Wednesday, April 28, 2010

TOG Co-op : A Burden That's a Blessing

We have been greatly blessed to be part of a Tapestry of Grace Co-op for 3 years now. This co-op is made up of 18 families who all use the same year plan of the TOG curriculum, and who have committed to joining together once a week for group activities that enhance and enrich what each family is learning at home.  We only have 4 weeks left to go, so last night was our end-of-the-year Mom's Meeting, where annually we discuss our purpose and expectations as a Co-op - because at this time of year we generally need a reminder -  and lay out what has gone well this year and what has not.  

I love this group. It is so awesome how God has brought together a group of like-minded but very diverse ladies, most all with strong personalities and opinions, and a wide array of talents... and we have managed to muddle through three years of Co-op now and all still be friends! Sometimes we disagree, sometimes individuals get irritated or frustrated, sometimes our best laid plans just fall apart - but someone is always there to soothe or counsel or cajole or cheer or pick up the pieces and we keep going. Some of the areas that we discussed last night where we feel we've not been strong enough this year -  having more regular mom meetings - one per quarter - so that we don't lose the big picture of the Co-op due to the focus on our individual classes;  holding all our students to a level of accountability and preparedness each week; having a WRITTEN outline ready at the beginning of each unit for each class so that parents know exactly what their kids are expected to bring and have prepared each week.  Writing has been a sticking point this year - some moms really wanted to add it while others felt it was too demanding!  We decided to pull back on the writing and leave it to each family to do at home, but each class could do one writing project per unit as long as it tied in with the history or literature.

One thing that always comes up in our discussion is the fact the doing a weekly Co-op like ours means each family is basically committing to a 4-day school week!  Every one of us has found that no additional school can get done on Co-op day - it just isn't going to happen!  And Saturday school doesn't go over so well either.  So math, science, grammar, writing, reading, foreign language, art, music.... everything else has to be done on Mon.- Thur.   This is a significant burden - especially for those with lots of kids!  Also, the pace of TOG is pretty fast, and many families long to slow down and linger in a certain time period, but the commitment to Co-op means you have to go at the Co-op pace!   But as we went around the table last night, I think everyone agreed that the sacrifices are worth it. In the grand scheme of things, the benefit of the Co-op experience - discussing and debating the historical threads, digging into the literature, creating art projects, holding quarterly Unit Celebrations, sharing all this with a group of friends (misery loves company) - outweighs the sacrifices. So Co-op, to me, is a burden that is also a blessing I'm most grateful for. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Under the Sea Art Projects

My Boys Art Class did a series of Under the Sea art projects. Most of these involved watercolor and/or black Sharpie!  They came out great, and I think the boys had a lot of fun with them. 

Watercolor Pencil Seashell and Garibaldi Fish

It's Almost Time for PROM

Only two weeks until the first Carolina Capital Homeschool Prom!  We have a little over a hundred registrations turned in, with a few stragglers still making their way to us in the mail.

The weather has been gorgeous this past 2 weeks. We have a couple of rainy days coming up, but then it gets sunny again, and I pray that it stays that way through at least May 7th, because our event is outdoors!   The Sutherland Estate and Gardens is a gorgeous old Southern estate, and although we'll be partying under a big tent, rain might dampen the evening.

This event is for homeschooled students and alumni, ages 14 -21, and their guests.  It includes a catered buffet dinner,  photographer taking formal and candid shots throughout the night, a DJ playing great music, dancing, door prizes - all hopefully creating a magical night of happy memories for our kids. The past few months have been a flurry of activity as the 6 girls and  4 moms on the Prom Committee have interviewed caterers, hired the DJ, met with the venue event coordinator, picked out table linens,  planned decorations, shopped for dresses, recruited chaperones, solicited door prizes, and worked with the photographer ( my oldest daughter ) to come up with a plan.  The bulk of the registrations came in just at the last minute - of course - and I was a weeeeeeeee bit stressed about possibly not meeting our minimum number needed to pay the bills. Hubby was also a bit stressed over this. But it looks like we are going to make it, if barely.

