Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: How to plan the perfect co-op class

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How to plan the perfect co-op class

If you've been a homeschooler for very long, you might find yourself in the position to teach a class in your local homeschool group or co-op. Although some folks come by this skill naturally, for others, teaching a group of students can be a daunting prospect.

Teaching a homeschool co-op class can be an extremely rewarding and enriching experience, though, and seeing you take on the challenge can inspire your children to tackle opportunities of their own as they get older. So, here are a few simple and easy tips to help you plan the perfect co-op class, your way!

Start small and build

If you have never taught a co-op class before, look for a way to start small. Maybe you could teach a single session class as a substitute when the regular teacher is out of town, or do a short four week session rather than a whole semester. You could also offer to be an assistant to an experienced teacher as a way to learn and get your feet wet before diving into a class on your own.

Don't be pressured into teaching a full semester on your own if you are not ready. It will only lead to frustration for both you and your students if you end up stressed and burned out.

Pick your subject carefully

Choosing your subject carefully is probably the number one key to success when teaching a co-op class. It should be something with which you are familiar, for sure, and ideally something you can get excited about teaching.

Although you definitely don't have to be an expert, you want to be able to teach with confidence, so choose a subject you either already know well, or one which you can research easily.

Don't be afraid to learn something new

I recently taught a co-op class on the history of rock and roll. I love rock and roll, so it was a something I could easily get excited about teaching each week. Unfortunately, I discovered it was a subject about which I actually knew surprisingly little.

It took hours of reading to prepare each lesson, but the reading was fun, and I enjoyed learning about the origins of rock and roll and how it evolved. If you pick a subject that excites you, you will enjoy learning along with your students.

See what resources are already out there

I couldn't find a class on the history of rock and roll already put together that I could use for my co-op, so I created my own. But I found lots of resources out there that I could use, from Rolling Stone articles on the greatest guitarists of all time to Billboard Hot 100 lists going back to the days before rock and roll was born.

You may be lucky enough to find full lesson plans and even complete scripts for the class you'd like to teach, prepared by other teachers and made available for free or a small fee online. You can use them as is, or as inspiration when creating your own class, but don't hesitate to take a look at the wheels that are already out there before reinventing your own.

Make use of videos

We live in a technologically advanced society, and as such, our kids can find old fashioned lectures dry and boring. Making use of videos can enhance the learning experience for your students. An hour long class can be a very long time to lecture on any subject, but interspersing short videos during your class can help fill the time effectively and hold your students' attention.

If you don't have Wi-Fi available at your co-op, you can use one of the many programs available online to capture videos for playback offline. Or, if you can't find applicable video segments, you can still create visually stimulating slideshows to accompany your lectures.

Use hands on activities

Some of the most fun classes I have taught have been science classes. Everything from physics and chemistry to dissection allow for plenty of hands on activities and experimentation. Students love to learn by doing, so incorporate activities in each session if you can. The more involved your students can be, the more they will remember.

Do a trial run

One of the worst feelings in the world is standing in front of a group of people with nothing left to say. If your class is one hour long, make sure you have the material to cover just a little more than the full hour, especially if you're a novice, because nerves can make you talk faster than normal. You don't want to wrap up your class fifteen minutes early and have nothing to do while you wait for the next session.

I've found that it helps to print my lecture, or at least an outline, and run through it aloud, with whatever videos or activities I have planned, so I know how long my class will take. Yes, this adds to your prep time, but it is worth it, and if you ever teach the same class again, you'll be ready to roll with minimum effort.

Be yourself and have fun!

I firmly believe that homeschool groups and co-ops should be fun. Yes, you want the kids to learn, but co-op classes should not be something they dread. They should be exciting additions to their regular curriculum.

If you aren't having fun, your students won't be, either, so relax. You can do this! You have skills and talents that are uniquely yours, so just be yourself and teach the kids what you know. Don't worry if you don't have all the answers. If you inspire your students to research the subject beyond what you have prepared for the class, you have definitely done your job right.

It's okay to be anxious before teaching your first co-op class, or your hundredth. But relax, get a good night's sleep and go in prepared to have fun and learn a lot together. That's what homeschooling is all about!

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