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Co-ops: Definitions and FAQ

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Benefits of Homeschool Co-ops

Although co-ops aren't necessary for using Tapestry, they do present many benefits to a homeschooling family! Here are just a few.

  • Group studies keep students (and their parents) accountable and thus on schedule. While parent-teachers lose a little freedom, they and their students learn to be good "team players," agreeing to the group's overall requirements for amounts and types of work be done in a timely and thorough manner.
  • Group studies often motivate students to do their best work by providing a peer audience and/or socializing context.
  • Skills that home schooled students often lack can be developed in a co-op setting, especially those associated with group classes: raising hands, respecting others' speech, supporting/participating in a discussion, giving a speech, team work.
  • Parents can split the load of lectures and hands-on activities according to mutual strengths, and all benefit!
  • Various parents have sundry gifts and talents. In co-op groups, parent-teachers can each contribute their best skills, and students benefit from the added variety of teaching approaches.
  • One of the essential elements of a classical high school education is discussion: thinking on one's feet: taking a position and supporting it out of one's own knowledge base and the evidence one has gleaned from one's research. We believe that this is an essential element of historical and literary studies that, without a group context, your high school student will miss unless, of course, you engage in regular discussion with him one on one.
  • Group writing classes give the student the chance to have others enjoy (and critique) his writing. At first, we recommend that the instructor do the critique, unless the group knows each other well and can offer constructive and gracious comments.
  • Co-ops can provide contexts that single-family settings struggle to achieve. For instance, groups can hold formal debates, put on a Medieval Feast, and pool resources to allow older students to go on key local field trips while younger siblings are cared for.

How Often to Meet?

Less is definitely more!

Children in grades K-5 probably don't need ANY co-op experience, so don't sweat the program. They will definitely enjoy crafts, and moms will benefit from the one-another aspect common to all co-ops, but don't strain yourself to co-op if all your kids are in 5th grade or younger! Regular nap times and meals are much more important.

Grammar level co-ops should focus on fun (like simple associated hands-on crafts or group projects), group skills (like raising hands to answer questions, etc.), and writing assignments. Keep it light; make it the dessert that rewards diligent independent reading/writing work at home.

Dialectic level co-ops can begin to focus on discussion. Once a week for History or Literature discussion and writing accountability is usually sufficient. If you want to, you can elect to meet twice a week -- once midweek to discuss history concepts, and once at the end of the week to read writing assignments and do a craft. Do the history discussion in a half-hour, the writing in another half-hour, and then spend an hour on crafts.

Rhetoric level co-ops are perhaps most rewarding. Focus is on growing together in discussion skills, apologetics, literary analysis, team projects and writing skills.

  • Use a church building, and have moms divide up: some watch younger kids, who enjoy an unstructured play time, rest or snack time, or even a light treatment of the subject of the week.
  • Use two nearby houses, and accomplish the same goal as above.
  • Use car pooling for olders, so that moms who aren't teaching can stay home with younger children (perhaps one of them baby-sits the teaching mom's toddlers) and meet in homes.
  • Meet around the lunch hour, so that kids can use the hour before lunch and the hour after lunch for classes, yet still enjoy fellowship and play time together during the lunch break.

If at all possible, generally schedule your upper-level co-op in the lunch --> afternoon timeframe so that you don't give up an entire school day to it. (We have found that those co-ops scheduled in the mornings leave little energy for any independent work once kids and moms return home.) Afternoon co-ops allow moms with toddlers to put their kids down for morning naps, making the overall day run smoother.

Co-ops can meet any number of times, but regularity is the key. Some meet weekly, some monthly, some 2 or more times per week. A lot depends on the purpose for your co-op. One thing to establish early on is a statement of purpose that will dictate how many times you should be meeting in order to achieve shared goals. For instance, if you're just wanting to share unit celebrations together, meet once every nine weeks. If you want to discuss only history weekly, meet once a month. If you want to cover several high school topics (like history, writing, and literature) you might be best served by meeting on a Wednesday and Friday schedule, in the afternoons.

How Many to Include?

