Last week I attended a meeting of our homeschool co-op, to plan our future space and activities. I almost didn’t go, as I’m not sure whether we’re going back in the fall or not.
ElvenTiger turned 15 this winter, and she’s on the edge of outgrowing the classes and activities that are offered. The group does offer classes for teens, but they aren’t generally topics she’s interested in, and this year a whole group of the teens from co-op decided to attend a charter school, so there are a lot less of them than before. Dryst chose not to go back to the co-op this year for that reason, actually. For my kids, the co-op was more about having social time and learning fun new things they might not have encountered otherwise, not getting high school credits or participating in traditional academic courses.
The thing is, though, it’s an awesome community. I’ll miss it when we’re no longer attending. After the meeting I hung out to chat with some of the friends I’ve made through being part of the co-op for three years now. The co-op is diverse in terms of educational methods, and the people I resonate with most are my fellow unschoolers, who focus mainly on child-led learning and tend to be creative thinkers. There’s a high priority placed on each kid being able to learn in ways that work best for them, and incorporating that learning into everyday life.
Part of our conversation was about dyslexia in kids, both officially diagnosed and more informally observed. The discussion ranged from how our kids learn, to ways each child learns to read in various ways at different times, to internal motivation for learning particular skills, to developing a practice ethic, and beyond. As we spoke, I felt as a parent of older kids, one of whom was a “late reader,” (I put that in quotes because it’s society that judges the timeline) I was able to give worthwhile advice to the parents of younger children. We know each others’ kids, and can see the similarities as well as the differences. My experience with my daughter and her ways of learning can help show the way for others in our situation.
And then I realized something cool. ElvenTiger is a role model in her community.
Because she’s such a kinesthetic learner, public school would have been stressful for her, and her self-esteem might have been damaged through labeling and expectations. Instead, she’s a thriving young woman, living a full and interesting life and learning all the time. She is intelligent, kind, and creative, and makes friends of all ages wherever she goes.
As a role model, there’s still a place for her in the co-op. She’s already begun to teach the younger kids. This winter she assisted with paper arts class and Camp Half-Blood (exploring Greek mythology through the lens of the Percy Jackson books). For spring, she’ll be teaching one of her passions, flow arts, which includes poi spinning and hula hooping tricks.
The question is, will teaching and mentoring be something that calls to her this fall, enough to participate in co-op each week? It’s her decision – after all, we practice child-led education.
Personally, I do hope she’ll want to continue, though. I’m enjoying being part of this creative, often chaotic, fun, and supportive community. I know it won’t last too much longer, though, as both of my kids continue to get older and find their own independent interests. Hmm, I wonder if this co-op will still be around years from now, when they have kids. I’d love to be there with my grandchildren someday!