Homeschool co-op provides social outlet for kids, moms

Published 9:48 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When Amanda Boone started homeschooling her eldest child Ella Kate a few years ago, she felt something was missing.

“When I decided to homeschool, one of my hesitations was I wanted to have a group of likeminded friends who did some of the things like valentines exchanges and field days and just that community of kids,” she said. “I wanted that for her.”

From that desire, River Heritage Co-Op was born. This year, nine first- through third-grade students gather twice a month for elective classes like art and music at the Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum and Riverfront Interpretive Site.

“We always have a parent help the teachers,” she said, adding the parents serve on a rotating basis. “When you’re not helping, you get to go run errands — run to Hobby Lobby or the grocery store. When you homeschool, your kids are with you all the time, so I think parents enjoy that.”

The program has been such a success, the parents are expanding the grades and courses offered next year. There will be triple the amount of students, somewhere from 25 and 30, and additional courses including a science lab, pre-reading skills, physical education and gifted will be offered.

The electives are taught by teachers with specialized skills that help cover areas some of the parents may not be comfortable teaching themselves.

“It meets so many needs,” she said. “They make friends and get kid group time. They learn to bring a lunch box, learn to stand in line, and they get to have a peer group. It’s neat to watch them experience those things.”

In addition to the classes, the parents have come together to do field trips, parties and field days.

Art teacher Jenny Byars is a stay-at-home mom with a graphic design degree who thought helping out with the co-op would be a fun way to use her talents.

“We do a little bit of art history, and we’ve had different assignments throughout the year,” she said.

“I always go over the material and the artist before the work, so the students understand. I always try to relate it back.”

Byars also incorporates lessons that lend themselves to area field trips the parents have the option to take their children to.

One of Byars’ students is Reed Lambert.

“My favorite part is getting to go with my friends and do art,” Lambert said. “I’ve learned the names of some old artists. We don’t really do an art session at home.”

Adler Mason said his favorite part of the co-op is the recess period at the Catfish Row Art Park and Splash Pad and added the co-op makes learning fun.

Baileigh Smith attends both the music and art classes, and she said she looks forward to playing the recorder.

“I play the recorder at home too,” she said. “My favorite song is ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb.’”

Smith added she’s made a lot of friends through the co-op.

Ashley Mason, whose son Adler attends the co-op, said the program has been great for her family.

“I feel like we’ve really fostered a good community among our homeschool moms and families and our children,” she said. “It’s been good for all of our souls.”

For more information or to become a part of River Heritage Co-Op, email jonathanandamandaboone@gmail.com or call 601-883-2543.