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Teaching Co-op, Afternoon Slumps

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, September 15, 2006

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 7 No 37 September 15, 2006
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2006 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Notes from Heather
-- Teaching at Co-op
Helpful Tips
-- Co-op Geography Day
Question of the Week
-- Your Questions
-- Your Answers
Editor's Pick
-- Homeschooling Just One
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Teaching at Co-op

Well I just finished teaching the 2nd of 10 classes at our local
homeschool co-op! I almost feel like an old pro now. ;-)

The night before the first class I was driving my 14 year old son,
Carman, home from ballet. He asked what I would be teaching
the next day and, since he is in the class, he offered some
input. Soon we were making jokes and developing a "script" for
somewhat of a comedy routine! I thought it would be a great
ice-breaker for the kids (who mostly didn't know each other) and
also a great way to let them know right away they could relax
and enjoy learning in this class. It definitely wasn't going to be

Well, it turned out great so we did something similar for the 2nd
week. Everyone is having fun and learning all about economics
through Michigan business history!

When I announced a few weeks ago that I would be teaching my
first ever co-op class, and asked for advice, I got some wonderful
emails!! Thanks to everyone who wrote -- it really helped. I am
already incorporating your ideas, especially the advice to 'make
it fun'. I am incorporating hands-on props, music, and drama.

[Your emails are below.]

I also promised to share a few pictures from our recent hands-on
family camp, FIRE 2006. In addition to our wonderful speakers,
activities, and classes, we also built covered wagons. They turned
out so awesome! Here is a link to see a sampling:



Your Emails

"I have taught or helped to teach several homeschool co-op classes,
and now I am director of our co-op.

It's a wonderful experience for me and my family. I taught debate
last year, although I've never taken debate or taught it before! It
was a subject that my kids wanted to learn, so I took the plunge and
learned along with my students. Both of my kids were in my class
and we haven't had any problems with that.

Yes, I was so nervous, but it was fun, and the best advice I have is
to make it fun for them and yourself. Don't just stand up at the front
of the classroom and lecture. Make it an interactive class. Invite
class discussion, do class projects, use charts, handouts, etc.

This semester, I'm helping my daughter teach her first class, a K-5
unit study class, and next semester, I hope to teach journalism.
Again, this is a class I know nothing about, but will learn along with
my students. God bless you in your teaching!"
-- Debra C. in Panama City, FL - SHARE Co-op


"I really loved teaching co-op classes. We had a mix of ages in
ours from 3-14 but moms and/or dads stayed near by and that
helped when it came to doing crafts that matched the topic as
well as any discipline problems. I had two of my children in but
we sat the kids in family groups and that removed any temptation
to fool around with a best friend. I was a bit nervous at first but
because I was so excited to share what I'd learned I soon over-
came that. I suggest that you ask alot of questions to get the
kids thinking about the topic and also to help review what you've
said in the lesson. Props, be it a poster board or books or some-
one dressed up, give them something to look at while you talk. I
think co-op classes are wonderful and give the children a different
way of learning about a subject as well as learning to work with
others to solve a problem or create a masterpiece.

Our co-op used many Konos ideas especially from Book 1. We
also each took a province of Canada and over 10 weeks or so
learned alot about the country we live in. Each mom took a turn
to teach and come up with a craft that reflected something from
or about that particular province plus we made passports to write
details about each area with weather stickers, provincial flowers,
etc. to help fill out each page." -- Helen in Victoria, BC


"Heather - I commend you for your ambition and your willingness
to serve, and anticipate that the class you are teaching will be
beneficial for your students.

I will share the following precautions with you, based on my exper-
iences with group teaching situations.

Once parents begin enrolling their students in classes outside the
home, and discover how easy it is to 'let someone else do it', they
sometimes develop a dependency on co-op classes. Since most
subjects are learned more efficiently and more effectively in a one-
on-one private tutoring setting, it is important to continue to encour-
age home education for most learning. Involving parents as much
as possible will help. If parents begin requesting more and more
classes, especially for things which they can, and should, teach
at home, try to discourage it.

