Co-ops and your core

This blog was written in response to a question on finding a co-op and diving in with Charlotte Mason’s methods while homeschooling.

“Type A” with two elementary aged boys was where I first started enjoying Charlotte Mason’s methods and it was then that I started thinking about what is truly worth doing, and should be my “core”. God has been so good to show me what worked for my family, one day at a time. He revealed how many of Charlotte’s methods help give us discipline, allowing us to really learn and not just check things off of our lists. (Our lists meaning my lists as well as my kids.) I have found this very freeing and helpful as the guys have become older and busier with their own activities and we have twin 7 yr olds too.

As for a co-op, my personal experience has been three or four families worked well for us but only once I started getting done what I wanted and needed to at home. Our core of habits, Bible study, hymns, praise music, history, literature, narration, and later writing was best left to the Holy Spirit’s guidance at home. And of course, I gleaned much from the gals who shared at the Support Group meetings too.

While we did some writing in co-op, it was in addition to the writing that revolved around our core reading. We have also done co-ops with pic study, composer study, hymn study, and nature study and other co-ops with science and history over the years, but again, these were in addition to our core at home. Worth mentioning is that I believe NC law still indicates core should be done at home or with only one or two families and not in a co-op setting.

In my family’s weekly schedule, we were juggling a lot of balls (literally-sports!) so we needed to make sure our core was completed and enjoyed in the early part of the day. Also there continues to be bible studies and service projects the kids want to do, home projects, chores, odd jobs for others, paintball with friends, swimming, etc. All of this has been very important to our family and key in shaping us. I am holding off on a co-op for my younger two as we are in a year of transition where I need to prioritize many new things in my schedule and well, I am praying and waiting. You see I have done the opposite where we veered and tugged our way. God has been gracious to allow us to stumble, fall to our knees, and He even has disciplined us too. Sometimes we have been in a desert for our willfulness and stubbornness in going our own way. (I am reminding myself as I am writing this:-)

It sure can be a tough balance to keep your core going at home when it’s so easy to overcommit to seemingly good ideas, field trips, co-ops, and appointments. I am so thankful God has been very loving and good to correct, hem, discpline, and share lots of grace as we continue to find our way.

Somewhere about a year or two ago I realized God had given me kids gifted who loved to draw, paint, and listen to all kinds of music, who needed more than the occasional composer study or artist study. So I decided to fatten the feast, broaden the buffet, and my core grew. Then I needed even more time at home to do what we wanted! Fortunately my co-op buddies decided they wanted to travel from mountains to the coast and uncover the finest of NC, history, travel, food, fun! It was very fun, interesting, and a blessing for my homeschool.

My heart’s desire for this year was to have a co-op for my middle schooler and high schooler with a bunch of specs to my liking. And after much prayer, God called us to a very dear school, Arborbrook (a Charlotte Mason style school in Weddington, NC). He caught me by surprise with the timing and we have met many wonderful Christ followers there and enjoy the families greatly. We can see the handiwork of the Lord in the details daily but I was just so sure we would be homeschooling the older boys another year. While my sons are surrounded by teachers who love the Lord, I have to continue to surrender and pray to allow the Lord to lead them. I feel blessed we still have early mornings, late afternoons, and Fridays to add in what books, lessons, and experiences I have always wanted for them. So their core and list of books has changed some, but God is still center and core at home and at school.

I am so thankful my boys read rich living books and have group discussions, nature study, narrations, and other parts of CM’s philosophy woven into their daily routine. This is a new kind of core and yet God is weaving in key people young and old to continue to develop their “core”.

So much of what we do in raising our kids is by faith and not by sight. So much prayer goes into it all. Hebrews 11:6 says without faith it is impossible to please God. So for anyone considering giving up the fill-in-the-blank style workbooks, and diving in with both feet to what He has for you, I invite you to the journey of a lifetime! You can meet the Lord daily. He will provide for you, He will show you the way, and He will be your core!

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