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Monday, January 15, 2018

How Our Academic Co-op Completes Our Eclectic Homeschool

Our homeschool journey has had many twists and turns. As the children have grown, not only has our reason for homeschooling been refined, but our ways of accomplishing our educational goals have evolved. What works for a bunch of littles just doesn’t work for teens and tweens. And what worked for the whole picture creative thinker may not be as effective for the sequential learner. Our children have grown and so has our world.

Welcome to week 2 of the Virtual Homeschool Fair: Our Homeschool Methods!

We have 23 bloggers sharing today how they get it all done and what methods they uses to do it. Be sure to check out their articles---they are near the bottom of this post.

Also, be sure to get Our Family’s Dream Homeschool, an easy to use workbook that will take you through the process of developing your own philosophy of education, creating your goals, and deciding on the methods to use to achieve those goals. The free printable packet is available to all Homeschooling Hearts & Minds subscribers, along with the Year to Sparkle Planner. Find out how to get both at the end of this post!

Today I want to talk about how I went from being a completely independent homeschooler to a member of an academic tutorial.

Why we use an academic co-op in our homeschoolYes. I went from creating our studies from scratch, mingling classical homeschooling with Charlotte Mason’s methods, unit studies, and delight-directed learning (all things I’ve talked about extensively on this blog)…

and joined an academic tutorial that teaches the core courses (plus some extras, but our family is doing math on our own)…two days a week, with the other 3 days each week being taken up mostly by homework.

I do not create my children’s courses. Nor do I teach them. Nor do I select the books. For the most part, anyway. I’ll talk about our curriculum next week.

Sounds like a complete about face from all that freedom that comes with homeschooling I was talking about last week, doesn’t it.

In a way, it is.

And in a way it isn’t.

There are several reasons our family decided to join the Tutorial:

Easier on Mom (creating courses from scratch and teaching 4 kids of widely different levels is hard work). Instead, I teach one course (Logic), teach my youngest her core courses, help out with the young elementary kids in the afternoon, and help my other kids where needed.

The tutorial is classical and uses high quality literature and materials. Not crazy about their science texts, but you can’t have everything.

It’s a strong Catholic community and we feel accepted by the other families.

It would give the children practice at being answerable to teachers other than mom and would help them learn to better manage their time, materials, and expectations.

So here’s the weird reason: a big factor in our decision was that the academic tutorial was where the other kids were and my kids needed to be with them.

They needed more peer relationships and relationships with other intelligent adults (beyond people related to them and friends of people related to them).

They needed more people to talk about their studies with.

They needed more friends.

They needed recess.

Not that we didn’t play outside before…but having a pick up stick ball game with the everyone at lunch is not the same as playing with just your sibs.

It seems absurd to say that I put my kids into what is essentially a two-day a week school so they could have recess, but it’s true.

Friendships happen fortuitously. They happen when you’re doing nothing special. Being together creates those opportunities in a way that planned activities do not. Simply by virtue of the fact that kids are in the same building together at the tutorial means that there are more opportunities for those relationships to blossom.

This was meant to be a one year experiment.

We knew that every homeschool has its good and bad years. We’ve been doing this long enough that we figured the worst that could happen would be that the co-op would be a poor fit for us and we just wouldn’t do it again next year.

Why we use an academic co-op in our homeschoolHere we are halfway through the year. What did we find out?

Academically, we were doing great before the co-op. My kids have not struggled at all with their tutors’ expectations.

They do have to be more organized and meet more deadlines, which is good for them.

And things like science experiments are easier with a class, no doubt about that.

But it hasn’t been a struggle for them. They are all A students.

My 14-year-old learned that she’s smart. I’m not altogether sure that this is a good thing. Yes, she is smart. But I think it’s probably more important that she has the drive to meet and overcome challenges and is a hard worker. I hope that she will stop comparing herself to her brothers.

My 17-year-old learned that he actually likes people. He used to think he was anti-social. But playing games at recess is fun and the people he is hanging out with are his kind of people. He seems to be enjoying his senior year overall.