Since this is the first time we've been involved in an event like this, it has been interesting to hear the discussion amongst homeschoolers.  We as a community are rather split over the whole Prom idea.  Some people have been very grateful and excited about their teens having a chance to participate in a fancy, dressy, formal event like this during their high school years!  Others have been disdainful, scoffing at the idea of trying to be like the "schools", as if planning a Prom is somehow traitorous to the ideals of homeschooling.  Some have worried about too much freedom and wordliness; others have fretted over too much supervision and control.  So the old saying holds true... you can't please all the people all the time. We don't expect every homeschooler to participate... it is an opportunity that you can take or leave.
But at least 100 teens are ready to test the waters and we are humbly praying that the night will be a blessing! 

In addition to the revelry and hoopla, we are also using this event to raise awareness about a cause close to the hearts of several of the families on our committee, and that is orphan care ministry. We are hoping  to send any money  brought in above our expenses to the Kolfe Orphanage for Boys in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We may not have much to send, but we are going to make sure everyone there goes away having heard about the boys at Kolfe, and others like them all over the world - and maybe feeling like they can be a part of helping in the future. We will be showing a video, hearing from the young lady who started Etaala International , and maybe even connecting with the boys via Skype.

If it comes to your mind, we'd greatly appreciate your prayers for this event. :-)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Catching Up

Whoa!  Time is just flyin' by!  And I've been neglecting this blog terribly.  Let's see - what has been going on around here...
  • we celebrated Easter with our church family at Living Hope  by learning about the Jewish Seder and all the elements that point to Jesus as Messiah. Sheldon Alexander, a born again Jew, led us through the traditional Jewish ceremony and pointed out how Christ  transformed the Passover Seder into the Lord's Supper in that Upper Room with his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. 
  • enjoyed having the college kids home for a 5 day long weekend over Easter;  even though they aren't little anymore, my kids still like to get Easter baskets, and we still hide chocolate eggs around the house which everyone must hunt for before church :-) 
  • Sarah learned that she has been accepted as an intern with Campus Crusade for Christ for next year! So now she isn't "aimless and directionless" anymore! ( a recent FB status )
  • plans for the Homeschool Prom are coming right along! Registrations have been slooooooooooooowly coming in, but the pace has picked up considerably this week, now that the deadline is just one week away! I've added quite a few gray hairs over this event, but I think it is going to be wonderful and all the hard work and anxiety will be worth it in the end. We have learned that next year, there will be some big INCENTIVE for getting registration/payment in early!
  • After thinking that she was going to end up going to Prom in a sack, Amanda found a very pretty dress at David's Bridal.  The styles at the mall were very disappointing - either they were very immodest, or they didn't look good on her body type, or they were really expensive! But now she's a happy girl!
  • I'm having a great time with both art classes I teach! The high school girls are starting watercolor next week, and the 9-12 yr old boys are starting a 6 week session on art history, making these cool lapbooks from Homeschool in the Woods 
  • Geography Club is a lot of fun. Attendance has been light due to sickness, travel, car trouble, you name it.  But we still have fun, even when there are only a few of us.  We meet every other Thursday, and focus on a different continent each month.  Last month it was Africa, and I bought a new board game called 10 Days in Africa to play. This was a huge hit with all the kids and the adults too!  The game is for 2-4 players, but we did it with 4 teams of 2 kids.  It is simple enough to learn quickly, but challenging enough that it keeps everyone engaged. It involves placing 10 tiles next to each other so that you can move from one country to the next by walking, driving, or flying. As soon as we finished the first game, the kids immediately wanted to play again - a sure sign of a great game! 
  • Our monthly Lighthouse parent meeting was Tuesday night. The topic was Curriculum, and several people brought some favorites to let others look at and ask questions about -  Tapestry of Grace, Sonlight, My Father's World, Beautiful Feet, Shurley English, TruthQuest history, Happy Phonics. Upcoming activities for the support group are the annual Field Day and our Spelling Bee.