“Homeschool your kids,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. Have you ever considered homeschooling your child? This time last year, three moms and I decided to embark on a homeschooling adventure with four toddlers. At times it was as messy as four pigs in an Olympic-sized mud pit, and others it was as picturesque as Ms. Honey’s classroom on Matilda. There was laughter, there were tears, there were incredible memories made, and some lessons learned. So, if you’ve ever considered homeschooling or you’re just in the mood to read about our journey, here’s the story of four moms and one co-op:
It all started when one mama, Sarah, realized the school year experience she planned to have for her three-year-old son would not be possible. COVID-19 took us all for a wild ride, but for some, a traditional school setting just wasn’t an option. This particular kiddo was born with a heart condition, putting him in the highly vulnerable category. After many conversations with his pediatrician and countless days of pondering, researching, and dreaming, Sarah dreamt up our Quarantine Co-op.
She rearranged and relocated furniture, acquired a loft, and spent countless hours turning her dining room into the most majestic classroom any toddler could imagine. None of us other mamas had the space for such a mystical spot so we opted to meet at Sarah’s house every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and rotate days teaching. Three mamas took on the teaching role while the other assisted with acquiring supplies. Then, luckily, the supply “acquisitioner” swapped with me so I could take “maternity leave” starting in January.
It required some schedule adjustments and planning, but luckily most of the guesswork was taken out thanks to Susie, of “Busy Toddler,” and her ingenious “The Playing Preschool Program.” She created a 190-day program where we could pick and choose what worked for our kids. Typically the activities required minimal preparation and many things we used were just items lying around the house. The emphasis on play and simplicity of activities was key and allowed each kiddo to engage and thrive in his/her own way. Though I will admit, it took some solid adjustment on my part to avoid demanding compliance. My former second-grade teacher mindset wasn’t going to cut it in the land of three-year-olds.
We mamas grew alongside the kiddos. Sarah put it perfectly when she said, “My favorite thing was getting to see the kids learning/transforming right in front of our eyes—to get to be a part of the development and transformation.” While it was truly magical at times, it wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but the things we got to see and learn about our children, within a classroom setting, made it all worth it. We saw the way our kids responded when challenged by a thought-provoking question or when frustrated because something didn’t quite go his/her way. We experienced firsthand the joy sparked when they discovered a favorite hobby or mastered a new skill, and the pure-hearted compassion they extended to a friend in need. The things learned and skills acquired were innumerable.
Here’s what the other moms from our co-op had to say about their experiences:
Sarah Anne said, “There is nothing I didn’t love. I loved working together to facilitate a safe environment for our children. I enjoyed being able to bounce ideas off each other and work together to make this past year a fun year of learning, despite the circumstances. I’m so thankful to have had a village to do this with.” Then she added, “I also think it’s super important to do it with a group that you align with morally and that has similar parenting styles.”
Summer noted, “In addition to what Sarah Anne said, I loved having a beautiful home with so many educational toys to use. It made it super easy to ‘whip’ stuff up on the spot, which I think is pretty key in the preschool years. Education is all about an inviting atmosphere.”
The one thing Sarah noted she would do differently (which was a bit difficult in 2020) is, “Make a more concentrated effort to bring other elements to the program, like field trips, guest speakers (perhaps the fire department to show a fire truck), etc. That would have enriched the curriculum.”
Homeschooling is a journey I never thought I would embark on, but now I appreciate the process and choice many parents make so much more. Sarah stated, “Overall it was a tremendous experience, being able to know with certainty that not only was I keeping my child safe by keeping him home, but I could also not worry about a lack of social and emotional development because we had such an incredible group of kids. [They] really leaned on each other and helped one another grow during an otherwise stressful time.”
It’s true when they say, “kids are resilient,” but how special it is when we can adapt our lives to provide a nurturing, play-centered, and safe place for our children to learn, grow, and thrive.