4 March 2013

unschool monday :: back to co-op

Besties #hangingatcoop #unschooling #love

The past month has seen us back to building our community around us, the owlets and me. It's been a difficult, long learning journey. We've had lots of ups and downs with it in previous years, but managed to get through with some supportive, genuine mates who make the days and weeks full of colour and fun at our little homeschool co-op.

Mama selfie #hangingatcoop #picnic #latergram

We look forward to the time to relax, play and share conversation and food among friends... nourishing in so many ways.

Tiny selfie #polkadots #selfie #gianttoddler

Tiny loves having the time to wander among the big kids, following their play and getting involved when she can. And the way they accept her as part of the gang... Actually, she doesn't give them much choice - haha!

Art and raindrops at co-op today. #rainyday #art #unschooling

This year our natural learners' co-op has moved from meeting fortnightly to weekly, meaning regular, familiar play and what feels like family building around us. The older children in the group tend to dictate the direction of play and what activities we participate in, while families bring along things that might be of interest... strewing their path, if you will ;)

Our group has gone from huge to tiny, and occasionally big, depending on whether we provide a workshop or not. People like the certainty of a planned activity and in those weeks, our numbers grow exponentially and people come and go at other times, keeping it interesting. For the most part, we plan not to plan too much, following the energy of the group and relying on members to suggest and organise things if the inspiration strikes. What we've learnt is that it requires effort to maintain a constant organised enthusiasm and regular organised workshops for the sake of attendance... It becomes overwhelming, for everyone, and unsustainable. Somehow it doesn't feel co-operative.

It also takes a bit to let go and get over the feeling that your type of community is not what everyone is after, when for you it is the best thing! Throwing your heart out there and welcoming people, friends and strangers, who then decide whether they fit, hoping they do... Somehow organised activities, entertainment and educational workshops take the pressure off people needing to examine whether your community is for them. It removes the responsibility of active participation and co-operation. Whether they want to muck in and be part of it all.

In groups, people assess whether there are enough children of the right age and sex, whether they'll be bored or shy, or challenged. The concept of a co-operative collective is challenging and people often miss the point that there's an opportunity, by contribution, to bring what they want to the group. That the group is as fulfilling, exciting and enriching as they want it to be.

Sometimes I've wondered if one of our teething issues might be because the concept of community and unschooling is not for everyone, and an unschooling co-op might be what this thing actually is... Sometimes I think this has been a de-schooling process for me. Learning to let go and relax. Sometimes I think that others might view the social structure of schools and same-age grouping as important for them -  a valid choice, but not so important for us... Sometimes I wonder if people persisted, the others they are looking for might join in too. Community grows from participation... Sometimes we've just scratched our heads and wondered at it... But right now, this easy go-with-the-flow attitude seems to be working and there's a strong growing bond among families who come weekly, or just when it feels right.

Cooling down and stretching it out after a hard day of play at co-op #kidsarefunny #unschooling
Carrots! #oldweedyones #unschooling #community

For us, the important part is the time spent together, getting to know one another. Mucking in and growing something slowly, organically, with hope and fun and enjoyment in mind.

Working together at co-op #gardening #unschooling #naturallearning #kitchengarden
"Why is the compost warm?"... And other observations and topics of discussion among our barefoot co-op gardeners #naturallearning #unschooling #gardening #kitchengarden #coop

Sometimes the weeks where nothing is planned at all, where we trust in the spontaneity and dynamics of a group of kids to dictate the days and the direction they follow, are the best. The easiest. The most organic and the ones where we all learn together. Discoveries are made, social structures are worked through, problems are solved and experiences are shared just by sharing a space and sharing our interests... Those days set the direction for the weeks to come and by trusting in the group that we are growing together, this learning journey, these unschooling days, become so full and nourishing. I'm excited for what's to come for our tiny group and hopeful that it continues to grow and flourish.

Are you part of a homeschooling/unschooling co-op?
Do you help run a group of people? Have you found it challenging?
Is community important to you?
How have you made it work?

Add your link below if you'd like to join in and linkup with unschool monday and reflect on your unschooling journey, or week or anything you fancy! xx

1 comment:

  1. Just happened by your blog because of a sewing tutorial, and soon discovered that you are an unschooling mum like me! Reading this post reminds me so much of what I'm living right now--get-togethers with a couple other unschooling families on a weekly basis, a set-up that slowly evolved from occasional potlucks with friends to summer picnics at the park to rotating houses in the cold weather. We share meals and bring crafts and chat and let the kids run, and once a month we come up with some form of field trip to embark on. And now, with a larger community of homeschoolers that I happened upon (by talking to a stranger at the library!), I book physical activity-based events bi-weekly. We were going to do a weekly gathering including other things, but when I realized just how many families might be joining, I backed off and simplified. You're right--people are more likely to come when you can give an itinerary. But it's difficult to plan activities for a large group of an undetermined amount of participants. Better to, say, book a gym for a couple hours and have a couple moms run a program for part of it. Or the local pool, or rink, or plan a hike, or sledding, or whatever. It is a bit of pressure always being the one to coordinate, but I willingly put that onto myself, because I've learned over time that usually if you want to see something happen, you have to make it happen yourself! Mostly it's exciting. All these things have come together in just the past couple months, and instead of worrying about my children feeling isolated without much of a homeschooling community around them, I (and my children) look forward to the adventures that each week brings! I love our ebbing and flowing pattern of living.


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