Cooperative Learning – The New 1,001 Room Schoolhouse

Okay, let’s dispatch the ‘dinosaur’ jokes right off the bat: Yes, I’ve been a homeschooler for over fifteen years and counting. Yes, that’s when there were dinosaurs and we all wrote with sticks (called pencils) on pieces of wood (called paper) and counted on our toes (called calculators.)

There, feel better? Let’s move on, shall we?

The kids have been cracking a lot of ‘dinosaur’ jokes on me lately. I’ll grant the fact their jabs are prompted by my grumbling about how things used to be, and how “things — like education and schooling” aren’t that way now, and, “It’s just not right that you kids don’t have to do the same school junk I used to have to do when I was a kid.”

“Back when there were dinosaurs and you were a Caveman, Daddy?”

Uh… yeah. Now where did I put that club?

“No, no, no!” I say. (Because I’m apparently getting old enough to keep forgetting where I put my club.) “There weren’t even one-room school houses anymore when I was a kid. We had one-building schools — factories actually — still have ’em. We schooled in one big building where many children from many grades go to learn many things. I was just thinking that you kids, being homeschooled by a Caveman, don’t even have a building for schooling.”

I start getting the glassy-eyed stare. Quiet clicking of keypads. ‘KWIM? Doz ur DD do ths 2 U 2?‘ ‘Ugh yes!’ ‘LOL!

I understand it’s hard for ignorant texting tots to imagine something they’ve never experienced, but I guess that’s the way life is for us Cavemen. It’s our job, nay, our duty, to explain it to them. Paint it on the walls with our fingers if we have to.

[MEMO from the Observation Deck] The cycle of life: old people spend most of their lives explaining how hard, or easy, or more important things were in the past, while the young people patiently pretend to listen while plugged-in to their iPods and texting their friends on FaceBook about how clueless Cavemen are about how MORE hard or easy or important their little teen lives are.

Anyway… because I’m apparently a Caveman, my smallish brain keeps tapping me on the shoulder and telling me I should be lecturing my children on how we used to learn things in “the old days” and that, maybe, they should, oh… I don’t know… crack a book or two and fill out a worksheet or three and think about grades or something. For heaven’s sake! Watch a filmstrip about the Magna Carta!

“Well kids,” I begin, as they fire up their phones, preparing to act like they’re taking notes. (I may be a Caveman, but I know darn well they’re getting ready to make live observations to their FaceBookBuddies. ‘The Caveman’s going to lecture! KWIM?LOL!‘)

I lecture nonetheless: “Back when I was a kid, we went to a school building called … uh… The School … and we went from room to room learning different things every day for twelve years.”

“How many different rooms, Caveman… uh, Dad?” said the smartypants on the living-room couch tapping on his phone.

“I don’t know. Five. Six. Depended on how many subjects I was studying. Math, Science, Literature, Band, Shop, Gym, Elective Something, ummm… Lunch.” I realized I was running out of schoolish classes.

“OH!” An epiphany from the child laying on the floor caused her to bounce. “So you had a special room for lunch, like in Oliver Twist? Did they feed you gruel every day? Did you ever say, ‘PLEASE SIR, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE?‘”

“Well, to tell the truth, the food wasn’t that… HEY! That’s not the point. And when did you read Oliver Twist? Dickens’ books aren’t until you are in a higher grade. See? This is what I mean. If you kids were in a The School, you wouldn’t be disrespectful to your Cavedad. Mind your manners. (The ones their mother taught them.) You’ll be eating your lunch in the barn if you keep it up.”

One of my other sweet orphans-in-progress, speaking out of turn, said, “One thousand and one….”

Huh? I asked her to explain herself.

“Well, when you went to “The School” with the dinosaurs and wrote with sticks, you only had five or six rooms where you could learn stuff — much of which, by your own admission, wasn’t too important. You even had one room for your meals that was apparently fraught with danger, pain and torture if you asked for more.”

“That was from a book!” I interrupted. “And I was only punched once when I refused to take a Senior’s tray back to the kitchen…. Okay… twice.”

“Still,” continued the varlet who reads too much, “There were relatively few learning rooms in your The School Factory of the past. What we homeschooled kids have now, in the present-tense real world (where we don’t count on our toes, is what she was getting at) are thousands of ‘rooms’ where we can learn thousands of things, any time, all the time.”


Lecture over. Shut down by a lightning bolt of the obvious. I should have named her Thor, or Zeus. That would have showed her!

She was right: What we call homeschooling, is really the organized chaos of scheduling and orchestrating 1,001 Educational Opportunities for our children. We visit places: Libraries, live events, reenactments, plays, historical landmarks, museums of all kinds — “Look, Dad! There’s a caveman display! Go up and see if they found one of your pencil thingies.”

We take ‘field trips’ of all kinds, large and small, every week. We don’t homechool… we car-school!

Most important, we participate in cooperative learning classes with other homeschoolers. It’s a phenomena that’s happening all over the state, and I’m sure, all over the country. Parents who are taking back the responsibility of educating their children, are networking with other parents, and forming all kinds of free-form cooperative learning sessions, or classes.

Our family is participating in a High School Chemistry Co-op in Anderson. [MEMO: Check out our “Homeschooling 101 Workshop” coming up next week at Minnetrista Center. If you’re thinking about homeschooling, you won’t want to miss this — if anything, come see what a homeschooling caveman looks like. <G>]

We have another co-op we go to for the younger kids. This session includes math, PE, speech, composition and even lunch that’s so good EVERYONE wants “some more!”

Homeschoolers are networking fools, in spite of the fact that our kids think we’re Luddites. We network on statewide discussion lists like IndianaHomeschoolers, managed by the Indiana Home Educators’ Network, all the way down to local lists, like HomeschoolCOCO in Delaware County. Every day, thousands of homeschooling parents all across the state are helping fellow Hoosiers learn about the free-range learning opportunities homeschooling provides for our families and our children; and not a single government approved The School Room is necessary.

Come to think of it, my Orphan-in-Training was probably a little low in her estimation. 1,001 probably only scratches the surface. Still don’t you hate it when the kids are right? Cavemen have feelings too.