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    Combining levels in a small, single-teacher cottage school or group situation?

    Hi,

    I'm looking at helping families at my church to home school their children by teaching a few subjects to their children next year from 9-noon, four days a week. There would be a 2nd grade and two 5th graders, and possibly a 6th grader, at a minimum.

    Do you think it is manageable to teach one or two 2nd graders and 5th/6th graders in a one-room, one-teacher situation?

    Teaching one's own children with that range of ages in one's own home is a little different/easier because the younger ones can go off and play with their toys or read books or play outside.... while one is working with the older children. I'm not sure how it would work in a classroom situation.

    Anyone's cottage school or co-op done this? If so, how did you work it?

    Thank you for any thoughts!
    Yvonne

    #2
    Re: Combining levels in a small, single-teacher cottage school or group situation?

    Yvonne,
    We have not done this but it reminds me of what several other moms have figured out, Jen Tutweiler and Amy McVay being two examples.

    Some of us are getting ready to go/en route to Louisville for Sodalitas/Teacher Training. If you don't get responses this next week, please simply comment again and it'll bump your post back up. Next week is going to be a little busy. ;-)
    Festina lentē,
    Jessica P

    2018-2019 7th MP Year, 9th Homeschooling
    Interweaving home, cottage school, & MPOA
    DS MPOA Henle 2, 9A -- DD 7A -- DD 4A -- DS 1st

    Highlands Latin Nashville Cottage School
    www.nashvillelatinschool.com

    Comment


      #3
      Re: Combining levels in a small, single-teacher cottage school or group situation?

      Thank you! I'll try to make contact with them after the teacher training. I went last year and it was such a wonderful experience! Wish I could have gone this year!

      Comment


        #4
        Re: Combining levels in a small, single-teacher cottage school or group situation?

        Bumping this up, because I am very interested in the answer. If we could get a group together here, it would necessarily be mixed ages.

        Comment


          #5
          Re: Combining levels in a small, single-teacher cottage school or group situation?

          Could you comment on which ages you have in mind? And what would you hope to be studying together--core classes like Latin and Classical Studies or something more fluid like Literature or elementary-grade Science? Several studies lend themselves to grouping while others do not. Cumulative studies are the most difficult to combine ages: Latin, math, composition for older students, and learning to read/phonics/lit for the primary students.

          If you have a group of older students that are new to MP that could work, starting at the Iliad/Odyssey/Ancient Greece, First Form Latin, Accelerated Fable/Narrative year, and an age-appropriate Lit package. Younger students can easily be grouped for the K-2nd enrichment (Read-aloud, music, art, poetry, history/science/culture).

          Everything will hinge on the ages of your prospective students coupled with which classes you hope to offer.

          ETA: Where are you located?
          Festina lentē,
          Jessica P

          2018-2019 7th MP Year, 9th Homeschooling
          Interweaving home, cottage school, & MPOA
          DS MPOA Henle 2, 9A -- DD 7A -- DD 4A -- DS 1st

          Highlands Latin Nashville Cottage School
          www.nashvillelatinschool.com

          Comment


            #6
            Re: Combining levels in a small, single-teacher cottage school or group situation?

            I too am bumping this up. I am currently teaching a private group of six 1st/2nd graders four days a week, 8AM-noon, just language arts and math. I'm planning to continue next year, as this seems to fill a need for some in our homeschool community. I have found that many parents want to "part time" homeschool. Its helpful to have the consistency of a solid language arts and math program, while leaving the history, science, and art to be done at home.

            I am starting to get questions from families with students in the 3rd and 4th grades, wondering if I might consider teaching a 1st-4th grade span next year. This sounds hard! My focus this year is getting my first graders reading fluently, and giving them a solid mathematical foundation. Right now, I have 5 students who are not yet fluently reading and one who is, and even with that span, its difficult to meet all the needs.

            If there are readers on this board who are teaching multi-age with one teacher, or with a teacher and an assistant, I would be very grateful to hear how you are doing it.

            Appreciatively,

            Shawna Barr

            Comment


              #7
              Re: Combining levels in a small, single-teacher cottage school or group situation?

              Shawna,

              I feel like it would be difficult to have 1st and 4th graders together. To me, the more ideal scenario would be to have a 1st-2nd grade classroom (which you have now) and add a 3rd-4th grade class with an additional teacher. Primary students are still mastering writing, math facts, and reading. Older students need to be learning multiplication facts and reading more difficult chapter books. Maybe you could find a helper teacher?

              You are on the way to having a school!!