Even though your focus is on the subject matter, the children will
often perceive the class as a social gathering. This might lead
them to cultivate peer dependencies and relationships which over-
shadow their relationships with their own families. Watch for signs
of this, and ask the parents to watch for it. The earlier you catch
it, the easier it will be to stop it. If you hold an introductory class
at the beginning, you can caution the students against such things
-- sometimes a simple awareness of it is the only prevention you

Having your own children in the class should be no problem at all.
Just be sure that they do their assignments responsibly and set
a good example for the others. Let them know ahead of time what
you will be expecting of them.

Recognize the amount of time required, not only to teach the class,
but also to prepare for it. Determine how much time you can devote
to it, and don't let it infringe on the time you should be committing
to your own family. Decide in advance how you will deal with missed
classes and make-up work. If students will be including this class
on their transcripts, decide if you will grade, and how grades will be
determined. Whether or not the class appears on transcripts, con-
sider writing a reference for each student to include in his or her

I will be interested to read your updates as your class progresses!"
-- Mary Beth


"I just taught my first co-op class this spring, American Folksongs
for 1st - 3rd grade. I played guitar and taught the kids folksongs,
like "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain". We added motions
and had a lot of fun. Usually part of the lesson was the kids draw-
ing a picture matching a theme of a song.

I had a helper and only 6-8 kids in my class which was nice. (I'm a
former elementary school teacher but didn't work in a school for 12

I felt pretty challenged because I'm a Swiss native with a heavy
German accent. Sometimes kids have trouble understanding me
but it wasn't too bad in my class.

My youngest son was with me, a five year old preschooler. He was
sometimes a little distracting or noisy but it was okay bacause my
class wasn't quietly sitting, etc.

All in all I realized I like to teach better than doing practical work,
it seems to me just a natural gift of mine. The class was a good

My children and I enjoy the co-op a lot and plan to be a part of it
for this schoolyear as well. We found old and new friends and I
enjoy the support of more experienced homeschool moms. My
children are 12, 10 and almost 6.

I hope your class will be going great!" -- Regula K. in Oregon


Do you have comments to share? Please do!

Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Geography Day Fun

"Our support group did a geography day. It was geared to children
12 and under. Each month a different family hosted a different

The children had suit cases that they made out of cereal boxes and
passports that were stamped each time we came together.

Every month we studied a different country. The children did map
work, crafts, learned songs and we ate authentic food. It was a
blast! And all the moms worked together." -- Amy B.


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I just started homeschooling for the first time this week with my
13 year old daughter. She is Bi-Polar and has ADHD and sometime
around 2pm she runs out of steam and starts to get frustrated with
her work to the point where she just sits there and stares at it and
'flatlines'. Breaks don't seem to help, nor does changing subjects.
I can't get her to talk to me about what exactly is frustrating her
either. Has anyone else experienced this and how do you work
through it?" -- Deana

Our Readers' Responses

"Could it be what she is eating or not eating? Hypoglycemia runs
in our family so I know first hand how your brain can be in a 'low
blood sugar' fog. Try the following: protein at every meal (chicken,
peanut butter, eggs, etc), drink plenty of water (more than you think
you need), eat at consistent times, and listen to your body. If it
seems like your body needs more protein or more food, then feed it!
Also watch the consumption of junk food (horrible for someone who
needs real calories/food) or juice/soda (quickly up, then quickly
down)." -- June in Washington State


"The biggest question I have is 'what time do you start school?' If
you start school at 9 am, then by 2 pm I would pretty much zoning
out too. She has communicated clearly with you that she simply
can only absorb so much. Do her lessons while she is most alert.
Homeschooling gives us the freedom to teach our children the best
way they learn, not to mold them into 'good little soldiers' who
respond on command and conform to our orders. Shorten her
lessons or only do history and math on alternating days if you can-
not shorten the lesson. Everything is flexible if mom is flexible.
Anything you try to cram in there after she has shut down will not
be learned anyhow.

Another consideration is to time the consumption of adhd and bi-
polar medication as they both can have major effects on sensory
areas of the brain. Try taking them an hour later in the morning or
splitting them up by a couple of hours. Of course talk with her
doctor about this first as some medications need to be given with or
without food and others interact with other medications." -- Dale J.


