It’s OK Not to Do a Co-Op Moms, I Promise

It’s OK Not to Do a Co-Op Moms, I Promise

I’ve been a stay at home mom since my oldest was born nearly 14 years ago, when I consider our “homeschool” began. Homeschooling wasn’t as popular or accepted as it is today. It was sometimes scary to have your six year old at the store with you during school hours, or let your kids play outside before the buses got home.

Most of the more experienced mamas I knew would say, “all you need is a Bible, math curriculum, a library card, a ton of love, and your child will get a great education.”

We were encouraged to keep things simple. Desks and formal schooling areas weren’t necessary. The all so often socialization fear was met with “your kids are socialized when interacting with the plumber, they’ll be fine.” These hippie homeschool moms assured me that my kids didn’t need to be with 30 other kids their own age all day to become well rounded individuals.

Most of us moms loved Carole Joy Seid, and Charlotte Mason; nature walks and read alouds; interest led schooling on the couch in the morning and Little House On the Prairie in the afternoon. Ah, the good old days of homeschool.

 

co-op

Over the past several years, the culture among us has changed. Influential dominionist homeschool leaders have been called to task and taken out of the arena (hurrah!). New curricula publishers pop up every day. Mommy blogs (like this one) are everywhere. The choices for a homeschool family are overwhelmingly abundant. In our area we have an endless pick of co-ops. Families can choose co-ops for select classes; all required classes; field trips; groups where moms teach kids and encourage one another; groups where moms drop kids for entire days and kids are taught material and assigned homework the rest of the week. On-line schools exist. Special groups for fine arts abound. Phy-Ed classes are provided. Some co-ops provide year books, proms, student council, study hall. A family could easily spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on various classes, groups, and activities.

co-op

I’m not here to judge any family for making choices to participate in any of these groups. Sometimes, it is absolutely the right thing to do for your family. It may be the right thing for my family down the road as well. I’m not picking on you if you’re called to a co-op.

I do want to say however, the hippie homeschooler’s advice is still legitimate. While homeschooling is becoming more and more accepted, we are still constantly asked, “How can you teach every subject?” or “How will your children be properly socialized?” and now the popular, “But, you’re in a co-op, right?” The pressure to give in to other people’s views of schooling can be strong. When I’m asked these questions, I confidently say, “There are plenty of lovely co-ops available. We choose not to participate. We are thriving.”

You CAN homeschool WITHOUT all of the available options today.

It’s still true that your children don’t NEED be socialized by same aged peers. Rich, living books, God’s word, and a math curriculum is still a legitimate education. Starting late, rather than early, is still a legitimate theory in educating. Working hard at keeping your home from becoming “school at home” is still an acceptable value. If you want to stay at home with your kids, and teach them all by yourself, it is OK!

I know you all don’t need my permission. But, maybe you need to hear that other moms are still trying to hang on to the legacy of the families who went before us? I recently walked with a friend through her process of feeling that she SHOULD do a co-op, even though she didn’t want to. God wasn’t calling her and her kids to one in this season of life and it was a relief for her to know she wasn’t alone. No matter how much the culture of homeschool changes, the simple values which started the homeschool movement do remain the same.

Morning Calendar Time for Homeschool

Morning Calendar Time for Homeschool

When we began homeschooling eight years ago, I came across the idea of “calendar time.” We are not trying to create “school at home.” However, there are certain skills that take lots of repetition and having a daily time to practice those skills seemed like a good idea.

We think of our entire home as our schooling area. We do have a formal school room (I will give you a tour at some point) where we used to do our morning calendar time. That room has now become our “quiet study room” so our calendar time has been moved to a different spot. The older kids don’t join us for calendar time anymore (tear), so it has been nice for them not to be disturbed by this portion of the day which can get quite loud. I don’t love the idea of my home looking like an elementary school, so I picked an unfinished area to pin up our morning board activities.

morning calendar time

I got these cubes about 9 years ago. When I call out, “Five minutes until calendar time,” the three kids that participate in it finish up what they are doing, run to their stools, open the tops to get out their pencils and notebooks and sit down. We start our time together by singing a silly song and them coming up to me and holding my hands and jumping as high as they can.

morning calendar time

Then we move over to our calendar which I bought at a local teacher supply store. We sing songs about the date and then we write the date. We talk about the weather and write one sentence about the weather and sing a song about weather. I teach abbreviations, and different ways to write the date. They record them in their notebook.

I got this little plastic box to store the weather and calendar pieces when note in use.

morning calendar time

After this we move to our cork-board and pick different activities. Sometimes we say the Pledge of Allegiance. We sing silly songs so we know how to spell everyone’s name in the family.(Although, I am not currently doing this as everyone knows how but the three year old. I will start it up again sometime after she turns four.)  There are specific prayer requests for various people written with wet erase markers. Cupcake gets to pick a shape and color of the day each morning. We pray for our pastor and missionaries and ourselves. We practice phone numbers and our address. Each week we work on a scripture passage to memorize.

morning calendar time

After covering the calendar and cork boards we move to reviewmorning calendar time

I’ve found it’s easiest to do things like flash cards and review for the day all in one setting.

morning calendar time morning calendar timemorning calendar timemorning calendar timemorning calendar time

We practice multiplication, addition, and subtraction facts, reading music, state facts, the books of the Bible, and the last picture are flash cards I made of Clay and Sally Clarkson’s “24 Family Ways.” I am just going to be honest and say that my kids did not love the devotional, but I like the concept of reviewing how we idealistically want to relate as a family to God, parents, one another, ourselves and our possessions. We review math facts daily, but we rotate with the other flash cards.

morning calendar time The last thing we do is read from a devotional and sing a hymn. Right now we are finishing up “Leading Little Ones to God.” This devotional is so, so, SO good for young children. I’ve read it several times. I anticipate reading it one or two more times with my little girls in the future. I like doing a devotional that is geared toward younger kids, as the rest of our family devotion times are usually more catered to the older kids in the family. We are not hymn only kinds of people, but the rich doctrine in the hymns is priceless. We learn a new verse each week, which means we end up learning approximately one hymn a month.

