Co-operative Homeschooling at Upstream Learning
Throughout my 20 years of homeschooling and 6 years of working alongside homeschool families enrolled in Upstream Learning, I’ve come to realize that home education is carried out in as many different ways as there are homeschooling families. With public and private education now climbing out of the box more and more, offering a plethora of ways to educate children, it’s helpful to view education methods on a continuum, with the traditional classroom on one end and parent-directed ‘school at home’ on the other. We have seen our Upstream Learning families moving about on the continuum, with some remaining at home for all of their school activities, some joining various group classes and activities, some taking classes online or at the local high school, and some traveling while learning.
This year at Upstream Learning, we’re experiencing something new from the continuum – a co-op. The concept of co-ops is common in homeschool circles. My family belonged to one several years ago, when a few families met bi-weekly at a local church basement to share our special interests and expose our children to a variety of elective activities we couldn’t do on our own at home. Our co-op is a bit different, however, as it’s held in our Upstream Learning Center two days each week. Last spring a group of parents of young students approached CRSD administration and requested the chance to start a co-op in our building (the north end of the District Office), using their student allotment funds for curriculum, while providing the teaching themselves or by hiring local instructors to teach specialty classes. According to parent Victoria Rego, they formed the co-op for three key reasons: “to provide vital classes like music, art, and outdoor education; to offer support for homeschool families and help lighten the burden of creating a high-quality education for our children; and to offer those positive elements of a classroom while emphasizing academic rigor and character-building with a low student to instructor ratio.”
Now that we’re nearly finished with first semester, we can report the Upstream Learning Co-op is alive and well! The core group is small, but they hope to grow next semester. CRSD provided the use of a bright, spacious classroom, and the parents and children have transformed it into a friendly, inviting learning environment where other homeschool parents and siblings can study, socialize and support each other in their most important job. Victoria reports that “in its first term the co-op has successfully coordinated courses, workshops and field trips in outdoor science, music theory, world history, subsistence, Spanish, fine arts, civics, math and reading. Through integration of practical, culturally-relevant skills and disciplines in a small classroom setting, co-op students are building their knowledge and understanding of core subjects like math, science and language arts.”
Upstream Learning staff has supported the co-op by helping arrange for specialist instructors to lead these classes, by sharing invitations to other homeschool students to join the group activity opportunities, and by interacting with the families during their co-op school days. Both staff and co-op parents are seeking to build bridges and lasting relationships, while strengthening our overall Upstream Learning program. Co-op is short for ‘cooperative’ – two or more people or groups working together towards the same end. We have witnessed this taking place this school year, and it’s a joy to be a part of this new venture. The smiles and laughter of children in the mix of our day at Upstream Learning is invigorating. Thank you, Co-op families, for enriching our days while learning together in our presence! The Co-op parents have some exciting classes planned for spring semester, and there’s room for more students to join them.
We’re always looking for local community members to share their expertise with our students at Upstream Learning. Please contact me (Ramona Henspeter) if you have a special skill or interest you might like to teach to our K-12 students. Also, we’d like to keep our classroom humming with activity throughout the week. If homeschool parents of other age groups would like to organize their own co-op or plan some occasional activities, we’re here to support you and get things off the ground. The possibilities for subjects and formats are numerous, and the Copper Valley provides one of the greatest and most unique classrooms in the world. As local families are presented with more and more options to customize student learning along the education continuum, we hope many will choose to join our Upstream Learning community!
Written by Ramona Henspeter, Upstream Learning support teacher, with input from co-op parent, Victoria Rego.