Doing it together!
Homeschooling is fantastic and has a lot of benefits, but it is not without its challenges. As homeschoolers, we like to customize our schedules, and why not? We have flexibility we would not have with a traditional school, and we can make time for our kids' special interests. But sometimes homeschooling can be a delicate balance of customizing our kids activities and making sure they have a regular group of friends to travel with throughout the week and the year.
Some homeschooling families, without too much effort, fall into a group with others who have similar homeschooling philosophies and interests. But not every homeschooling experience is like that, and some homeschoolers can start to feel isolated. There are a lot of homeschooling classes available in the D.C. metro area; it's dizzying, really. And someone could go from class to class, rarely seeing the same kids, which can be challenging when trying to develop close friendships. The desire for consistency and community is why some families join co-ops. For us, City Kids has been a great way to have regular activities as a group without sacrificing too much of our family's ability to customize our week, especially because City Kids is partial day.
I have noticed how close our City Kids bunch is, how much they enjoy each other's company, how much they fight like a big bunch of siblings. There is a lot to be said for the kids having a regular group of friends--our kids are learning how to manage group dynamics in a way that might not happen if they barely knew the kids in their classes. Mostly our kids are a happy bunch; they are always excited to see each other, they help each other out all the time, they share (most of the time), they are always arranging their own playdates, and there is A LOT of hugging going on. Importantly, they are also comfortable enough with each other to get mad at each other, which provides opportunities for learning how to resolve conflict. Another fantastic benefit is that we share much of the responsibility in City Kids, rotating the planning of certain programs. Because we are a cooperative, we take some of daily the burden off of each other by planning lessons/activities and field trips for each other's children.
Cooperatives may not be for everyone, but for our family, City Kids has provided an extended family, and that is really the best part of it all. I truly enjoy my time with our co-op families, getting to know the kids as well as the parents. And because every parent is a teacher, our kids develop relationships with the adults in the group, not just the kids. When someone else's child hugs me, I feel like we have made something really special, not just a substitute for school--we are truly a community.
This past week, we started up our gardening program, our Capoeira, and our nature program. It was great to see the kids planting together, fighting for soil space (ha!), meeting their new Capoeira teacher, and playing together in Rock Creek. When I look at our kids together, I know we are doing something right.
Sharing some small treats from our garden.
Capoeira in the park!