Friday, April 4, 2008

Co-ops and socialization

I'm having a dilemma about the two co-ops in which we participate (homeschool co-ops, that is). There's Monday Co-op (hereafter MC) and Friday Co-op (FC). We've been members of MC ever since we moved to Austin, so this would be our fifth semester -- and my being the treasurer for the past four semesters has helped cover one tuition (Ian's) - very helpful. However, my term will expire at the end of this semester, and unless I can fit myself into another board position or job, I would have to pay full tuition for both the older kiddos -- a total of $650 per semester. Not bad, of course, but not pocket change for us either. This co-op is more academic, at least for the 7 year olds and up -- the parents and kids submit class ideas for each semester, they're voted on, and the top three ideas are chosen, provided there are teachers we can hire for the designated topics. For the past semester, Ian's cohort (the same kids are together all day) has taken art, science and history. Oh, and although we're expected to volunteer in the classrom twice per semester, most weeks parents are free to drop off their kids and go.
This semester we decided to try out Friday Co-op, which is run quite differently. It's not a drop-off; all parents are expected to either teach a class or assist in teaching. Most of the classes are less academic -- my kids are taking, as a brief sampling, such offerings as Young Einsteins, Insects and Bugs, Wonderful World of Art, Field Games, and the Dangerous Book for Boys (and Girls). The idea is that having the whole family on site all day encourages a sense of community (which it does, and it's heartwarming to see some of the older kids mingling and playing with the younger ones; there aren't age cliques). I thought that financially speaking (the semester cost $150 per family) it made more sense to do FC, but I wanted us to try it out before dropping MC altogether. However, although I've enjoyed it, I have to say I wasn't prepared for how thoroughly exhausted I am by the end of the day on Friday. Maybe it's because mine are all young, including a toddler who misses her nap, and the facility we use is very spread out so we're constantly running back and forth between two buildings to round up our herd, or maybe because it involves bringing more STUFF (and I'm not even teaching, just assisting!), but most weeks I come home and just want to crash! I talked with a couple other moms today who also have three young ones, and they said they felt exactly the same.
Furthermore, my kids are, understandably, more attached to the Monday group. I think it's an issue of having been there much longer, of course, but also of being with the same kids all day (Friday classes are you-pick-and-choose-from-what's-being-offered) and of having a great playground to run around on during lunch. I know if they could choose, they'd stick with Mondays. With me, I could go either way -- I know the Monday crowd better, but Friday gives me more of a chance to actually interact with the other parents, instead of just the few that I'm close to -- and I haven't met a Friday person I haven't liked yet! But, it is so nice (and non-draining) to have that break most Mondays, when most weeks I can go grocery shopping with just Caroline, or volunteer in the bigger ones' classes while Caroline's happily occupied in the nursery.
Pros and cons, pros and cons. In the fall I really think we should just stick to one co-op, but which will it be?

Oh, and I hope it isn't in horrible taste to bring this up, but you know the general public always criticizes homeschoolers for not giving their kids ample opportunity for "socialization?" (And by the way, just this week as a sample, in two days I had calls/emails from three different moms asking to arrange playdates for my son and theirs -- so you know how well I keep him locked in that closet!) Well, did anyone catch on the news this story about nine third-graders in Atlanta who were caught plotting to attack/kill their teacher with a knife? Check it out --

I think this is the kind of "socialization" that my children can do quite well without, thank you very much!


Tracee said...

Wow, we never had a co-op we had to pay for. Of course, we never hired teachers either. Does the Friday co-op hire teachers? What is the money for? We had $20.00 dues per family per semester for the use of the church building, but that was it. It sounds like you like the Friday people more and the cost is more reasonable. As far as being exhausted, could you go in later or leave earlier since it is pick and choose?

Tracee said...

And I guess those third graders are completely left to their own devices after school, in order to have gotten all those items and planned such a thing. Good grief! I much prefer our kind of socialization, LOL!