The latest improvement in our ever-changing model of learning has been to adopt a cooperative style model. Twice a week we come together, with about twelve families, to enjoy all kinds of activities from history to drama to hikes up the canyon.  It’s an inspiring community where we can best serve and lift one another.  Because of it my life has been enriched in ways I wouldn’t have imagined at the beginning of all this. I love it!

I have the privilege of mentoring the oldest students which we affectionately call our “Master’s Class.” Together we prepare for their future aspirations.  We assist them with mathematics, grammar, college prep, foreign language, history, science, art etc.

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This week was our first official day of school, and it’s tradition that we start outdoors and together!  We piled everyone into cars and trucks and headed up the canyon.  The chill in the air reminded us that Fall is just around the corner as did the orange leaves nestled between the pine trees.

In this lovely setting we had prayer and announced our new motto:  “If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

We wanted to introduce the students to some of the greatest minds of the Renaissance whom we will be learning from this year.  My older students were the instructors of each group which worked out beautifully.  They shared a little bit of information about Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, DaVinci and Brunelleschi  –  then they turned the kids loose on some fun activities.

The activities included engineering and construction, poetry, a nature walk and “listening” games to help us understand how we can be better friends and leaders.

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As I looked at all of the children and moms, it was apparent that everyone was engaged in something wonderful.  There were beautiful conversations, giggles and smiles, and discoveries all around us.  If I had to say, it was surely the caterpillars that stole the show!  It’s a good thing someone invited them! What a lovely way to start the new year!

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As our children get older we seem to grow more concerned about our ability to “teach them” all that they need to know.  A word of wisdom…we don’t have to!  We provide opportunities and they take it from there.  As much as we would like to think that we can cram information in and it will automatically stick…..it won’t – at least not all of it.  Some of it will, as it resonates with their talents and interests.  We are not failures because our kids find our “lesson plans” boring. We simply move on until we find what speaks to them. They don’t know exactly what will strike a chord either – but they’ll know it when they find it.

In our Aspen Cooperative we provide environments where students come together to learn from history or science or literature….It’s easy to see that some of the children like one aspect of history while others find it dull. However, as we experiment, we always find something that speaks to each individual. Some of our students like to do crossword puzzles, others really don’t! It seems that the best way to pull everyone in is through activity and conversation.

Last week we began talking about Christopher Columbus. He taught us some valuable lessons, such as heading into, “uncharted waters.” He also set an example of leadership and courage. We went outside to practice leadership by blindfolding one very brave student and asking them to follow the directions of another. We later sat down to talk about the characteristics needed to be a great leader, and a courageous follower. It was an eye-opening experience! (No pun intended.)

Some of the comments:

I liked how they communicated in a way that was clear for me to understand.

I liked that they used directions: North, East…

I got confused when they used degrees

It helped when they stood beside me and encouraged me

I was glad that they were patient and didn’t get annoyed

I needed a more clear picture of where I was going

We all had time to reflect on what makes an effective leader and how we can be better at leadership. We learned a great deal that time from our history lesson and how to apply it to our own lives – and that’s about as good as it gets!

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An example of mind math.  We start with this each morning before we pull out our Algebra!  Our kids love the challenge.  I think it has become one of our trademarks!

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In honor of Johannes Gutenberg, today was a German day in our Aspen Co-op history class!  This being the case, it was only appropriate that the activities and instructions were printed in German! Here’s what happened!

 

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When we chose to learn about Genghis Khan and China, the students each took the part that was most interesting to them to research and share.  Things always work out great when students learn from one another.

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Our most recent activity with the entire cooperative (about 30 students) was our medieval festival.  We sculpted gargoyles….

…And made catapults, along with many other activities!

 

 

Enjoy a clip of our version of “Pictionary” as we prepare for our end-of-term test.  This activity  is always met with exuberance and enthusiasm!