Shared Moments from a Small Co-op

I have thought about the option of homeschool-co-ops mostly from the parental side. I have thought about co-ops from the angle of economic logistics, balancing work and family.

But, during this past week of back-to-school, with the shift of Fall in the air, I find myself reflecting on the experience we had with our co-op arrangement as kids…

Mindy Camille Lindsey outside

Me, Camille & Mindy, 1987

There is a truth to the down side of feeling “other.” It wasn’t awful, or debilitating, or a deal-breaker. But we knew we were doing something different. And sometimes that was lonely.

Reading my mom’s old journal this morning, I was struck by how lucky my family was to have a homeschooling-co-op arrangement right from the beginning. Having that shared experience with another close friend was surely formative, although, because I was young when we had that arrangement, I was not reflective about it at the time. The sense of companionship, friendship and community that came from our early bonds with other homeschoolers must have given us a greater sense of belonging, a sense that was specific and different from our other friendships with kids in the neighborhood.

These two pages from the old journal show an example of our dynamic of play, the companionship we experienced in our early homeschool-share:

Tuesday, November 3rd, 1987

* → As I sit down to breakfast, the girls sit down to draw. Mindy works on her Dream Child project (copying drawings, unfortunately with my help)… Camille begins to copy the same drawing but then gets frustrated & switches to a different subject. Lindsey is proud that she can draw a triangle & calls me over to see. She then proceeds to draw a jack-o-lantern.

* → As they draw, Mindy tells Camille, “You look like Ring Child.”

   C – Why?

   M – Because she wears a pink sweater, too. I have a      pink ring for you to wear, because Ring Child always      wears a ring. That matches her outfit.

   C – Dream Child?

   M – No, RING Child! She’s a new girl. They’re almost        sisters – they’re twins.

   C – Oh, I should have brought my yellow ring!

   M – But that wouldn’t match. That’s OK, you can wear    my pink ring.

(By the way, Mindy made up Ring Child…)

* → Lindsey & I have a power struggle over picking up pens off the floor. Lindsey wants to show her anger, so she says, “I’m going to crumple up my drawing.”

I could care less, since it’s just a scribble. But Camille says, “It’s lovely.” Mindy echoes, “It’s lovely.” Lindsey looks at their calm sadness & says, “Well, I’m just going to fold it.” Next thing I know, Lindsey’s anger is gone & Camille is showing her how to fold the paper neatly.

* → Camille asked for the Disney record as I go in for my shower. I hear them changing roles with each new song. Camille had just found a tail – so she could be Dumbo – when a song for “Alice In Wonderland” came on. Now she’s Dinah (Alice’s cat). The next song is from Cinderella. Camille says, “I’m Cinderella’s cat.” Lindsey protests that Cinderella didn’t have a cat. I say, “You can be one of those cute little mice that helps Cinderella.” Camille raves: “Yes, I want to be one of those cute little mice!”… Lindsey is agreeable & plays along, while Mindy basically ignores them & sings.

→ Errands: bank, copy shop.

* → Camille suggests a nature walk (which had been in my mind also). We go more than one block so we can find some nice leaves. Everyone notices a lot of details – flowers, cats, insects, spider webs. We collect pine cones, magnolia & jacaranda pods, clover, & fallen leaves.

(Each girl had a backpack with a bear (dressed up) on her back & a collection bag in her hand!)

Lindsey got a little tired & wanted to be carried, the big girls wanted to pretend to be older & walking to school with lunch bags (really their collection bags). So I picked up Lindsey & walked ahead – opened the house & was “teacher” when the big girls arrived. “Hello class! Is it cold or warm out there?”

→ The “school bell” rings. We all don paint smocks & sponge paint invitations for Dinosaur Day. Camille immediately washes up & begins to draw with felt pen, but Mindy paints a background, and Lindsey paints several papers. We talk about plans for Dinosaur Day. Camille comes up with a good game idea.