The term "co-op" can apply to as few as two families, or as many as a hundred. The term simply means that families join together for mutual support and accountability, and that each contributes time or other supports to the group effort. Don't feel that you need to start big in order to begin!

To start a co-op, you need to find at least one other family that shares your academic, spiritual, and social goals for you family. We recommend the following starter steps:

  • Pray for God to bring others together with you to co-operatively educate your children.
  • Seek to serve, rather than be served.
  • Talk with others about a tentative schedule for the year ahead, meeting frequency, places to meet, budget matters (for things like crafts and field trips), teaching commitments for each mom, and specific curriculum you would like to use.
  • Ask your husband's advice before making any commitments.
  • Remember that Virtual Co-ops are an option with modern-day computer technologies.

What Roles are Needed?

Women are wise to involve their husbands in the early planning stages of a co-op, and in quarterly parent meetings. Keeping the guys in the loop brings added stability and wisdom, especially if conflicts or difficulties (due to illnesses, job losses, moves, etc.) arise within the group during the school year.

Each co-op needs a leader (or leader couple), who serves the group by making sure all the members work together well and remain informed. The leader(s) need not do all the administrative work, nor all the teaching. Leader(s) simply serve by leading. Larger co-ops benefit from having a leadership team that pulls moms (or couples) with kids in different seasons of life and each contribute a slightly different viewpoint on team teaching.

You will need teachers for the group classes you tackle. These can be rotated, shared, or paid. If you rotate, consider ways that you'll preserve continuity in subjects where this matters, for instance, with dialectic and rhetoric history, literature, and writing. We recommend that moms sign up for at least a unit at a time when teaching these disciplines.

Of course, you'll need students for your classes. While this may seem obvious, it's necessary to recognize that students will affect one another, and wise parents will seek to know their kids' classmates (and those classmates' parents) before committing to the group. No one is perfect, but the Bible does say that those we hang with affect our hearts. (See Proverbs 4:27 and 13:20)

Possibly, you'll need a treasurer, if the group pools resources to pay for craft supplies, field trip expenses, or paid teachers.

All Learning Levels Together?

The parents of a co-op agree together on a pace of learning (schedule), and certain academic requirements as planning begins for the school year ahead. (We suggest several means to this end in other places on this website.) Whether or not there are paid teachers to provide instruction and grading, parents--and parents only-- remain responsible for the direction and implementation of their children's daily activities, and the methods they pursue towards co-op goals. The younger the kids in the co-op, the looser the requirements can be.That said, the students should be directed to be diligent in fulfilling the group's stated goals and requirements, be good participants, and seek to contribute to the overall welfare of the co-op.

That said, we do not recommend that you put children on various learning levels together in the same classes. Tapestry learning levels represent stages of learning (not ages) and it doesn't seem to be beneficial to ask more advanced students to slow to the level of the slowest students in the class (as is the invariable result unless the teacher is content to leave slower students behind in bewildered confusion). We recommend that, while a co-op group can have students in various learning levels, individual classes should be confined to specific learning levels.

For instance, the co-op can agree that they will all do a certain week-plan of Tapestry during a certain week. Let's say it's Week 23 next week.

  • Older students will discuss the history and literature lessons.
  • All the upper grammar level kids are going to read aloud their writing and talk about verbs for the first hour, then they'll all do a hands-on project for the second hour.

This would constitute a great co-op meeting! For other meetings we could suggest...

  • Lots of hands-on activities for youngers are great to focus on because they can be hard for busy moms at home to accomplish.
  • Ditto with field trips.
  • You might read aloud the week's literature or read-aloud selection to younger grammar students.
  • You can roll in a "gym class" outside in good weather.
  • For any age, do science experiments or labs. With youngers, try alternating between science and history weeks if you wish.
  • A 1/2 hour discussion of the history topic of the week, followed by a craft associated with it might serve younger students.
  • Teachers of older students using Tapestry have ready-made history and literature discussion outlines provided.
  • Older students can receive group writing instruction and grading feed back, and can also read their writing assignments aloud for peer critique.
  • For all: allow some free time for group socializing, which is a reward for work done at home, independently.

