Do kids just run wild all day? Is it chaos? Are there any rules?
We get these questions a lot! There aren’t many educational groups out there following this model, so most families don’t have experience with an unschooling cooperative when they join us. Please read on and keep an open mind about what learning and community can look like!
What do kids do all day?
Some kids play in their own way all day, some attend many activities and classes that are offered, and some offer activities. For example, two students recently coordinated a talent show, one student has taught many different crafts to the group over the last two years.
Kids connect with friends of all ages.
Kids make decisions on how to spend their time while at co-op.
Kids improvise and come up with spontaneous games, projects, or activities.
What do parents do all day?
We drink coffee and tea, chat, supervise students, facilitate activities, enjoy community lunch, have biweekly meetings to plan ahead and clarify policies.(refer to member expectations doc and schedules page) Parents are also charged with the task of observing — noticing what works, where synergy occurs, where engagement falls flat — because we want to keep supporting the learning space. The co-op is a learning space for everyone, and that means we parents are learning and growing, too.
What is unschooling?
Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. The term “unschooling” was coined in the 1970s and used by educator John Holt, widely regarded as the father of unschooling. (see our Resources page for more on educational philosophy)
Our family doesn’t unschool, can we still be a part of this co-op?
Yes! You can still be part of the co-op even if you aren’t generally unschooling. We all have different homeschooling styles and agree that while we’re at co-op we participate in a self-directed learning center, with non-compulsory classes and activities.
How is this co-op different from others in the Hudson Valley?
We’re lucky to be one of many homeschool co-ops in the Hudson Valley. Our co-op is a self-directed learning center for families. Students and parents can decide how they want to spend their time while at co-op. While there are some basic expectations and space rules parents are not required to teach classes and students are not required to attend them. We don’t have a specific aesthetic and have a diverse mix of families with different lifestyles and interests. It’s possible to hang out and play all day and we encourage prospective new members to think about whether they feel OK about that before joining. Many other co-ops have regular defined schedules of classes and expect parents to teach classes periodically. We do have a schedule but sometimes that just means that some sewing will be happening all afternoon in the social hall and anyone can stop by that table and pick up a project. They can also decide to move on to another activity, play outside, sit with a book or draw, chat with friends. Some parents like to give their kids a nudge to try out a new class or activity and that’s OK too, as it’s between parent and child and we’re a family co-op.
If it’s not a class, what is it?
Our offerings in the social hall are available for kids to come and go as their interest dictates. They can watch over someone’s shoulder, they can sit and try it out for 5 minutes, or they can spend the whole morning working on a project. For example, we will set out watercolor paints. Some kids will wander past and observe other kids painting. Some kids will paint a quick painting, and then be ready to move on. And some kids will spend an hour working on an idea until it’s time to clean up.
Which subjects do you cover?
Activities and classes range in subject area: sewing, weaving, clay, playing legos, philosophy class, painting, drawing, dissecting owl pellets and crayfish, creative writing workshop with a local author, chemistry via experiments, rocket science, take apart table, physics via hot wheels cars with tracks, soccer, imaginative play, Magick the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, filmmaking, math games, hula hooping, juggling, watching silent movies with discussion, Minecraft group, Marketplace mornings where kids set up stands where they sell and barter, wood carving, book clubs, Harry Potter club, sensory table activities, “wheels” time in the parking lot where kids bring bikes, scooters and skates and their helmets and are supervised by adults. Please see our schedule samples to get an idea of some days in the life at co-op!
My child and/or I want to teach *this* class, is that OK?
YES, as long as it doesn’t break the rules of space use at FPC or include hate speech. All offerings are non compulsory, so there’s no guarantee that many students will attend. If you want to offer a multi-week class some of us like to ask the kids to make a commitment to attending after they try the first one, especially if facilitating the class requires a lot of prep time and materials.
My kid is interested in X, but I don’t know how to teach a class on that. What can I do?
You can help your kid propose a topic of interest and see if other families can bring knowledge, supplies or ideas. Or we can give them the space to explore their own abilities. We have had an fascinating time with a few kids interested in movie making. For a few weeks the kids controlled the project and the co-op supported them with space. When they ran into problems, a parent (with experience in film-making) offered to work on some specific techniques and skills. Maybe the kids will return to their movie project, or maybe it will become something completely new, but either way, they have learned a lot through the process.
I have a toddler, can they be at co-op with me? Do you offer childcare?
Yes they can come. The space is geared towards older kids, so parents need to be with their toddlers. Some activities have specific age ranges for inclusion, but there are usually activities that toddlers can join in (with parent supervision.) We also have use of a playroom that’s great for toddlers. Parents are responsible for cleaning up the space when they leave it.
Do I have to be there with my kids all day or can I drop them off sometimes?
On-site membership means a commitment to being on-site for the full day, with our kids. Independent teenagers have the opportunity to be drop-off members, which doesn’t require a parent to be present.
We know that lives are complicated and issues do come up. Whether for work, health or other family issues, families that have been a member for at least one full trimester can occasionally do an emergency drop-off day. This is only available for older & mature kids who can navigate a coop day without their parents. We recognize that our coop is built on trust and commitment, and parents are expected to be onsite – this is not a loophole for people seeking drop-off care. There is an additional $10 fee per child for the emergency drop-off day.
My teen would really enjoy being at co-op and I can’t be there all day, can I drop them off for the day?
Yes for independent teens. There is a higher fee than full family membership and can be paid each day they come in. $30 per day per teen. Parents are not required to do any of the work of the coop, but we do try to keep drop off parents aware of upcoming events or special activities.
We don’t want to join, but hear that sometimes you bring in gifted teachers for a series of classes. Can my kid attend?
Most likely yes! Some classes might require pre-registration with full payment, some are one time events.
I am uncomfortable disciplining other people’s children. What do I do if kids misbehave?
This can be one of the trickiest parts of being part of a family community, so we approach this issue in a number of ways.
- Kids have freedom to choose what activity they want to do. This means that kids who need to be moving and playing can move and play, they won’t have to sit through hours of classes.
- Kids who attend classes want to be there.
- We try to have clear rules so parents don’t have to guess what other parents might think. If you aren’t sure about a rule, or you see new behavior that seems dangerous, you can act on your best judgement. We can always propose rules or boundaries on Slack or at meetings.
- RHC is a place of learning for everyone. We know that you are trying your best and we are doing our best as well. Sometimes we need to talk about what works and doesn’t work, but no one is expected to show up perfect.
Please take a look at our RHC Co-op Values/ Manifesto below. This was developed by the students and everyone agreed to sign on to this. We expect all new member students to agree to following these guidelines and they are a great reference if ever a student or parent is faced with a question about “the rules” or are looking for a solution.
This is how we all want to feel at co-op:
RHC Values Manifesto (by the students)
(Included, OK, Kind, Nice, Understood)
(Awesome, Eager, Happy, Yay, Mmmmm, Good)
(Mindful, Loving, Not hurting, Not stealing)
(Creative, Artistic, Crafty)