Over the last several weeks, I’ve been posting a series on our Charlotte Mason homeschool co-op. The first post was about the “why” behind our joining, the second post covered “how” ours is set up, and the last post and this one talk more about “what” it looks like in practice. Last week, I went through half of a co-op day when we all meet, and today I’ll finish that and wind the series up.
I posted a schedule in the last post, but just to recap, here’s what our co-op day looks like:
- Morning Meditation (10 minutes)
- Hymn (10 minutes)
- Physical Education (20 minutes)
- Picture Study – Lower Forms/Composer Study – Upper Forms (20 minutes)
- Snack (20 minutes)
- Shakespeare (30 minutes)
- Handicrafts (30 minutes)
- Picture Study – Upper Forms/Composer Study – Lower Forms (20 minutes)
- Nature Study (40 minutes)
- Folk Song (10 minutes)
Shakespeare (30 minutes)
In the last post, we ended with our snack time. Right after that, we get back into our routine with Shakespeare which is another subject that is divided by Form (lower: 3rd grade and under/upper: 4th grade and up). Last year, the mom in charge of the lower Form Shakespeare started term 1 with Bard of Avon. Some of the students had already read some of his plays with older siblings, while others had never heard of him, so this was a good way to provide some background information on who he was. Since then, she reads from a child’s version (usually Lambs) of Shakespeare whatever play the co-op is reading together, one play per term.
In some cases when the play is inappropriate for younger children or is much longer (or Lambs doesn’t have that version), we’ll read a different play. This last term and part of the next, the upper Forms have been reading through Julius Caesar, so the lower Forms read Lambs’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For this particular play, the mom assigned found a character chart which she printed out for each child, then went over it the first time we met. After that, the students have these out while she reads an excerpt from Lambs, and then one or more of them narrates what they heard. To mix things up a bit, we also acted out scenes (I had the joy of being Bottom on several occasions) as a form of narration.
The upper Forms use co-op time to act out a scene from the play. So they’ll recap what they read last week and at home for homework, then different students are assigned parts and they read from their books. They then narrate what they acted out. In between co-op meetings, the mom in charge of Shakespeare will assign more reading so they can get through the whole play in a reasonable amount of time and offer some background on the particular scene for moms to cover with their students at home.
Handicrafts (30 minutes)
We then all come together again for handicrafts. This year we’re working through A Manual of Clay-Modelling (Dawn, who is teaching this subject in our co-op, started a series about this on the CMER blog) and each child has their own storage container with all of their supplies, including a board with a short metal armature on which to work, a bag of clay, wooden tools, and a cup to be used for water while they’re working with the clay. She also brings plastic tablecloths to each home where we have co-op to protect their tables from the clay and made a special storage container for the kinder/babyleben children to work with Play-dough during this time as well.
In our family, this has been an enormous hit and B has saved every single piece they’ve made so far. Generally both Forms do the same project, but Dawn has differed them slightly in turning an object a different way to make it somewhat more challenging for the upper Forms (eg. the lower Forms made an apple that was upright and the upper Forms tilted it on its side). She has all of this so well organized and if you have any more questions about this, I highly recommend her series on the CMER blog!
Picture Study – Upper Forms/Composer Study – Lower Forms (20 minutes)
This is the reverse of the Picture Study/Composer Study time I spoke about last week with upper Forms doing picture study and lower Forms doing composer study. In picture study, this time is nearly identical to the lower Forms, though I do go in to a little more depth with the older students. When we were studying Constable this last term, I printed out copies of different versions of his Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds for them to look at as well as Rubens’s A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning which is thought to be the inspiration for The Hay Wain. We also talked a little about the hierarchy of painting and I shared several quotes from Constable. However, the main emphasis during this time is narration and discussion, so after recapping our artist, what we looked at the week before, and spending time to look at the current piece quietly, I like to spend as much time as possible having them narrate and talk about the piece itself. The more in-depth discussion is only if we have more time.
For composer study, the time is nearly identical to what I wrote last time other than she goes into more depth in the book she is reading for the older students.
Nature Study (40 minutes)
During nature study, all Forms come together again. The mom assigned for this subject picks a subject to focus on over the course of a term (in the past we’ve done things like coniferous trees, earthworms, and spiders, among others) and will find a living book on that topic. She’ll then read a portion from it and then have the kids narrate. She has also found videos on YouTube for us to watch that pertain specifically to what we’re learning about. For instance, this last term while we were studying spiders, she found a video of an orb weaver making a web as well as another orb weaver preparing an egg sac and laying her eggs.
After that, everyone (including moms if they want to participate) gathers their nature notebooks and paints and heads outside (if the weather isn’t too cold or snowy) to find something to paint. We’re fortunate in that most of the families who host our co-op also have quite a bit of land and/or animals on their property, so we all have many things from which to choose. B has a nice collection of paintings in his notebook from various co-op houses.
Folk Song (10 minutes)
After our nature study time, we all head back inside for folksong. For this, the mom assigned will read some of the background of the song we’re learning and then we’ll all sing it together, which has been a nice way to end co-op. We then have instructions for lunch and close the morning out with prayer. Usually we’re done by 1 pm, but sometimes it does go a little longer than that.
This is where the co-op day ends for the younger Forms as afternoons hold subjects only for upper Forms. This year they’re reading Plutarch together, discussing current events, and learning about backpacking and survival skills. Last year they had poetry, more Shakespeare, current events, and one of the dads taught electronics.
Any family is welcome to stay for the afternoon regardless of how old their children are, so even though B is a younger Form, we often choose to stay so B and C can play with their friends and I can get some much-needed friend time myself.
After we finish folksong, we all sit down to have lunch. If the weather is nice, most of the kids will go outside to eat and the moms get some time to sit and chat or discuss co-op things that are easier in person than on our forum. When the co-op was originally formed, the group was smaller for each branch and each family got a chance to host, so the hosting family would usually make lunch for everyone. However, the summer that I joined, due to the size of the group and various food allergies, we decided to start bringing our own lunches which I think has worked well.
Plutarch (3o minutes)
At around 2:30, the upper Forms (6th grade and up) meet for Plutarch. The mom assigned reads a portion of Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch and then the group narrates and discusses using Anne White’s guides.
Current Events (30 minutes)
The sixth graders are then done for the day and grades seven and up gather for current events. For this subject, a student chooses a news article for everyone to read prior to meeting and they also read a section from The Fallacy Detective. During co-op, they spend 15 minutes discussing and asking questions about the article, and then another 15 minutes talking about what they read in The Fallacy Detective and how it relates to the article.
Backpacking (45 minutes)
This began as a survival skills class but has changed into a backpacking class. The students have learned things like how to make a campfire, cook on a gas camp stove, finding their way around with compasses, and things along those lines. We are potentially planning a one-night backpacking trip for these students at the end of the year so they can test their skills!
And that’s the end of our co-op day. We often meet for other events throughout the month such as field trips or service opportunities. We also have a book group for the moms (and anyone else in the community who might want to join us) once per month as well as Young Adult book clubs for the students. Otherwise, we keep in touch on our discussion forums and we also post homework assignments for various subjects there during the week.
I hope this series has been helpful! Again, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch!