This week I head into my eighth year as an English teacher at a local homeschooling co-op. Each group of students and their families has been entirely unique–one year I had three sets of twins! However, the same issues tend to crop up as we grow and learn together. If you attend a co-op, here are some things to consider which will make the year go more smoothly for everyone:
I am teaching here because I love to do it. Your kids amaze me and I am privileged to be a part of their learning process. As a homeschooling parent myself, I understand fully the trust you are placing in me to encourage and enlighten your child while striving to stretch him academically and even socially.
If you don’t like what I’m doing, talk to me, not about me. This is biblical. I once walked in on a parent who was complaining about a grade I had given her daughter. Believe me, it was awkward for everyone in the room. Once your student gets a whiff of any problem you have with me, my job as a teacher becomes infinitely more difficult and the result we are all hoping for is harder to attain. If there is an issue, let me know directly, or go through the proper channels. I can take it.
No, I can’t change deadlines because of your ski trip or the long week your student has had at play practice.
This is the place where deadlines are real. It is not fair to other students if due dates are not adhered to because your toddler eats her sister’s papers on a regular basis or you want to spend two weeks visiting relatives in the middle of the school year. If you know you will have a schedule conflict, turn the work in early. One year I had a student who spent weeks in the hospital and was finally diagnosed with a chronic illness. She met every deadline and barely missed a point for the semester. She made no excuses (even though at that point I would have taken them). You are welcome to turn things in late, but there is always a point penalty. This is practice for life.
If your student has any sort of disability, it helps for me to know in advance. I alerted my colorblind son’s teachers before the year started so they could be aware that he might have trouble with color-driven assignments. However, more than once I have been well into the year with a struggling student when the parent decided to alert me the child had a learning disability of some sort. It really frustrates us all if I have to figure out why he can’t pass a simple written quiz or answer a question in front of the class. Unfortunately, I have had no training in dealing with learning issues. I look to you for boundaries and suggestions. And by all means, if there is a serious problem, get help from a professional.
Things will go better if you stay involved. For many homeschooling families (including ours) the co-op is a jumping-off place for a child’s independence. Please don’t micromanage his week, however, especially if it is the first experience the student has had away from home, he will benefit from you checking up on his work. Make dinner conversation about what we’re studying. Help brainstorm project ideas. Encourage him to email me with questions. At the very least grab a copy of the class syllabus and make a note of big deadlines and exam dates. And then celebrate the good results together! Isn’t that what homeschooling is all about?
Traci Matt is author of Don’t Waste Your Time Homeschooling: 72 Things I Wish I’d Known.