Christopher shifts in his seat as his younger sister squirms on his knee. He's fixated on Matthew's presentation of his computer project but wiggly little Sarah isn't a distraction to him. A mom feeds her baby while nodding encouragement to her kindergartner to smile while reciting her poem. About twelve more kids take their turn at presenting, demonstrating, reciting, acting or reading to our homeschool group and they are mostly respectful and quiet. Later, Jacob, (a highschooler) invites his fellow students outside to witness his homemade potato gun shoot the spuds high into the sky. Everyone is amazed and exclaim with excitement. It's inspirational for the younger children to learn about things beyond their level and the older ones present in almost a teaching fashion. As families pile into vehicles, they leave a little more energized and determined to rise to greater achievements by the next project day.
I desire that my children interact with various ages and all kinds of people. I love how home educating socializes children in ways that being in traditional school all day did not. Our day often includes a trip to the bank, grocery store, nursing home, an activity group for disabled people, friends, relatives, field trips and church. Yes, we had to run errands and add these things into our day while my first two children were in school, but I was painfully aware of how little time I had with them before bedtime and I planned my day accordingly. I worked at completing these necessities before the kids got off the school bus so they didn't get to experience many of these events. With homeschooling, I include my children in these tasks as life lessons, to expose them to their community, and to teach them to love their "neighbour". They are learning to order pizza over the phone, cook a meal, introduce themselves in a group, play a part on a stage, make a doctor's appointment, purchase items with their own money at a check-out, hold a conversation with an adult, help to open a bank-account, and give to those in need. It's important to my husband and I that our children become independent in their daily living and that includes socialization in real life--their community. They're not there yet but we have a lot of time together to work on it.
I'm a firm believer that the completion of our schoolwork is very important and must be done as efficiently as possible. Thankfully, if we are diligent, we are able to finish our work early and include fun activities in our day. We will often hang out with other families, which serves the purpose of kid-play and mommy interaction.
When I taught in traditional schools, I was my class's teacher for most of their subjects. What I was not specialized in became another teacher's job, such as music. Home educating is the same and cooperative learning groups are a great support and so much fun. Some co-ops require the parents to teach a class in an area of their expertise, while others, like ours, hire teachers to take on a subject we all agree would benefit our children that term. Educating in communities like co-ops exposes kids to a wide variety of ages and allows them to work at their own level.
Science Fair organized by my sister
Another way we educate in community is our own little group that consists of families within a close proximity (of about an hour's drive), as mentioned in the first paragraph. Our children may even work on unit studies together. We've joined science fairs, speech meets, geography fairs and theatre productions together. As moms, we might dress up and play a character from the study we're engaged in or we might ask a friend to be a guest speaker to liven things up! The moms of our group have become great friends and we try to meet in the summer to plan our year and decide if we're interested in any common themes or curricula so we can prepare some lasting memories for our children. Sharing our ideas is one of my favourite aspects to educating in community--great minds teaching me so much!
Jacques Francois from Quebec
My mom does devotional object lessons for our kids.
A Mummer from Newfoundland
Anne of Green Gables from Prince Edward Island
My cousin, Lisa, teaching my children sign language (she worked at a school for hearing impaired people).
Community education is beneficial to homeschooled children but not necessarily in large quantities. I still hold fast to the theory that staying at home to complete work and to be together as a family, living and growing, serving each other and learning about life in a safe and loving place is most important. Creating a literacy-rich environment where children can be accepted and grow in Godliness is essential. Working in community, just like using spontaneous moments, requires prayer and discernment so you and your family don't get pulled in too many directions. When it's just the right place for you to be, it's a wonderful addition to your homeschool.