The second best tool to succeed in homeschooling
"We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes from community." — Dorothy Day
When I think of community, I have so many feels and a fire ignites in my heart out of the passion that has sprung from the homeschooling community we joined last year. Honestly, I could probably write a series about this one subject so I hope I am able to adequately express how incredibly essential it is to engage in a community while homeschooling.
Few would argue that the majority of stay-at-home moms and homeschooling moms are introverts. I think it is a large reason why there are so many homeschooling misconceptions and why it took so long for co-ops to gain ground. Introverts are naturally more comfortable doing their own thing and not feeling the need to open up around many people. My heart was not thrilled about looking for a co-op, but I saw the need to put myself aside and I truly felt God wanted to stretch me, and ultimately God knew it would not only be great for my kids, but for me as well.
You see, I had searched high and low for the best co-op, and when you live in the mid-west you can literally spend weeks visiting co-ops to find the best "fit". Every time I walked by a Classical Conversations booth or a friend would talk to me about Classical Conversations, I would politely listen and then shut my heart off from engaging because I had simply determined that it was "not for me". I am sure I have said it before, but here is a short list of reasons why I was not interested. It was costly, it seemed "rigid", and honestly I felt like we were just a little bit more... eeek, normal? Which even I know is silly because I know how I frequent awkward conversations. I am stubborn and selfish and thank the Lord he knows me and my ridiculous attributes and knows exactly how to break down my walls and my stubborn assumptions. One of the most powerful ways has been through my gift of my husband. He finally looked at me one day and said, "Why would we not do this?!" and then I hung my head and called the director to see if we could join just days before the school year started.
In case you are not aware of what a co-op is, it is a community of religious or secular individuals who get together at least once a week to engage their children in social and educational opportunities.
Although I would argue that the word social is somewhat relative.
My heart naturally wants to explode with reasons why community is so important and then go into this beautiful story (I mean, I am partial) of our co-op experience. If I am being completely honest, I read a post on a homeschooling family and why they say co-ops are not for them, and I understand they are not for everyone, but I felt like the reasons were formed from lack of knowledge and it really struck a chord with me. But that word, experience makes all the difference.
Experience can deter a person's point of view in every aspect of life. Your childhood experience forms a majority of who you are as an adult, but your early adult years and your experience with college and the work force continue to mold your outlook on life. Whether or not you have truly "experienced" Christ's love can alter or change your spiritual life and relationship to the Church and God. We learn a great deal through experience.
So, because of our unique experiences in life, I will simply choose to share a few top reasons on how our homeschool community has revolutionized our homeschooling experience and why I believe it is the second (stay tuned) best homeschooling tool you can utilize.
1. The wealth of veteran knowledge.
- A lot of these mamas have been homeschooling way longer than I have and some homeschool more kids than I have as well. Their experience is so valuable. I believe one of the best ways to navigate through life is through mentorship and that is exactly what I have found in our Classical Conversations co-op. Iron sharpens iron.
2. The level of commitment
- By joining a homeschooling community, you are leading by example a level of commitment and servanthood. We show our kids how important it is to be a part of something that is meeting together for a greater good to accomplish more than our own selfish wants or insecurities. We join together to encourage and lift each other up and to exemplify the meaning of how hard work truly pays off.
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the day approaching." —Hebrews 10:24-25
3. The Lead Learner.
- In Classical Conversations, the child is lead by a tutor, not a teacher. This tutor is the lead learner, because we believe that the parent has been called by God to be the teacher and the tutor is there to model different ways that might help a child and the parent learn the information. I have to admit, I am more excited about learning than I ever have been in my entire life. One of my fears about this co-op is that my son would not learn well in a classroom setting. Can you imagine how thrilled I was to see them getting up and down every couple of minutes and using all kinds of manipulatives and songs to retain their information?!
By the way, did you know I can still rattle off every song I learned as a child and most songs from the 80's and 90's but can not remember much after that era of time. A child's memory (especially when things are put to song) is amazing.
4. More than socialization.
- I joined Classical Conversations for "socialization" last year. Jude had already done a year of homeschooling, he was taking music classes, involved in every sport possible and we have always been dedicated church goers, so when I say we joined for socialization, I think I felt like we needed to join in order to dodge those idealized misconceptions of homeschoolers back in the day. Any homeschooling family can be involved with life aspects that involve being social, but that can also lead to just being busy — and being busy does not always allow you the luxury to truly connect to any one. I believe it allows you the luxury of keeping your walls up and deceiving yourself from the heart of what community has to offer.
5. Fulfilling a major reason of why we were created.
- God's desire is for his created beings, meaning you and I, to be in unity (community) with him. The original sin that entered our world from Adam and Eve created a barrier for God's people to get to Him. I can only imagine the angst God went through as he watched his people try and fail time and time again and because of His great love and grace, we no longer have that barrier and can choose to have community with God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. I believe he created a deep longing in each person to join in community, just as he created eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
When I first became a stay-at-home mom, it was one of the most simple and best times of my life. However, not many close friends were married with a child by the age of 23 so there was a definite sense of loneliness. I was trying to figure out being a wife and mother without a similar community surrounding me so I focused on my family and my world which resulted in a lot of insecurities and anxieties. I knew it would not make anything better if I added the task of trying to figure out homeschooling on my own.
I am so passionate about joining a homeschooling community, and a great deal of that is because of the great experience we had our first year and how much I have grown as a mom, wife and teacher in spirit, confidence and character. I know God still has a lot of work to do on my heart and I am thankful I have such a trusted source of moms and homeschoolers that I can talk to and gain love and insight (I feel the need to add that connecting through social media is great, but absolutely not the same).
If you have any questions about Classical Conversations (even if you feel like they are silly assumptions), I would love to hear them! Please comment below (hopefully my email will be up soon) and I would love to help you sort your thoughts and encourage you along on your homeschooling journey. As always, follow me on IG as we get ready to dive in to year 3! I might also mention that I am a tutor for the Abecedarians in our co-op this year. (Ahhh!) I am all sorts of nervous and excited, so if you have any great advice of being a tutor, please share!