Welcome to my house! It’s the first day and everyone files into my kitchen. (I am blessed with a humongous kitchen.) I welcome all and begin with prayer. I show them where to store their "stuff" and their lunches. I discuss ground rules, which can be basically summed up in one word: Respect. I go over the materials we will be using, the syllabus, and my goals. I am so excited about this subject and this co-op that I have to be careful not to overwhelm them.

By the end of the day, we’ve read out loud from our Bibles and reference books. We’ve listened together to the first part of Diana’s tape. We’ve used our maps and atlases to locate places. I’ve pulled out my books and resources to let everyone have a chance to borrow whatever they’d like to take home. Most importantly, we’ve talked together about what we are learning.

Discussions turn out to be the heart of this course. Each week we discuss what we are reading or listening to or watching on videos. I give the kids assignments that allow them leeway in picking topics. Since they are all working on different but related topics, we all learn from each other. I love getting them to express themselves and seeing when the light bulbs go on. I love when they see the application of something to their own lives. I love when I see them grasping big ideas!

Of course, it isn’t always pretty. Some days somebody is grouchy and someone else is totally unprepared, holding back discussions. Some days somebody grumbles about map work or too much reading. Some days I am not adequately prepared and I find myself stumbling through co-op instead of leading it. I pray.

I’m finding that I must spend hours ahead of time reading and listening and thinking in order to generate the best possible class time. This isn’t quite as low maintenance a course as I’d first thought. But I do find myself looking forward to Mondays. And I’m learning so much myself about Old Testament history!

Guess what? That notebook idea I mentioned earlier? Well, it turns out to be a really good idea. They are, in essence, building their own reference book on this time period. But . . . it does have one little hitch. These young teens have had little or no experience in doing this and they are having trouble staying organized. I find halfway through the first semester that I need to be checking these notebooks often or some of them get terribly far behind. Once I institute a weekly notebook accountability check, work improves dramatically.

Winter Blahs

First Semester Hands-On Projects are due in December. I remind them. I remind them some more. Then the week before they are due I get a few panic phone calls: "Can I have more time? I forgot!" Hmmm . . . how much slack do I give here?

After a little grumbling, the projects are complete. Wow! Each of them did an outstanding job! Turns out they loved doing them, once they got going. And were they proud of their work!

January is difficult. Everyone, myself included, is having a hard time getting back into the swing of things. I ease up on some of the map assignments and cut back a little on the vocabulary. I bring in the new geography card game, World Wise, and we spend a happy hour playing that together. Maybe chocolate would be a good idea . . .

A Happy Ending

Some of the timelines are turning out far better than I had dreamed. A couple of the kids are very artistic and have put great time and care into their timelines. They inspire the rest of us! The maps have also been a worthwhile endeavor and I am proud of their accomplishments in this area, as well.

I can’t believe how much we all have learned this year: about God, history, geography, work skills, research, and how relevant all this is to our everyday lives. We rush to complete notebooks, finish memorizing a few things for geography class, and make plans for our end-of-year party. I collect final notebooks and projects and am so pleased with how far this group has come. Thank you, Lord, for another successful year co-oping! Oh my, it’s spring again - time to make plans for next years’ history co-op . . .

Materials We Used the Most for History