Two years ago the Edgewood Homeschool Co-op was created by Katie Laws, who was a parent looking for a homeschool group.
The group started off as a small group of parents looking to create a park playdate for homeschooled kids; from there the group grew into a secular homeschool. It started off as mostly moms taking turns helping bring their kids interesting activities and things to learn about.
The coop is now eight families strong with 14 kids ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade, meeting weekly on Friday mornings in two classrooms rented from the building that used to house Edgewood Elementary.
Bethanne Brunke is a member of the group, and she contacted the Moriarty Edgewood school district to rent a space that the children could meet in and helped pull together the coop as a non-traditional learning entity.
The teachers are all volunteer parents and they hold a “monthly mom meeting” where they decide which parent is going to take a turn to be the lead teacher and what they are going to teach, Chelsea Truesdale said. The school year is from mid-August to Memorial Day with a break for Christmas that is a couple of weeks long.
Brunke said kids are split into two groups based on age, and learn within their age group and interests. The curriculum is decided based on what the group wants to learn and the skill sets of the parents. The group also purposefully seeks out hands-on learning opportunities. This term the main focus of both classes was science.
Class is held once a week for two hours; the first hour is dedicated to a particular subject and the second hour is for extracurricular activities. Truesdale, mom of three kids, the two oldest are students, taught human anatomy and physiology to the upper class.
Truesdale said she got involved because her family was looking for a homeschool co-op to join. She developed a friendship with Laws and has been a member ever since.
The older kids learned about human anatomy and physiology and the younger kids in the lower class worked from a program called 5-in-a-Row, taught by Carla Ludington. “It’s nice to have the support and camaraderie of other moms,” she said, adding that she is grateful for the sense of community that has developed through the homeschool co-op.
Ludington also taught an extracurricular Spanish class with the help of other parents. Next year the older kids will be learning about Physics, while the younger will be completing some more 5-in-a-Row projects. The extracurricular activity for all the kids will be ceramics. “It is fun to get the kids together and fascinating to watch how they interact with each other,” Ludington said.
The students just completed their last project for the year before they go on winter break, which was a science fair. For the science fair, one child decided to do their project with a partner; one child had a family group and the rest of the kids did their projects on their own.
Some of the topics they chose were tracking cosmic rays based on temperature; candy eruptions; oxidizing pennies; and one student tested hand sanitizer and essential oils to see which had a stronger bacteria killing power. They displayed their hypotheses and results on traditional science fair display boards.
Traditional public school curriculum makes the assumption that kids need to be exposed to knowledge because they will not pursue knowledge on their own. In recent years, there have also been efforts to make all public school curriculum the same across the United States, called Common Core.
Ludington said homeschooling can be a “hot button topic” because people assume that homeschoolers hate public school, but added that this is not always the case. Some people, Ludington said, feel that public school is not the right fit for educating their children and opt for a non-traditional approach instead. “There is a lot of room in the world for different ideas,” Ludington said.
An article this week in the Harvard University publication The Harvard Crimson explored the experience of homeschooled students at the Ivy League school—where they go through the same admissions process as every other student. According to that article, homeschooled students perform very well in that environment.
Families interested in joining pay a registration fee of $34 a year plus a lab fee of $5 per kid. The fees cover the cost to rent the space and the supplies needed in the classroom. All families who are interested are welcome to join the coop, Brunke said.
To learn more, find the group on Facebook by searching for “Edgewood Homeschoolers.”