Grace wishes to continue her experience with the community theatre and try out for Alice in Wonderland after we finish with The King and I. Plus she will be performing and attending drama classes with the Cooperative throughout the year.

Personal Finance - I have discussed before our decision to not currently pursue any more higher math. Grace struggles with it and this year we decided to take a break from it. For her junior and senior year that may change but for now it is what it is. I have multiple projects and books for her to work through to complete this credit. She will also continue working through a high school basic math skills book to not lose any of the concepts she currently knows like fractions, order of operations, basic Algebra, decimals, percentages, etc.

I am so relieved to have this done and planned out. We have 10 lessons left in Algebra then we are done and can say goodbye to the 9th grade year. So what are you planning for the next school year?