As a follow-up to my home school co-ops post, here is a list of some of the group learning activities we’ve done over the years. Some are not technically a co-op, but they still present excellent opportunities to learn together with other families.
HISTORY PARADE -Gather together a group of creative families with each family committing to creating an entry for the parade. Each family’s entry displays what they are studying in history that year. This could involve costumes, banners, wagon floats, perhaps even a musical piece from that period of history. Set a date for your parade (I suggest February, to alleviate those mid-year blues.) and arrange to march through the halls of a local senior living complex or assisted living facility(or several of them). Just parading through the halls will greatly bless the residents, but if you want to go further, have some families take responsibility for handing out notices ahead of time to the residents to guarantee a great audience.
Other families can organize refreshments which you share with the residents while you visit with them or give presentations about what you are studying.
PRAIRIE PRIMER – In this wonderful year-long co-op we went through the Prairie Primer and decided what activities we wanted to do together as a group. Each family read through the corresponding Little House book for the month and did whatever other activities out of the book they wanted to cover as a family. We met twice a month for group activities, with different families hosting each gathering and all 6 families contributing assigned duties for each meeting. Some of the terrific things we did together included:
- making cheese
- non-electric night in which we had a night of entertaining activities by candle light and the punched tin lanterns the kids made at the previous activity.
- doing a shadow theater which was really awesome
- a prairie Christmas celebration
- making silhouette portraits
- making leather mocassins
- a night with the grandparents which included square dancing and a “Farmer Boy” banquet of recipes from the Little House Cookbook
- a campout weekend at Laura Ingalls Wilder Days in Pepin, Wisconsin
MIDDLE AGES – This one was a two-month commitment. Families studied the Middle Ages in whatever way they wanted, but our group gatherings included the following activities:
- designing a family crest and making it into a banner
- playing human chess and learning what the different chess pieces represented
- building a 3-room castle complete with drawbridge out of refrigerator boxes
- visiting a Middle Ages re-enactment
- taking a field trip to Medieval Times
- hosting a banquet in which the children were assigned parts to play (minstrel, jester, server, cup-bearer, juggler, etc.); we ate cornish hens, multi-grain bread, venison and other fine fare off of (pita)bread trenchers; we decorated the hall with our family crest banners, and thoroughly entertained all the grandparents as we tried to prove that yes, their grandchildren were getting plenty of social exposure and were, indeed, learning a great deal.
HEALTH and NUTRITION- One field trip included a trip to the grocery store where we were given a guided tour through the produce department and got to taste some of the more exotic fruits. After that, we were allowed to roam the aisles on a scavenger hunt where the kids were to read labels to find items with very specific nutritional content. Another field trip included a tour of a dentist office and some education about good oral health habits. An activity day focused on the five senses and included crawling around in a model ear, dissecting a cow’s eye and other sensory activities. There were also fitness tests, keeping food diaries, and a day of learning about balancing fun with work in which the kids learned to do fun things such as face painting and juggling.
YOUNG PUBLIC SPEAKING – In order to ease the (elementary aged) kids into public speaking we met monthly with a group of families to recite memorized poems and to give short speeches within assigned parameters — for instance one month it might be “How to do something,” another month, “describing my favorite place,” or “our family tradition”.
BOOK DISCUSSION GROUPS – In addition to our literature discussion groups, especially at the high school level, we would tackle the tougher subjects by going through the same books together and creating presentations, quiz questions, and other challenges for each other or just generally discussing the matter together with other students and their moms. In this manner, we covered such topics as American government, psychology, worldviews, logic, and science labs.
BLOOD and GUTS – That’s the name of the book we used. In this co-op group, one of the moms (a registered nurse) taught the lessons — each month focusing on a different body system; one mom set up arrangements with a local butcher to get a pig heart, lungs, digestive system, and whatever other body parts we were studying that month “strictly for educational purposes” — we had to sign a form each month promising proper handling and disposal; another mom organized snacks for co-op days (How could we eat?); and one amazing mom agreed to host our monthly meetings in her home. Additionally, each mom contributed a variety of experiments and activities to further expand upon that month’s particular body system.
- learning Native American games, dances and crafts
- making costumes
- constructing a 12-foot tipi
- studying the various types of houses in each region
- visiting the Indian Summer Festival
- culminating in a night where we gathered together to share foods from, model costumes of, and present reports about our chosen region’s tribes.
WORLD TOUR – Each family takes a turn hosting the group and chooses a country for their family to study. On their host day, they provide food, crafts, activities and presentations about that country, teaching what they’ve learned to the other families. Each child gets a passport and marks off the various countries as they learn about them.
Alternatively, this can be done as a one-time event. Rent out a gym or other large hall at a church or school and host a World Tour night. Each family chooses a country to study. They put together a display about that country and stand at their table ready to talk to visitors about their chosen country. Optionally, families might provide food from that country to give out in small samples. They are also instructed to bring stickers, a rubber stamp or some other form of representation of their chosen country with which they can mark passports. When visitors arrive they receive a passport with all participating countries listed. As they “tour the world” they get each county’s sticker placed in their passport at the appropriate spot as they gather information from the kids about the country they studied.
SCIENCE FAIR – Whether you want to run this as a co-op or class in which the students learn how to do a science fair project, or otherwise leave it up to the families to study that themselves and just organize the event, a science fair is a great way to get kids excited about science and the scientific process. Be sure to provide judges and awards.
WILD WEST – Work together with other families to recreate the Oregon Trail, the gold rush, the Pony Express. We went to a nearby Wild West Museum and learned all kinds of things. The Pony Express and the Oregon Trail were two of our favorite memories. I will write more about them in another post.
Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to give this co-op thing a try if you are a home schooling family. If you are not a home schooling family, perhaps I’ve given you a window into our world that explains why we are so sold on educating our children in this manner. This is why I try to explain that you can’t compare home schooling to public or private schooling as easily as some people like to believe. It’s just a very different approach to educating. It’s not for everybody, but I’m so grateful we chose this route for our family and feel very blessed to have been able to share the adventure with all of the wonderful families we’ve met along the way.
If you’ve participated in home school co-ops, I’d love for you to tell us what you did and how it went in the comments below.