The 8-year-old has always been a social butterfly. Nothing has changed there.

The 12-year-old is doing very well meeting classroom expectations, which is something I worried about.

All of them continue to grow in their independence.

There have been some negatives. We feel the lack of freedom.

And, intellectually, the tutorial is not as challenging as we expected it to be.  I’m learning, slowly, that my children are not really average. I keep thinking of us as all being completely average.

We’re not. We’re weirdos. Every one of us.

Perhaps the best thing about the tutorial is that the folks there have accepted our weirdness and befriended us (not sure if it’s because or in spite of the weirdness, but does it matter?).

It is more school-y than we like. But not as school-y as an actual school. Parents are still in charge of their kids’ educations.

We plan to continue with the tutorial next year.

There are some minuses. Yes. We, as a family, have decided that the pluses outweigh those.

Once upon a time I was an idealist. I wanted to do all the good things.

But as time has worn creases in my forehead and colored the hairs on my head more silver, I’ve learned that sometimes you need to let go of some good things in order to have the very best things.

This year, we took the tutorial as it came to us. Next year, we will have a better sense of what aspects are most important to us so we can capitalize on those.

I’ve come to realize that relationships are the most important thing.

One reason we chose to homeschool in the first place was to have strong relationships with our kids. Now we use the tutorial so they can build strong relationships with others.

virtual homeschool fair-003

What do my fellow homeschool bloggers have to say about their Homeschool Method? Go visit them to find out!

Note: all posts will be live after 8 am EST on Monday, Jan. 15th.

How Our Academic Co-op Completes Our Eclectic Homeschool by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

A Method to Our Madness by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays

Finding Our Homeschool Method by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

How We Homeschool by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool

Give Us.... by Annette @ A Net in Time

A day in our Home by Sarah@DeliveringGrace

Lit-Based Education: How We Homeschool by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

Overhauling Our Homeschool - Adjusting our "How" to fit our "Why" by Sabrina Scheerer @ Kids, Crunch, and Christ

A Day in the Life of a Homeschooler: Expectation Vs. Reality by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

How Charlotte Mason Transformed Our Homeschool by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Captain's Log, Supplemental - Our Homeschool Days by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

How we get it done. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love

How to Organize Daily Curriculum with the School Cart by Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine

Learning For LIfe by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens

Eclectic Homeschooling: When It All Comes Together by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool

A Typical Day? by Lizzy @ Peaches@Home

This is the Way We Do Our School, So Early in the Morning by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

A Little of This and a Little of That: Eclectic Homeschooling by Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World

Still Classically Educating After All These Years by True North Homeschool Academy

So what exactly is Life Led Homeschooling? by Dana @ Life Led Homeschool

Our Homeschool Routine by Joelle @Homeschooling For His Glory

Homeschool Methods – 8 Tips for the Journey by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset


  1. Sounds like a great mix of everything you are looking for! We joined a co-op and were active for a couple years. I loved it, but it was a huge time commitment so we stepped back a year and I am enjoying the time, but miss the co-op!

  2. We have a group which meets once a fortnight and the children look forward to seeing their friends. It is also a forum where they can practise giving short presentations to a group which is something that they would not otherwise do.

  3. We are part of a weekly co-op, but it is mostly for enrichment and socializing. The middle/high school courses do get more academic in nature, but my elementary kids have classes like gym, art, science experiments, so it's a nice break during the week so things don't get monotonous at home!

  4. Good to hear that you've found a solution that works for all of you, including Mom. We're part of a weekly co-op, which has a good amount of enrichment classes mixed with academic courses. I teach all academic courses, and often the classes are what my daughter would be doing at home. Some things, like science, are just more fun with a group and we actually do the experiments this way. But the social aspect is really why we go and give up and entire day of our time. Especially with my only child, she really needs time away from me to be responsible for herself.

  5. Great reasons to be part of a coop. It can be really helpful to have the structure and support. Ours was a blessing for many years and perhaps we will be part of one again some day!

  6. We have considered a similar program for next year and were excited to read about your experience! Glad it has been such a good experience for you!


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