"Try readjusting your and her schedules so that you are not trying
to focus when her bioclock isn't in synch. We all have periods of
the day where we cycle down mentally and physically. Use that
time for rest or physical but unstructured activity like playing or
bike riding. Your schedules should flow with natural rhythms and
not be tied to the clock." -- Pamela in Florida


"The first thing I have to ask is: 'Is she on a long-acting medica-
tion, like Concerta which is taken once a day, instead of the
Ritalin equivalent which was either once or twice a day?'

Secondly, while you mention that breaks don't help, have you
tried a variety of activities such as a walk or bicycle ride or trip to
the store right after lunch? Or would a half-hour quiet time of
reading or doing her favorite activity help more? Is she a morning
person or a night owl? You might need to fit her school schedule
to that. (I hope she isn't her best at 6 am while you are like me,
and do much better at 9 am!)

Thirdly, you have only been doing this for a week -- give it a month
or so to get in the swing... and/or take 'baby steps', increasing the
school day by 5 minutes. On the other hand, are you doing what
so many of us do at first, and trying to get it all in? By 2 pm, you
should probably be winding down the day. That is an advantage
of homeschooling -- we can get it down, well, in less time because
we can focus with one student instead of 24!

Fourthy, I am a nurse (over 40 years) and do not want to offend but
have to question the 'bipolar' diagnosis. Over the years I have seen
the 'diagnosis of the decade' change. A 13 year old is going through
all sorts of hormonal changes (as you know, those changes begin
at 11 or younger, and continue for several years). They cause mood
swings, just as menopause does in older women. I would be inclined
to minimize my attention to that diagnosis and give her time to grow
up without the stigma or 'crutch' of such a diagnosis. (I hear so many
adults who want to excuse their behavior or lack of productivity be-
cause they are________ fill in the blank.) We were foster parents
and had developmentally disabled children placed with us. I will
always recall going to a seminar and the first thing that the leader
said was that DD children are not in ED or BD classes because they
are slow, but they are there because their behaviors are not socially
acceptable. We must help our children to behave thusly (I am not
implying that your child is socially unacceptable but just that, like
my own ADHD son). Kids have to learn to control their behaviors, or
life will go on without them.

That you are seeking the best for your daughter is great! Keep on
keeping on -- and remember that He is faithful in all things!"
-- Linda from Alabama


"May I suggest something that has helped with my two boys? (at
least when I remember to implement it.) By afternoon they were
stir crazy. I tend to like doing work on paper that I can evaluate,
but both of my boys are hands-on people. By afternoon their bodies
were aching for activity. I finally decided that classes like piano,
phys ed., art,and science should happen in the afternoon. Anything
that I could make physical I did. Manipulatives, large motor move-
ment, nature hikes, races, etc. Anything that could get their bodies
moving was what I needed to do for them.

The boys did tend toward ADHD so I know where you're coming from
on that point. And I don't know how bi-polar is affected by hormones,
but your daughter is at a stage where hormones are affecting her.
She may be, literally, exhausted by afternoon. This may be a good
time to do read-alouds with her while she draws or does something
else physical near you. I had a problem with this because I can't
believe that a person not sitting and listening intently is getting any-
thing out of what I'm doing. My boys taught me that some people
need to move to assimilate information.

You may also be having the problem of a blood sugar drop at that
time of day. If you've enjoyed a lunch high in carbohydrates that
may be about the time the sugar levels drop. You may need work
at getting more protein to her at lunch time and fruit and healthy
snacks around 2.

These are only suggestions because I don't know you and your
daughter, but I do know what goes on in my life. God didn't bless
me with daughters, but I was one once and (now that I'm going
through menopause) I can remember what exhaustion was like in
my teen years and how 'emotionally unstable' I felt. I could cry at
the drop of a hat, had mood swings that were unbelievable, and
was tired beyond belief a lot. I think a lot of it had to do with diet.
(my family was a meat and potatoes group with lots of other un-
healthy things in the house besides.)" -- Dorie


"I've had the same trouble with my 15-year-old. Then I remember
when he was seven and still needed lessons in ten minute bites!
I found that the best thing to do after lunch clean-up with him was
to have him go to his room, play music and rest (lying down in bed)
for an hour or so. Sometimes we get back to the schoolwork in the
afternoon, or sometimes we have a class in the evening when he's
perked up again after six or seven (and the little kids are headed to
bed). But right around 2 p.m. he is going to zone out, regardless,
so I just treat it as part of his circadian rhythm! No point pushing at
that time of day. Mornings and late evenings are his productive times.
-- Vicki


