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Monday, May 5, 2014

Reasons Why Homeschool Co-Ops Are Not For Us... Well, Most of Us Anyway!

WARNING: My blog post today is stemmed from a very disappointing experience that occurred last night, and it's a bit of a rant in a pure attempt to come to grips with gaining an understanding for why I'm so upset....Downright angry!

We began homeschooling our children, well really before they were even born. It began after hearing a Focus on the Family broadcast about homeschooling, and then coming face-to-face with a homeschooled little 8 year old girl who won my husband and I over to the idea.

Maybe it was the bullies in middle school and early high school, maybe it was a handful of really bad teachers, or maybe it was my overambitious drive to make things perfect for my children that levied me up and gave me hope and desire that homeschooling my children would be best.

I don't know the full picture of why we chose this route for our kids, but I know that after a combination of public and private schooling from both me and my husband, we opted for a road less traveled - A road we had hoped would be the higher road to success.

Along this journey, others have interjected their ideas about our choices.  Usually, what others think of our choices in life don't bother me - So long as words like idiot, moron, uneducated, uninformed, or other words of the like are left out of the opinion.  There's no need for name calling just because you don't agree with someone else's decision for their children's education.

One of these worries that pops up from strangers, and even well-meaning friends and family members, is the idea that somehow because a child is educated at home, he or she does not receive proper socialization. I believe this worry about socializing our kids drives homeschool families to form co-ops where their children come together to learn as a group - Just like in school - and have the opportunity to form friendships, go to proms, even get school pictures.

In essence, co-ops give homeschooled children the opportunities that they miss from not being in a public or private school.


I don't know.

Maybe, it seems important because as a student, my husband and I had these social opportunities and we found them to be the pleasant part of public/private education.  We don't want our kids to miss out on the good stuff.

I don't know.

I do know that over the years, we have tried only a few homeschool co-ops.  They usually are not a success for us, and I'm trying to determine why.

Right now may not be the best time to determine why, because right now, I am downright angry about an experience that happened last night at a co-op my children have been attending.

I'm not even sure how to put it into words, which leads me to believe it stems deep from a deeper emotional issue within me.

I don't know.

Here's the history of what happened:

My oldest daughter began attending a co-op because a friend invited her to take an art class with her. There is more to this story, but I'll leave it at that.  She was thrilled!  I was thrilled!  What made me even more thrilled was when I discovered there were also classes for my other two children.

This meant that I actually would get a 2-hour break to myself, to go get some work done while they socialized and learned in a group of kids their own age.  So, even though this makes me appear to be an aloof, uncaring, uninvolved parent who merely drops her children off and picks them up - In reality, I NEED this time to get some writing done, writing that I'm actually paid to do as opposed to just ranting in a blog.

My hope was that all three of my children would make friends and have fun while learning something new.

My hopes exceeded themselves with my oldest daughter.  She proceeded to meet new friends, while still thoroughly loving seeing her original friend who invited her, now seeing her at least once a week.  The two of them even went on to become involved in a drama class - Which, I have been encouraging my children to take part in since the beginning of time.  I LOVED drama when I was in high school, and want my kids go have this same enjoyable experience. Well, my older daughter loved every minute of her drama class.  Art, on the other hand, was a struggle.

And, there begins my problems with co-ops.  ...Art should NEVER be a struggle!

I sat with my daughter, helping her complete a project, for hours as tears of frustration and rejection ran down her face.

Now, why would art create these kind of tears?

Granted, this particular child is a perfectionist.  If she cannot get something perfect the first time, she beats herself up over it. But, art?  Art should be an expression of the soul.  Always enjoyable, and never ever judged!

At least, that's my impression of art.

In the meantime, my son had taken a computer/arduino programmed computer chip class.  He was actually enjoying it, and I was thrilled that this child who has so much to offer the world but is often too self-conscious to show it, was actually reaching out and meeting other kids.

That is, until the teacher in charge suddenly abandoned the arduino class because she needed to concentrate on her drama class.  After all, I do somewhat understand this because the big play and art show was approaching.  But, the guy that was left in charge seemed to enjoy a good debate with my son in the center. My son would come home and tell me how the guy, who was never officially established as the instructor (at least not to my son) would tell him how Apple products are no good (sorry, I cannot use the word he used as it's not a word I feel comfortable using). Then, he would talk about how the Wii is useless (again, I cannot use the word he used as it's not a word I feel comfortable using).  Basically, from what my son would tell me when I would pick him up, the class was more of a time for kids to just goof off in the name of a computer lab. Though, I think he did get some projects done.  I'm still unclear.

