Daily photo by John Godbey|
Advanced biology students Erin Gordon, left, Danielle Dykes and Tiffani Adamson examine a cow's heart at Master's Hand Christian School, a homeschooling co-op that offers more than 80 classes on Fridays, including drama, band, nutrition, journalism, Bible quizzing and sewing.
In a class of
Homeschool co-op gets children (and moms) out of house to learn different subjects - and socialize
By Danielle Komis
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2447
Margaret Ann Chenault watched her sewing instructor tape fabric to her cutting mat and expertly zip a rotary cutter along the lines, cutting rectangular pieces for Chenault's log cabin quilt.
"Do you understand how to do it now?" sewing instructor Kolleen Yarbrough asked, looking at the Master's Hand Christian School student.
"I think so," Chenault said, ignoring the activity of other teenaged students around her and cutting as Yarbrough instructed.
While homeschooled children spend a lot of time with only their families, many local homeschool families like Chenault's participate in educational co-ops that offer students classes that aren't effectively taught at home, like robotics or physical education. The co-ops like Master's Hand give students and parents a chance to socialize with their peers, and offers parents a much-needed outlet to discuss homeschool issues and ideas.
Parent and teacher Yarbrough said she likes the co-op because it offers more than she could teach her children on her own.
More than 80 classes for pre-school to 12th-grade students are in session at a Master's Hand from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, including drama, band, nutrition, journalism, Bible quizzing and sewing.
The drama classes are perfect for Yarbrough's children, because she knows little about the subject, she said.
Homeschool students also appreciate the change of pace.
Seventh-grade student Landon Jackson of Hartselle said he looks forward to coming to robotics, PE, Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace" and art classes.
"It's something different to do," he said.
While students enjoy the classes and the chance to be with their peers, the co-op — which requires parental supervision — is also great for moms who homeschool.
"We're women. We like to talk," Yarbrough said, laughing.
“We need it just as much as they do. It gives us a go-to person.”
Many of the moms who teach the classes (locally, it’s largely women who stay home with their children) have degrees, but chose to stay home to teach.
A common goal
Susie Rencher, the school administrator, has a thesis master’s degree in molecular biology and was a researcher at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis before she opted to stay home with her children. Now, she teaches advanced biology at the co-op.
Other moms don’t necessarily have degrees in the field they teach, but have life experience instead.
Claire Howard teaches cultural geography to three different age groups.
“They (administrators) usually come to us and ask what we want to teach,” she said. “But this one was kind of obvious since I’m from England.”
Her class covers the customs of people in different countries, as well as their festivals, popular activities, currency, food and traditional dress, she said.
She loves the co-op because of the variety of classes for her children, and because the teachers are passionate.
“The fact that everyone volunteers is wonderful,” she said. “Everyone has this common goal and their heart’s in it.”
Perhaps that’s why it grew so quickly.
Master’s Hand started with only six families a few years ago, but attendance quickly grew to 170 area families from the North Alabama region, Rencher said.
“We really weren’t expecting quite so much,” she said. “We are just about at our limit, especially for the Friday classes.”
The support the school receives from Westmeade Baptist Church and the use of its facilities made the school successful, Rencher said.
What’s a homeschool co-op?
Most local homeschool co-ops like Master’s Hand, which is a ministry of Westmeade Baptist Church, are Christian-based and run out of churches, though participating families don’t necessarily have to be members of the church, depending on the co-op’s regulations.
Co-op students are usually taught by volunteer parents, and the classes typically don’t meet every day.
Families typically pay a small registration fee and sometimes class materials fees.
The co-op may or may not be the students’ “umbrella school” that files their paperwork with the state.
A sampling of local homeschool co-ops:
Lionheart Christian Academy in Athens offers classes for homeschoolers two days per week at Southwind Christian Center. Volunteer teachers at the 10-year-old school teach 17 different classes, such as American literature, choir, band, 4H, and Alabama history to nearly 100 students. Call 232-9146 for more information.
The Way Home Christian School in Athens also offers classes to homeschool students, but in multiple church locations. Members of the Eva-based homeschool support group, which operates out of nearly 30 locations, teach classes at each teachers' home church. The school's classes and clubs are scheduled so they don't conflict with each other, said enrollment coordinator Jo Brown. Visit thewayhome.info/index.php to find contact information for your local chapter.
Master's Hand Christian School in Decatur offers more than 80 classes for pre-school to 12th-grade students. Classes are from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, including drama, band, nutrition, journalism, Bible quizzing and sewing. Call 353-8239 for more information.
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