"Maybe she just works better in the morning hours. Make her
lessons short and make sure she finishes by lunch or shortly after.
Even if you have to stretch the school year out, she definitely won't
be learning anything if she's frustrated. Also, she may need to do
more hands-on type work rather that just using a textbook/workbook
combo. It's a matter of finding our what works best. She might
enjoy a unit study approach where all topics are related to each
other." -- Debra in Panama City, FL


"We pulled our children out of public school when our oldest
daughter was a similar age with similar issues. We took 6 months
off just to de-school ourselves. We then started with just the basics.
Remember that homeschool doesn't have to be like public school
at home. Take some time to learn about your daughter, her learning
style, and your teaching style.

On a side note, my children only school about 2-3 hours a day,
including my highschooler." -- Melissa


"Your daughter has been sitting in school for years now and I
think she needs to detox a bit. Try some unschooling. Take up
knitting, sewing, or birdwatching. Read books by John Taylor
Gatto, Diana Waring and especially by Raymond and Dorothy
Moore. Don't try to do public school at home. That will very likely
backfire and you both may burn out quickly. Visit nursing homes;
sit and listen to their stories. Hold their hands. Your daughter will
begin to blossom, and she will open up to you. It will be very hard
when you think your daughter is doing nothing, but just re-read
those books mentioned above. Write down everything she does
do. And definitely turn off or severely limit television and computer
time." -- Shelley in Kentucky


"I'm surprised she's lasting until 2:00. My 14-year-old daughter
isn't ADHD, and she is expected to work on lessons only until
noon. In the afternoon she practices her piano and does art and
sewing and cooking and other things she's interested in, but the
subjects that require close concentration are limited to the morn-
ing hours when her mind is sharper.

Our family just returned home from a memorial service for our
homeschooled nephew who was killed in a car accident. From
the time he was small, we were convinced that had he been in
school, he would have been diagnosed with ADHD and every other
possible label, and medicated into oblivion. But his parents
allowed him to be who he was and encouraged him to pursue his
interests, and he became a remarkable one-of-a-kind young man
who was serving others in more ways than most of us could ever
dream. He was a rock climber/firefighter/paramedic, and was pre-
paring to join a mountain rescue squad. We are so thankful that
he was allowed to become the person God had designed him to be,
including the fact that he was never able to sit still long enough to
do much 'book work'. What a loss it would have been if he had
been forced into the same mold as everybody else." -- Mary Beth


About the Replies and Continuing this Discussion

We received so many great answers to Deana's question!
I imagine that many more families will be helped by the wisdom,
tips, and experiences shared... beyond just Deana and her own
dear daughter. As usual, though, I cannot necessarily personally
endorse each individual reply printed here. I'm just a parent and not
an expert by any means! However I would greatly appreciate your
input and I would especially like to hear from those who wish to con-
tinue this conversation by responding to the replies above down any
bunny trail it leads. I think we've opened up an important discussion.

Please write to hn-answers@famlyclassroom.net and put DEANA
in the subject line so I know that your email is in reference to this
particular discussion, even if you are pointing your comments in the
direction of one of the original replies. Thanks! - Heather

Answer our NEW Question

"After reading about where everyone does school it gave me a lot
of good ideas. But, I have a question. When you have a designated
room for the child to work in... where are you? Are you up doing
housework? Are you sitting there watching them, what are you
doing? I don't want to have to sit next to her and watch her do her
school work, but I want to be able to help her if she needs. She
doesn't like to be left alone either. Kitchen table could work I guess,
though it isn't my favorite place. So, what do you suggest?" -- Darcy


Can you share your own experience with Darcy? Do you have ideas?

Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if we can help you out in a future issue!

Editor's Pick

Homeschooling an Only?

Here's a great resource for those homeschooling just one child!


Donna is a seasoned homeschool mom who has gathered all
kinds of great resources and links for those who have the
special situation of raising and teaching just one wonderful child.

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