How to Move Your Homeschool Co-op Online
We were having a blast in our homeschool co-op! Our 20th Century History course was filled with hands-on fun each week, and the older kids were working on writing their own cozy mystery novel. The kids were digging into the Bible with an inductive Bible Study course. We loved spending time together each week. Math Club was the favorite class with the kids having so much fun playing math games, they didn’t even realize they were learning.
Then came Covid-19, turning our little homeschool co-op upside down.
“Stay at home. Don’t gather in groups of more than 10,” we were told by government officials. We watched in horror as death tolls mounted in China, Italy, and our own United States.
The lockdown was ordered right before our 2-week spring break so we had 2 weeks to figure out what to do. Should we just finish the year on our own, or should we try something different that would take us way out of our comfort zone?
How We Took Our Homeschool Co-op Online
We decided to go online using Facebook Messenger’s Video Chat.
It felt super weird at first. We each used our laptops to see each other’s families. Some families were super close to the camera so you could only see 1 person at a time. Another family was so far away that I couldn’t make out their faces.
We learned to mute unless we were talking. We learned to speak up, to use facial and hand expressions to make our point along with our voices.
Truthfully, it felt really awkward at first, especially trying to teach. I had a hard time not seeing faces clearly to determine if what I was teaching registered. The first week I ended early because I just felt so frustrated.
Though I normally “go with the flow” when I teach, I realized the next week I need to completely plan out the lesson so I knew what to ask and what to share with the kids. That helped me so much to feel more comfortable and confident.
For our Who Dun It course, we met as a large group where I shared some tips for their almost-finished novels and answered questions. The rest of the time was spent in small groups of 2-3 kids with an adult reading their novels aloud and receiving input from one another.
Week 2 went much better.
For more on living books, read 5 Ways to Homeschool with Living Books.
What Is a Homeschool Co-op Anyway?
You might be new to homeschooling and wondering what on earth I’m talking about. What is a homeschool co-op anyway?
In a co-op, homeschooling parents cooperate with one another to teach classes. Often, we have expertise in one area but could use help in another area. In our co-op, the parents include a pastor, math whiz, history lover, musician, and writer. These parents teach courses related to their special skills, blessing all the other families. Parents who aren’t able to teach might serve as a teacher’s helper, do administration for the co-op, or watch young children while the parents teach.
Parents pay a registration fee and cover the cost of books and materials. In our co-op, classes are multi-age with students at different levels learning together.
For more on homeschool co-ops, read 6 Ways for Your Homeschool Co-op to Be Special Needs Friendly.
Tips for Creating a Flexible Homeschool Co-op
We delayed planning next year’s co-op until late June because there has been so much uncertainty with Covid-19.
When we finally made our plans, we made them flexible from the start. We planned how to meet in person and how to adapt and go online if we have to for some reason or another.
Basically, we will continue to use Facebook Messenger for small groups doing peer review for high school writing but will switch to Zoom if we go online.
We made normal plans for co-op classes. However, in addition, we planned back-up substitutes in case of going back online.
For example, we are planning to have a tea party during our British Literature course next year but will have each family having tea but go online to show each other what we made and are doing for our tea party.
We have a plan to do our own state dinner for government class, but if we can’t meet together, we will combine 2 families and each combination of families will plan their own state dinner.
We don’t want to use the backup plan, but it’s there! We also learned so many things about doing classes online.
Here are the tips we will remind each other of.
- Don’t allow noisy pets like birds or dogs to be in the room where we stream.
- Be close, but not too close, to the camera on the laptop or phone.
- Make sure people can hear you when you speak.
- Mute while you are not actually speaking.
- To show work or pictures to one another, bring it up to the camera so everyone can easily see it.
- End or begin each session by just chatting so parents and students get their fellowship time in.
Why Homeschoolers Adapt So Easily to Change
Homeschoolers adapt so easily to change because we are just natural problem solvers. Think about it. When our teen struggles with Algebra II, we find a solution. Maybe it’s a tutor, switching curriculum, or find a book that explains things better. When our daughter can’t sit still to do her math, we discover our own solution to the problem. We may do calisthenics before and in the middle of math or get her a fidget toy.
Our children create and invent things. We’ve trained ourselves and our children to think outside the box. As a result, we adapt easily to changes in our lives while others seem to struggle more.
For more on homeschooling, read Start Your Homeschooling Adventure with Confidence & Joy and How I Design Our Own High School Courses.
Takeaways for the Future
Yes, this has been a strange time in history that we are living through. However, there are so many things we’ve learned through this challenging time.
- We won’t take “normal life” for granted any more. We will give thanks for swim parties, wedding receptions, homeschool field trips, and toilet paper!
- We know that we are out-of-the-box thinkers, and we can adapt to almost anything as long as we can serve God, care for our families, and enjoy our freedom!
- When kids are too sick to come to co-op, but well enough to participate, we can stream them in from home! That’s something new for the future!
- We will wash our hands more often!
No matter what comes down the pike, we are blessed to homeschool our children because we are set up for success in times of transition and turmoil better than anyone else!
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling,
Meredith Curtis, homeschooling mom, writer, speaker, and publisher, loves to encourage families in their homeschooling adventure. She is the author of Seven R’s of Homeschooling, Travel God’s World Geography, Travel God’s World Cookbook, and HIS Story of the 20th Century. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at PowerlineProd.com. Free Reading Lists for all ages are available at JSHomeschooling.com. Read her blogs at PowerlineProd.com and listen to her at Finish Well Podcast.