Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Learning in Community

Many people like to learn together in groups. Small groups.
Here is an excerpt from an interview I did a few years back on radio free school show with Katharine Houk, author of Creating a Cooperative Learning Center:An idea book for homeschooling Families, where she talks about learning as "a relational experience." You can listen to the show here if you prefer.

Why did you start a learning center?

Originally in 1983 when I was homeschooling, there were no groups or anything and i was feeling the need to at least talk to people in my area about homeschooling. That was a a support group.
After a while we invited people in the community to share things with us and it evolved into workshops and it happened in my home which my children where pre teens and people would come and do workshops.
And then i got a call from a women who was thinking of starting a school an alternative in the community and i wasn't particularly interested in starting a school but i agreed to meet with her and it evolved quickly into the idea of a learning centre and I thought "Aha! This is would be the perfect place to have these workshops in my home that could happen here instead of in my home.

Learning is everywhere. But yet sometimes, there seems to be a need to be in community -to learn things together under a roof.

Learning is a relational experience really. My kids learned so much by doing things and we tried to hook them up with people in the community who could do things that they were interested in doing things and it just added another wonderful dimension when other children could be involved too.

It also meant that we could come into contact with people who knew things that we didn't even know about that other parents did that might not have occurred to us ourselves that we could discover by being in this organization. It opened up a whole realm of opportunities.

How does it operate? Expectations?

That has evolved over time. We structured the coop and by-laws so that it very open ended. It's run by a council- anyone who wants to can be on the council. There are.regular council meetings at which decisions are made- like how we going to let people know about what we are going to do.
We moved from a community centre into a church right next door to a gym that belonged to a village. We have more outdoor space to be used by the families.

Families offer whatever they are interested in offering. Sometimes children offer workshops. Sometimes a lot happens outside it through going to museums, field trips so there is a wide variety of things outside the community.
Everyone is expected to offer something except for new people who get a few ride for the first semester but after that each person offers something.

How about money-to start the center?

We started out without any money. Really if you aren't not paying much rent and not buying into insurance it's can be done very inexpensively. It has gone up because insurance has become an issue. It started out very simply. Now it is up to $65 a semester. There has been scholarship types arrangements for people for whom that was prohibitive.

There has been more of a tendency to have workshops that build on previous ones which is wonderful for families who have been involved in the Centre for a long time, For example language classes debate clubs. Debate clubs, making things, drama, choir, display day at the end of the semester. Projects that people have worked on in their homes.
A year book has developed which is wonderful memento to have.

Would you say that it serves youth -the teenage years. Keeping kids out of school?

There are those that do end up going to school for the school year but there are definitely teens and they seem to be doing just fine.

In order to do a coop it seems that someone has to have the vision.

It does take perseverance and at least 2 people to get into it. None of us where in a big rush so we could send out surveys to everyone w could think of instead of rushing into it with the idea of two people and how far they would like to travel. Really it was Alica and i but ever since enthusiastic parents have joined.

Homeschooling people have different ideas of how thing can be done.
We are more fluid, unschooling and structured it so it could absorb changes without bickering involved.

I know that people have put together learning groups based on Sudbury school but really it doesn't need a particular space. A lot of groups that organize and post things on the Internet - which wasn't an option then.
There are benefits to having a space and to have a chance to meet in a space regularly. Having a consistent group of people is great.
Ours is very much like an extended family-with shared values, which is lovely to have- a place where children can look forward to going to.

I would like to stress how doable and how rewarding this is. For me it was vision of what education could become. If you feel passionate about it just go for it!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this rfs. I am looking into starting up a coop this fall and this conversation has inspired me to continue with my plans.

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