Today's blog is a guest post from my friend SarahRuth of Kindle Togetherness. SarahRuth is public school educator turned homeschool mama of three boys living her best life in her husband's small mountain town. She is passionate about encouraging families to do life together - in the woods, around the dinner table, and during every season of life! You can find SarahRuth relaxing with a book and some coffee in her hammock beside a creek while her boys play.
Last year, I switched gears and dove head first into a new adventure - a Nature Co-op exclusively for homeschool families. Initially, it felt huge and overwhelming, but along the way, I learned some things and I would love to pass them on to other homeschool families that may want to use Treehouse Schoolhouse Nature Study in a co-op setting.
Getting started is the easy part.
First things first, I printed off the curriculum and handled it myself. I organized my weeks and made sure I understood the components of the curriculum. So many things stood out about how this curriculum would be easy to use in a co-op setting.
- It’s topically organized meaning you can focus on just one topic at each co-op meeting
- There are visuals built in (posters, artwork, and anatomy images)
- Many of the books are easy to get at a local library
- This curriculum works for a wide variety of ages and is easy to scaffold both up or down levels
- The curriculum is fairly open and go (if you gather the books and any materials for the activity, you are set)
Those bullet points are actually how I pitched this curriculum to our group of homeschooling moms. I shared my own passion and comfort level with the curriculum, and they took a look at the manual (I brought mine to our mothers’ meeting), and it was game on!
Getting organized and choosing topics.
Our co-op meets weekly, so I looked at how many weeks we had from our first meeting til our next break and decided which topics we would cover. Something to note is that you might not have time to cover every week of Treehouse Schoolhouse Nature Study in your co-op, this just means you have more for the following year! Also, we weren’t timid about moving weeks around. That is part of the beauty of this type of curriculum, we were able to make it fit our local geography, seasons, and field trips.
After choosing the topics for all the weeks we would have co-op in one semester, our leadership team looked at which components of the curriculum we would use in our co-op weekly. We chose the following:
- Any craft or activity
- Folk song
- Read aloud (or two)
- Nature journaling
- Hand rhyme
As you can see, we omitted a couple things. Should you decide to purchase a co-op license, all of the participating co-op members have access to the curriculum, so they can practice things at home and hit parts you skip as well.
A day at our co-op.
Practically speaking, I am a visual girl who does best when she sees things in action. I can’t actually take you to co-op with me (though wouldn’t that be fun?), but I can walk you through a day at co-op in our little mountain community. We had 9 participating families last year in our weekly events and more than 20 in our field trip and hiking group. Here is what a co-op day tends to look like.
Our families start arriving about 9:15am and the kids run around like wild banshees while us mamas (and some dads, too) sip coffee and chat. At about 9:30am I begin calling out Swedish Drill commands while showing the cards. All of the kids randomly come running to join in. A couple kids will take turns leading and then I will ask if anyone knows what our Treehouse Schoolhouse Nature Study topic is for this week. We will spend about five minutes discussing what the kids already know, myself or another mom may also add in some facts or interesting tidbits.
Next, we sing our hand rhyme and folk song (we always invite the kids to lead it). After that, we head on a hike (10-20 minutes) and find sit spots somewhere during the hike. This is a quiet time for five minutes where the kids sit and listen and observe nature around them. We then hike back to our pavilion or tables and begin to nature journal what we noticed during sit spots or something we saw outdoors at our home that week. We have a couple super talented mamas who teach watercolor using the topic for that week as well.
Finally, we discuss our activity, read, and narrate a book from Treehouse Schoolhouse Nature Study. We launch into whatever activity is set up for that day and then the kids are free to play until lunch time.
Every co-op is different, but Treehouse Schoolhouse Nature Study is an amazing resource for nature based co-ops.