              Tanya

              Comment


                #8
                Shawna,
                I agree with Tanya that that age spread in one classroom would likely divide your focus too much. In our little cottage school we combined first and second in our first year which was necessary due to numbers and enrollment. It was not a good experience for the youngest student (one first grader with the rest of the room second graders). We have since not combined any primary grades. When they are acquiring those initial reading/writing/math skills in the primary years the skill disparity even among a single grade can be large, much less two years! You are having success with your current batch and that's commendable!

                It seems to me that 16 hours a week is probably too much to be spending on math and language arts at that level. Are you only using the MP materials for those grades or adding in other things? Are parents teaching any of that at home or is the entire burden falling to you? What do your families do at home in addition to what you are teaching?

                We have also found that families are looking for different things in a tutorial. Some want an affordable private school that doesn't meet full time. Other families want to stay in the "driver's seat" and do most of the daily homeschooling themselves with a single or two days of classroom learning mixed in. How much parents work outside the home and need their kids in some sort of childcare or school is also a factor. Our primary students only come one day per week (that is true through fifth grade). To your question, I like Tanya's suggestion of adding another room and teacher to accommodate those 3rd to 4th graders. Also, older students should be able to accomplish more than math and language arts in that 16 hours. Perhaps you could add in more of their weekly subjects as well?

                Something else to consider is what happens next year when you get "new" first graders. Do they go into your 1st/2nd class even if they aren't already fluent readers? How will that effect what you can do with the older students who are reading? Math and learning to read are actually two the most difficult things to combine because they are both cumulative. One of the best and easiest things to combine in the primary years from MP is the weekly Literature and Enrichment. You could easily have all students 1st to 4th studying the same poem, music, art piece, and listening to the weekly read-aloud and history/science/culture read alouds.

                Hopefully this is some good food for thought and it may bring up other questions which I hope you will reply with. Co--ops and tutorials can have vastly different personalities based on the leader's objectives and vision. Hopefully you can take MP materials to your students and find a classroom mix where students of each age can experience growth and success.
                Best wishes as you plan!
                Last edited by pickandgrin; 12-20-2018, 09:07 PM.
                Festina lentē,
                Jessica P

                2018-2019 7th MP Year, 9th Homeschooling
                Interweaving home, cottage school, & MPOA
                DS MPOA Henle 2, 9A -- DD 7A -- DD 4A -- DS 1st

                Highlands Latin Nashville Cottage School
                www.nashvillelatinschool.com

                Comment


                  #9
                  Tanya and Jessica, thank you so much for those replies. Very helpful. And Jessica, the questions and considerations you bring up are spot on. There are a lot of accolades for the "multi-age-one-room-schoolhouse" model, but I sometimes wonder if those come from people who have never actually taught this way! I'm actually not sure how they did it back in the day.


                  Our co-op is definitely in its "rough draft" year as we continue to evaluate the specific needs of our homeschool community. Its interesting, but all 5 of my students are the youngest children of larger families. Moms are feeling spread thin trying to meet the needs of teens and everyone in between, and have expressed that they lack the structure at home that they once had. We do also have one family with two parents working who want a private school option.

                  So the need we are trying to meet is to provide a solid foundation in language arts and math in the mornings for these families. I do have a co-teacher who is doing the same with a group of 6 4th graders. She teaches language arts and then they take a live online math class together 2 days a week and have a supervised time to complete homework from that class.

                  I'll also mention that we do have an afternoon program 3 days a week with parent volunteers doing thematic art, music, history and science.

                  The way the enrollment went this year, we have 5 students who are basically at a low first grade level, one who is at 2nd grade, and 6 at 4th grade. We have no third graders. Our 4th grade teacher will likely follow her group up to 5th grade next year, and I'm not sure exactly how that will look yet. My plan, at this point, is to follow my current group up next year, and only consider adding more students who are very compatible ability-wise.

                  As for the 4 hour time block, we don't devote all of that purely to language arts and math. The kids spend 30 minutes outside playing every morning. And we have a whole-group recitation time and a read-aloud time. The time goes by quickly!

                  I have multiple frustrations with our model (as I knew we would as we are learning.) One is that were are simply spread too thin volunteer-wise to sustain 3.5 full days a week. Second is that the afternoons too often feel like baby sitting or entertaining kids. This is because we don't have continuity of curriculum. Parents plan what they want to plan. Its often very wonderful, but for me, its too disjointed. It lacks the systematic consistency that I love so much about classical curriculum.

