Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Do Your Students Take Outside Classes?

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Do Your Students Take Outside Classes? Part of the How Do You Homeschool series on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

No matter how long we've been homeschooling, we are curious about how other homeschoolers do things. And homeschoolers who are newer to the game obviously have lots of questions! This series will try to answers some of the questions homeschoolers ask each other. Questions about how we handle some of the little details and about our opinions on different aspects of homeschooling. Questions that we all might answer differently because what works great in one family might not work at all in another.

Homeschooling has come a long way just in the years since I started teaching my kids! Now there are so many opportunities for homeschoolers to be involved in co-op classes and other tutoring programs. But how do you decide whether to participate, or which classes are right for you?

How do you decide whether to take outside classes or not?

Honestly, there are so many factors to consider that this can be a really difficult decision! Ages, grades, and personalities of your kids, distance you'll have to travel, the schedule, how important the class is, whether it's a credit class (for high schoolers), the cost, the instructors, the other students . . . and the list goes on.

For us, the number one consideration is whether the class fits into our overall homeschool philosophy. Most of the classes we'd consider do, but it's still important to ask this question first, because it might quickly weed out some of the classes that come by. I recommend thinking through your reasons for homeschooling, and rethinking them occasionally, and filter all your homeschool decisions through those reasons. Our main reasons for homeschooling included: our belief that young children belonged with family; parents should decide what children learn, and when; education and discipleship go hand-in-hand; and education should be suited to each child's needs and abilities. (See my post: A Long Time Ago: Why We Decided To Homeschool for more)

A Long Time Ago . . . Why We Decided to Homeschool on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com - Week 1 "The Reasons We Homeschool" in the Virtual Homeschool Fair 2018

An outside class that took important education decisions out of my control, was not in line with our Biblical worldview, or was a poor fit for my student's needs was easy to decline. There are a couple of co-ops or tutorials in our area that offer some great classes, and a number of families we know well participate in them. But one of the main reasons I didn't seriously consider them was that the curriculum or educational style didn't quite line up with our views and choices. (Cost, distance, and schedule were important factors as well)

All the other criteria we consider have changed over the years, as my students have grown up and their needs have changed, and as our family's situation has changed.

When my kids were younger, we did as many field trips and "one day" classes as we could reasonably fit in. Their courses and curriculum were very flexible, and even if we were studying physics in Science, a trip to the aquarium was still valuable and fun. We also did a short-term co-op each spring up to about Grade 7 or 8. That was a once a week class for just eleven or twelve weeks, and it was a fun add-on or supplement to whatever else we were doing. Once they were in high school, those couple of hours over a couple of months were not worth it in terms of credits earned.

Do Your Students Take Outside Classes? Part of the How Do You Homeschool series on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com
Middle school biology lab at co-op

Do Your Students Take Outside Classes? Part of the How Do You Homeschool series on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com
Elementary grades Art/Geography co-op class

Will the outside class be a good fit for your child's personality or learning style? This may go back to your reason for homeschooling, especially if your child has special needs of any kind. Two of my kids have had some minor struggles with anxiety, so even though it's not debilitating for them it was something I had to consider. Would the stress of doing the class be too much? Or was the class a safe venue for them to overcome fear or practice coping skills?

How far do I have to drive, and how often? We live about half an hour from town, and almost all of the outside classes my kids have done have been located on the other side of that town, so a good 45 minute drive for us. One way. So when we went to gym class, we spent an hour and a half drive time for an hour and a half of class time. If my kids hadn't loved gym class, it probably would not have been worth it. During most years when we did the spring co-op, we did not do the gym class as well during the spring semester. Because it was two days spent driving to town and we just couldn't take that much time away from home and still get schoolwork done. Or housework, for that matter. When the kids played softball and baseball in the spring, there was no way we also had time for spring semester gym class.

Do Your Students Take Outside Classes? Part of the How Do You Homeschool series on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

Many of our friends have had their high school juniors and seniors dual enrolled at the community college. This is a brilliant way for many of those kids to earn their high school credits while getting a head start on college, and it's generally pretty affordable too. Sometimes I've felt like my kids were cheated a bit by not being able to do this. But guess where the college is located? Yeah, on the other side of town - at least forty-five minutes one way from our place. Logistically, there was no way we could make that happen. We simply didn't have enough vehicles and available time and drivers to get any of the kids to the college during their high school years.

What will it cost? Like most homeschool families, we are essentially living on one income, and we need to stay within our budget with education. Those co-ops that didn't quite align well with our homeschool philosophy? I don't think I could have swung it financially either. There would have been the cost of the textbooks required in addition to the cost of the tuition. (And cost of gas!) If it was a curriculum I already owned or had already decided upon as a good fit for my student, then maybe the additional cost of tuition to have somebody with a strong science background handle my kid's biology course, then maybe. In the tutorial co-op we are part of now, I had to weigh the cost of books and tuition against the value of the class itself. Two years of foreign language with a qualified instructor were worth it. Two years of a Public Speaking class that she absolutely loves were worth it. Since I'm the instructor for Creative Writing and US History, I don't pay the tuition for her to be in those classes, yet I earn a bit of income as the instructor. That made it worthwhile as well!

I'd also recommend considering the instructor, the textbook, and the setting, to be sure you're comfortable with those aspects of the outside class.

Also see my related post: From the High School Lesson Book - Considering Co-ops

From the High School Lesson Book - Considering Co-ops on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

Do your students take outside classes? What factors go into your decisions about those classes? Leave a comment and let me know what works for you - or leave a homeschool question you're curious about.

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Jennifer said...

You made so many great points. Why we homeschool/ what we believe absolutely influences our choices about outside classes. We just started our third semester in our current co-op, and I ask myself some of those same questions each time it’s time to choose new classes.

Annette said...

YES, my lad takes outside classes... one at the local school and co-op, one day classes and more. It's good to be taught by more than just mom.

MommyBugg said...

We do some here and there - depending on cost - I am not one who enjoys running either so I tend to encourage my kids to choose their one thing carefully. We have not really been co-op folks - maybe next year - we do love our little 4H group though :-)

Creative Madness Mama said...

We haven't been able to find anything local affordable or worthy, but we are loving our experience with online things such as Practice Monkeys and are keeping that up. For my oldest especially, I keep considering some other things, but again they're online.

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