My younger daughter took a games class, where she did show and tell and other various PE games and such. She seemed to enjoy the class well enough, but I'm not sure she was ever fully brought out of her shy shell, and I'm really not sure how much a teacher should be expected to do in this regard.

She also took an art class.

I was excited about the art class at first, because I actually knew one of the art teachers in her class. But, last night changed all that.

Now, this brings us to yesterday.

Yesterday was a busy day. It actually started with a drama dress rehearsal the night before for my oldest daughter, who was in the play.  I got her to the church at 6, thinking it would last till about 8.  I was wrong.  The rehearsal kept going and going and going and going.  I picked her up at about 10:10 or so.  10:10 p.m.  The night before.

We woke up early the next morning because both girls were to perform in their dance studio's dance recital.  I had to have the girls dressed, in full dance costume and makeup and hair and have them to the backstage area by 11 a.m.

All went well.

I waited and enjoyed my time alone until the doors opened at 1:30.

The recital began promptly at 2:00.

My youngest opened the show, and it was a beautiful dance.

The show progressed, and I found myself relaxing and enjoying the process. Though, I also was a bit surprised when tears welled up as I watched the itty bitty kids perform. It reminded me of the dance teacher and classes we used to enjoy until the teacher retired a couple years ago.

Maybe, I'm still grieving that loss.

Maybe, I'm still grieving the loss of my children's babyhood.

I don't know.

When the show was over, I picked up my two girls and got them in the van and rushed off to grab them something to eat before appearing at the big Homeschool Co-op's PLAY and ART SHOW.

I got my older daughter there on time, with one minute to spare and headed off to eat my dinner with my youngest daughter in tow.  But, something happened on the way.

She fell asleep!

I had not anticipated this as even a possibility.  I wasn't sure what to do but decided to just let her sleep.  After all, my oldest daughter's part in her play wasn't scheduled to occur until later in the night.  We had time.

The play/art show began at about 6 p.m.  My daughter was to go on around 7, with her scene not to take place until probably 7:30.  But, my younger daughter woke up around 6:30, so we headed into the play/art show.

She was excited to show me her art work!


I looked around. I looked under the table.  I looked under each piece of artwork, thinking maybe one stuck together.  I picked up and looked behind each and every piece of art on that table and ran my hand along the crack where the table was bumped up against the wall, but her other work of art was nowhere.

I didn't expect to see several pieces of her artwork, because she only joined the class in January. The others had began in September.  But, there was at least one piece of artwork that I was told was being done JUST for the show.  I had never seen it, and I was looking forward to it.

Rather, I was looking forward to my daughter being able to proudly show it off!

That didn't happen!

FOR SOME REASON, THIS WAS TOO MUCH!  It made me so livid!  Why?

My tired little girl had woke up from a nap in the middle of a rushed day excited to show me what she had painted.  Only, it wasn't there.

I think I felt angry because my little girl took the hit for an art teacher who clearly was happy to display her own daughters' works of art while carelessly overlooking my daughter and her feelings.

But, why did this make me so mad?

Whatever the reason, whether it flashed back to memories of my own childhood art classes, the rejection, the frustration, or whatever the reason - It was the straw that broke this mama camel's back.

Yes, I was tired from a long day.  But, that wasn't it.

What was it?

It is the same recurring theme in my life whenever my children are turned over to a new teacher. Though, there have been those, like my daughter's old dance teacher, who won me over. But, why do I bunt heads with most other adults who are temporarily in charge of my children?

Why do I expect so much from other adults in regard to my children?
Why do I think another teacher will be the picture of perfection, or even care about my child?
Maybe, I'm too unrealistic in my expectation of what a teacher should be expected to do.

I don't know.

After all, when I looked around the crowded gym, all the other parents and grandparents were smiling and seemingly thoroughly enjoying themselves and the play and artwork on the walls and tables.

What was wrong with me?

Why was I so mad?

Whatever the reason, this is why I am rethinking co-ops. My older daughter has already told me that she loves it and wants to return next year to take more drama (Dear God, please help me sit through another play inside a stuffy gym). But, for my other two children - I will be putting a great deal of prayer and thought into whether or not a co-op is really best.

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