                  So if I understand this correctly, a "Cottage School" is a group of students who are all using MP curriculum and following its scope and sequence. The group meets together strategically for specific instruction in portions of the curriculum, and parents are responsible for continuing on with the rest at home?

                  If that is correct, they I understand how that could really bring some continuity, structure and focus to a cooperative. My issue is, with so many homeschooling families all so fiercely independent, how in the world did you get your families to agree upon using one curriculum?


                  Comment


                    #10
                    Ha! Good question. We require the primary families to use the entire curriculum K-3, next year will be K-4. All we teach in the older grades are MP classes (and MP chosen circle, like Novare & various math texts, etc). For younger kids this is an easier sell because the MP curriculum and daily plans provide the trajectory, structure, and coherence you've said they've articulated to you. Our older kids, we hope, will use more and more each year. By sixth grade we can teach six of the main classes, so many are near a complete core of materials whether they know it or not.

                    So you are actually a three and a half day school! You might look at the Highlands in Indianapolis as that's their current structure (3.5 days) for ideas.

                    At some point you have to decide if you need to control what parents are doing at home so that your teachers can actually teach WITH what they are doing reacher than in spite if what different things they are doing at home. Having one complete curriculum for your school fixes this problem. It creates others though--selling the parents on it, finding teachers willing to us it rather than make up their own things, what to do with older students new to the classes you are teaching. There is no cottage school panacea. Every choice has both positive and negative consequences. As a leader though, you have to look at what you want for the program and what you are willing to do (or put up with). You also have to look at what is sustainable for the leaders and teachers as well as the families. In my opinion, at some point a casual school can move from "meeting a need" to something more orderly that leads parents toward something, something which many cannot even articulate as what they need on the front end.

                    We tell families that if you come to us merely because you need something on our day or in our area or that's "robust" then you'll be disappointed. You need to want what we are doing, what we are teaching, and how we are teaching it. Having the curriculum set lets families decide for themselves. Having the curriculum set gives continuity across families and friends and teachers (who come and go) and time. That's where setting the curriculum first can help you solve some of the questions you have now. Of course, I'm a die-hard MP fan so I suggest MP! Our little school actually exists because my co-director and I wanted MP for our families. That's the simplest reason.

                    One more consideration: cost, and pay. To sustain a model like this you may need to pay teachers and charge tuition versus a co-op model. That may not go over well, but that many hours taught by volunteers may be difficult long term. Yes, everyone wants a bargain, but most people really want value and time well used. It you can provide something good at fair price, that's a win for everyone. If no one wants to step up more or pay more then that's probably a red flag that you are having to shoulder too much of the burden now, and that may grow into the future.

                    What do you think?
                    Last edited by pickandgrin; 12-26-2018, 11:36 AM.
                    Festina lentē,
                    Jessica P

                    2018-2019 7th MP Year, 9th Homeschooling
                    Interweaving home, cottage school, & MPOA
                    DS MPOA Henle 2, 9A -- DD 7A -- DD 4A -- DS 1st

                    Highlands Latin Nashville Cottage School
                    www.nashvillelatinschool.com

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Shawna, Hang on for a reply. I posted a long one yesterday but it went into "unapproved" status when I tried to edit a typo. Maybe it was my error as I was working from my phone. It'll pop up eventually.
                      Festina lentē,
                      Jessica P

                      2018-2019 7th MP Year, 9th Homeschooling
                      Interweaving home, cottage school, & MPOA
                      DS MPOA Henle 2, 9A -- DD 7A -- DD 4A -- DS 1st

                      Highlands Latin Nashville Cottage School
                      www.nashvillelatinschool.com

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by pickandgrin View Post
                        Shawna, Hang on for a reply. I posted a long one yesterday but it went into "unapproved" status when I tried to edit a typo. Maybe it was my error as I was working from my phone. It'll pop up eventually.
                        It's approved now! This is the second time an edited post has been erroneously marked "unapproved," so we'll need to see if we can figure out why this happens. Sorry for the inconvenience!
                        Michael
                        Memoria Press

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Michael View Post

                          It's approved now! This is the second time an edited post has been erroneously marked "unapproved," so we'll need to see if we can figure out why this happens. Sorry for the inconvenience!
                          No problem, Michael! I'm still learning my way around the new format!
                          Festina lentē,
                          Jessica P

                          2018-2019 7th MP Year, 9th Homeschooling
                          Interweaving home, cottage school, & MPOA
                          DS MPOA Henle 2, 9A -- DD 7A -- DD 4A -- DS 1st

                          Highlands Latin Nashville Cottage School
                          www.nashvillelatinschool.com

                          Comment

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