About two years ago, my homeschooling friend and I were kicking around a simple idea; how could we present certain subjects to our children that would make them (the subjects, not the children) more palatable?
We knew that they liked hanging out together (our children share ages and interests), and we knew there might be a couple of academic areas where we could share the work and collaborate on materials and presentation ideas. Once we narrowed it down to two classes (writing and history), we decided to see if anyone else might like to join us. Not really a homeschool co-op, but more along the lines of study groups, facilitated by a parent. And you could choose which study group you wanted to participate in -- come to one, come to both, you decide.
Because we planned to meet just once a week, as many homeschool groups do, the classes would actually be 90 minutes in length, a little bit like college, and it might even be a good idea to give the kids some things to do during the week to prepare for the following week. In fact, our subjects were things you would normally be studying at home on your own, so if we led the class and students completed some additional work on their own, the moms at home could have a little break, too. Unlike a traditional co-op, kids could get dropped off and picked up after class.
Instead of meeting in a home, we checked to see if we could use a couple of rooms at our local library; sure enough we could.
Energized, we started planning our individual lessons for the year, uncertain that anyone would even sign up or show up.
By August of 2011, interest had started to trickle in. By posting on multiple homeschool listserves, we had managed to attract enough attention to get started. By mid-September 2011, we actually had the beginnings of our "school" and were bumping up against our maximum capacity.
Our first year was successful in many ways; we were lucky enough to attract the right students who were enthusiastic about participating and engaged in the learning process. We also noticed they just liked being together.
Now heading into our second year, we have expanded into a new facility, taking over three classrooms. We are holding interviews to narrow down which students to invite into our little community. Committed to class sizes of no more than about ten students, our future growth will depend on adding additional classes. Slow, thoughtful growth will allow us to go from thirteen students in 2011 (ages nine to thirteen) to our maximum capacity of twenty-eight children this fall (ages five to thirteen).
There is a delicate balance between learning in isolation and learning as a group, the trick is to strike the balance, and the path to understanding where that lies is the path we continue to pursue.
Why Mosaic? Our students are a mosaic -- lots of colorful pieces that make up a whole. Why Freeschool? Not meant to take the place of homeschooling, freeschooling gives you the freedom to choose educational experiences while still enjoying all the benefits of a home education.
I watched a live streaming video recently of a speech given by Sir Ken Robinson on becoming the catalyst for the education revolution. It was very encouraging, because he believes we are headed for a complete metamorphosis in education and that it must be a grass roots movement. Just one family, one person -- opting out -- can make a difference.
If you have an idea about how your children might learn best, whether it is entirely alone or with others, don't be afraid to explore every alternative. Sometimes what is readily available might not be what you are looking for. You might need to start something of your own. It can be a lot of work, but watching your family reach "homeschool nirvana" is pretty rewarding, too.
For the first time last year, I feel we reached it -- together.