July 11, 2018
Third post in a four part series.
I can't imagine homeschooling through high school without our co-op. It meets the kids' needs in so many ways. Even so, it's taken me years to adjust to being such an active member of a homeschool group.
"In the Wings", painting by Laurent
We flew solo for the first ten years of homeschooling. Completely doing our own thing, on our own schedule. And it worked well until the kids reached the teen years. And although I loved being independent as a family I knew it wasn't going to meet the kids' needs. I knew it in my head, I felt it in my heart. And so for a couple years, as our oldest became a teen and her siblings weren't far behind, as we were living in a fairly remote location without a strong community, I prayed for a community for our kids.
After we thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail we went through a family life re-evaluation and decided to move to the city, a decision made primarily in recognizing our kids' social, academic, and spiritual needs.
When we arrived in Montreal I hit the ground running on getting my kids plugged into a community. We were here for that purpose and I wasn't going to waste time.
Through the homeschool grapevine I found our co-op within the first month of moving. (Remember lots of homeschoolers have homeschooled under the radar in Quebec for years and our group has kept a low internet profile as to not attract unwanted attention to its member families.) We joined immediately and dived right into homeschool co-op life, which included two days per week of classes in history, science, English literature, drama, and physical education.
The kids have gained so much from the experience. Firstly, friends. An active and involved social life really matters to Brienne and Laurent (and is enjoyed, though to a lesser degree, by Celine) and without co-op I don't know what we'd do.
Secondly, academic experience. The kids take classes with teachers who assign and grade work, a first in our homeschool experience. They like this and I love having some graded work to include in their high school transcript/portfolio. They've learned how to work with other people in collaborative group projects and to use technology to connect and create stuff (when you only see each other two days a week you learn how to use all those real-world tools like Google Docs, etc. for completing projects).
Part of the academic experience includes necessary time management skills, a class schedule, assignment deadlines and due dates, all of those have helped round out our relaxed homeschooling groove with a bit more structure.
And then there's drama.
Drama is one of the main things that drew us to this group to begin with.
A group is made up of people and who the people are will determine the flavor of the group.
We have a core group of families with strong theatre and musical interests that drives these productions. But also, whether you're talking about an individual, family, or a group, the things you nurture will develop and grow. And our homeschool group has nurtured musical theatre with the training and mentoring provided by two homeschool dads, one a drama teacher, the other a musical director.
There is talent, interest, and teaching which is the genesis or kernel of each production but to pull it off requires a community of dedicated people. And that's where the rest of the homeschool co-op enters the picture, putting on a show each spring.
Unlike school productions or theatre classes where you pay to have your kids taught and your main commitment as a parent is financial and watching a year-end production, this is an all-hands-on-deck production.
The play is also a fundraiser for the co-op and requires participation from all co-op families to be successful. The order of magnitude of involvement goes from providing baking for the bake sale all the way to stage manager (who still is expected to bring baked goods for the bake sale). Not all co-op kids are in the play, but if your child is an actor in the production, you as a parent, are required to commit to an important task.
Parents (older siblings, alumni co-op members, and even friends of co-op families) do so many things for this production including costumes, technical crew, marketing, box office, props, stage managing, photography and videography, catering, concession, and set-up.
We put our head, heart, and hands into this show. And simply put, the play does not exist without all this support. This is not a student-run production, it's a community-run production.
I've been backstage manager and a costume dresser for the last two years and this year I was costume manager and a costume dresser.
Celine designing and creating the ringmaster jacket from a red trenchcoat
My contribution to the play didn't get intense until the last three weeks of production. And the week of the play it's a full-time (plus) job. For the months of April and May there were extra rehearsals, especially for a show like this year's with a lot of choreography to practice, and so we did lots of driving.
All of the co-op activities, including the play rehearsals and shows happen on the West Island (the western end of the island of Montreal), which is a different community from where we live, a 30 min to 1 hour commute one-way depending on time of day. It makes for a very busy couple months.
To be continued...
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