What do we DO at co-op?
We gather in community to study what Charlotte Mason called “the riches”. These are the subjects that enrich our lives and serve to support the formation of the whole person. They also help students form connections with the other
subjects they study. We cover artist study, poet study, composer study, nature study, handicrafts and special topics.
Our topics rotate out through “terms”, each term being about twelve weeks. During a term, we focus on one specific artist, poet, composer, and aspect of nature. This allows the students time to explore each in depth and to make connections
in their own minds. The connections they build develop the relationships that allow them to later make other connections with new material they discover as they continue their studies.
Charlotte Mason believed (and we agree) that handicrafts should be skills that a student would want to pursue as an adult. As such, we will cover a variety of handicrafts over time, geared for the developmental/physical abilities of
the students (generally divided into “Forms”). These may include: watercolor, sketching, hand sewing, fiber arts, welding, automotive repair, cake decorating, woodworking, pottery, and others.
But what does a day at co-op actually look like?
First of all, we follow the philosophy that lessons should be short. We want students to be able to focus and to develop the habit of attention; short lessons promote that. Younger students may have lessons as short as 10-15 minutes,
while older students (high school, for example) will have worked their way up to 30-45 minutes lessons. Lessons in co-op are kept shorter, approximately 20 minutes, to allow time for the students to explore in their own time what
they’ve learned in co-op.
We start by coming together to allow students to make presentations to their fellow students. This portion of co-op is all about the students sharing with each other what they care about. We do not assign material for presentations.
Students can present a recitation of something they’ve memorized, art they’ve created, or something they’ve found during nature study. They can tell about a place they’ve visited (a field trip, a hike) or a new skill they’ve learned
(how to tie knots, how to do long division). The choice is up to the student, although we do ask that parents consider checking ahead of time to make sure the material doesn’t violate the co-op’s behavior guidelines. The goal of
the presentation portion of co-op is for students to develop two important skills: learn to present their thoughts and ideas to others, and learn to listen attentively and thoughtfully to others. The presentation portion of the day
is an important opportunity not just to develop these skills, but also to enjoy each other’s accomplishments and broaden our own understanding of what the world has to offer.
Following the presentations, we will then go over artist prints using color prints of work done by the artist we’re studying that term.
Then we do poet study. We will read/recite pieces by the poet we’re focusing on that term, learning about the era and world in which the work was created, about the poet who wrote the work, and about the style of poetry presented.
(This will be more in depth for older students, and more cursory/sampling in nature for younger students.)
With Nature Study, we hone our observation skills, practice sketching, and learn how to uncover all that nature has to offer us. This is not a free-for-all outing period, but a time to develop the habit of careful attention and thoughtful
We will include Special Topics from time to time. This may be a survey course of a language, a mechanical skill, a New Mexico history course, or even a cooking class. The Special Topics section is a great opportunity for families to
bring their unique skill set to the community and share what they love with the students. We never know what will inspire a student’s imagination until they’ve been exposed to it, and Special Topics is an excellent opportunity to
expose students to a variety of new subjects!