These morning times have been precious for me with my children. It’s a great way to begin our day and it only takes 10-15 minutes of our time.

I have the best memories of my kids fighting, saying funny things, and being goofy together during morning calendar time. Now that even my little kids are on the older side, there aren’t really any interruptions or too many goofy antics but it is still fun, in a different way. I was thinking how Odes will probably only do this for one more year and then it will just be the little girls and me. The years really are so short!

I’d love to know if you do a morning calendar time with your kids and what it looks like!

I thought I would leave you with a precious video from when the big four were little. It’s one of our favorites:  

6 Shortcuts to Simplify Life for the Homeschool Mom

Up early with babies and toddlers, up late with teens and husbands. We feed our families, clean our overly lived in homes, taxi kids to the doctor, lessons, and sports. They depend on us to keep the schedule, pay the bills, shop for groceries, manage the wardrobes and the laundry. Each day teach them math, language, typing, Spanish, literature, science, character, spelling, handwriting, history, Bible, apologetics, writing and more. We read aloud and color, kiss their boo-boos and bandage their scrapes, change diapers and put little ones down for naps. The task of growing them in wisdom and responsibility in their relationships is one we take seriously. There is no such thing as sick days, prep hours, or bathroom breaks. In fact, we don’t get to go to the bathroom alone, and if we do, someone is standing outside with a question or story. We are homeschool moms.

There is no doubt the homeschool mom is stretched all day long. I have a few shortcuts that simplify my life in the midst of the flurry:

Short-Cuts to Simply the Homeschool Life

1. Easy to make beds: Research shows that if you make your bed first thing, you’ll be more productive. Or something like that. My boys have bunk beds, one daughter has a little toddler bed, and one of my big girls has a day bed and trundle. None of these are easy to make. I have a regular bed, but I’ve never been a good bed maker. Enter Beddy Beds! These are a bit of an investment, but so worthwhile. (I sold a bunch of old bedding and stuff sitting around our house to be able to afford these and made sure I bought them with a coupon code.) If the bed is made, a room is on it’s way to clean. My kid’s beds look nice every single day. My bed is made every day, and not just made, but made like a picture-perfect catalog. I have one daughter still holding out on the beddy…however, since everyone else has their beds made beautifully every day, she has risen to the challenge and makes hers now too. (Yes! My three year old can make her bed! Beautifully!)

shortcuts bedsshortcuts bedsshortcuts bedsshortcuts beds

2. Pre make meals: breakfast, lunch, AND dinner! We’ve all heard of pre-making and freezing dinners. I do this. But I also make ahead kid’s lunches and breakfasts. I make a monthly meal plan. We do one big shopping trip a month. While David takes the kids shopping, I clean out my cupboards and fridge. When they return, I cook all the meat. The next day we assemble all the meals for the month. Then each night I take out the next day’s meal to defrost in the refrigerator. This means no standing with hands on hips in the kitchen thinking, “what should I make?” It means less clean up and less stress.

shortcuts meals

3. Have a quiet time WITH the kids: It is helpful to get up before the kids, but it is also hard. If I wanted to exercise, shower, get ready, and have time in prayer and reading God’s word, I would have to get up pretty early. Not being a morning person doesn’t help. I began having a quiet time with my children many years ago. When they were all small, I rounded up all of our Bible board books and they had baskets of books to look through. Often I gave them a special drink. We set the timer for 20 minutes (I worked up to this when starting out). During those 20 minutes there is no talking. No answering the phone or texts. During those 20 minutes I sit with my Bible and my journal and I have my quiet time with God. Serenity now! It IS possible.

shortcuts quiet time

4. Assign special drinking cups: One thing that drove us crazy in the early years was all of the cups that were used day in and day out. We could run the dishwasher on cups alone! My husband had the genius idea of making Shutterfly mugs for each person in our family. The kids never mistake their cup for someone else’s. The mugs are not only color coded, but also display their names AND pictures. This also means that our dishwasher runs less frequently. I can’t tell you what a game changer this has been. Plus, they are really cute. Turns out they can also be great wisdom building tools.

shortcuts mugs

5. The Laundry dump: Folding laundry one afternoon while watching Little House, my brilliant husband came up with a life-changing solution to this once time-consuming endeavor. We clean all the laundry in one afternoon each week. When it is finished, we bring it up and throw it in mountainous heaps on the floor outside of our bedrooms (hint: wrinkle free clothing–imperative!!!). Then the kids sit with the pile and fling clothing toward the appropriate bedroom door. Once there are seven piles of flung clothing, the wearer of the clothes hangs the items or puts them in a drawer. This takes about 10 minutes…or less. Score!

6. Norwex hair turban: If you own nothing else Norwex, the one item you need is the Norwex hair turban. (Don’t worry, I’m not peddling their goods.) There’s not a lot to explain here. Wash your hair, wrap it in this towel and it will cut down your hair drying time drastically. I used it when I had short hair that required styling with a dryer and it dries it just enough so that you still have enough wet to get the style in. I’ve used it with long hair and it is remarkable how much less time I spend with an electric appliance pointed toward my head. An added bonus is that it makes stepping out of the shower more pleasant when your hair is not dripping down your back.

shortcuts, hair turban

What are some of your short-cuts? I want to hear them!