What are First Steps?

To get started, decide whether you're more interested in a local group or a virtual, online one. Then, go back to the top of this webpage and click the appropriate tab!

Launching a Local Co-op

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First Steps

To start a co-op, you need to find at least one other family that shares your academic, spiritual, and social goals for you family. Here's a broad overview of the basic steps. There are many details on these below on this page. This is the summary:

  1. Pray for God to bring others together with you to cooperatively educate your children.
  2. Look for those who are truly like-minded. We would say this is the single most crucial aspect of forming a group. Far better to start small—with two like-minded families—than advertise widely in your general area and end up with mismatched mem­bers and thus a group that is constantly distracted by strife. Like-mindedness should include these important things:
    • Agreement on basic theology: we would not recommend that you begin with a mixed group of Christians and non-Christians.
    • Agreement on academic standards: to what schedule do you plan to adhere? How many assign­ments/hours of study will you expect of students? Is the goal of the group primarily social, church building, academic, or for getting things done that single families don't do easily alone (like art projects, field trips, and group events)?
  3. This goes with the above: define your purpose, methods, and procedures as fully and carefully as you can. Ladies, early meetings with families that seem like minded are best done as couples, with the guys as involved as possible!
    • Commit them to writing and update your "rule book" as you go.
    • Do this over some time, not all in one meeting.
    • You may not need such things as a statement of faith, application for new members, course contracts, an oversight board, a bank account, etc. in the beginning, but you will eventually, so why not start early and perfect these as you go? (We have samples of some of these things under the sample documents tab of this page.)
  4. As your plans for your co-op begin to take shape, have meetings that then shape and define the content of the classes you'll teach, who will teach them, when, and what resources and class preparations will be required of parents and students for these classes.
    • Try to set up procedures for when things don't go well before you begin classes.
      • You'll want to cover such things as student conduct, teacher commitments, academic expectations, and the consequences of failure to meet group standards.
      • These should all be spelled out in writing before the year begins, and students need to take ownership of them, not just parents.
  5. Pray a lot. Pray together as a group and on your own.
  6. Make sure that everyone has the chance to voice concerns, questions, ideas, and vision. It's easy to think that everyone's on the same page; it's harder to achieve than one might expect. Many co-ops fail (or fracture) because some (usually quieter) people didn't get heard (or weren't clear on co-op goals) in the beginning.

How to Avoid Common Start-up Problems

  1. Bathe this new endeavor in prayer.
  2. Move slowly in choosing whom to include in your co-op. We can't repeat often enough that we strongly suggest you find only like­minded individuals to share your teaching journey.
    • Be cautious about yoking yourself unequally with un­believers, and even with those Christians who believe very differently about theology, daily conduct, or academic goals.
    • Less is more! Personally, I'd choose one like-minded family that I could share my home­schooling years with than a 30-family co-op filled with difficult relationships and strife.
  3. Get your husband's expressed support for joining others in teaching endeavors, and involve him as much as possible in the initial planning meetings. Ask him for prayer support, too!
  4. Get your own heart/expectations straight.
  5. Seek to serve, rather than be served.
    • Recognize that you will have conflicts, and prepare for them by recognizing that cravings cause conflict (James 4:1-2). Conflicts will come, and you need to be prepared to deal with them biblically.
    • Expect and prepare1 to welcome the coming observations concerning your heart attitudes, your parenting choices, your kids' behavior, and your academic pursuits that others will bring. Properly welcomed, these can be tremendous means of grace in your life for sanctification!

Detailed Steps to Forming a Local Co-op

  1. Let's say that you find three like-minded couples who agree minimally on the following:
    • Their theology is basically the same as yours, and they are committed to biblical standards for relationships.
    • They are committed to conflict resolution when it occurs.
    • They want to do the same Tapestry year-plan for the same number of weeks, and can agree which weeks on a calendar those school weeks will be.
    • They are parents you respect: they are not perfect, but generally, they parent wisely and their children are good peers for your children to be in company with.
  2. You would be wise to sit down as couples (as in, with your husbands present) and come up with agreements that will be committed to writing. These agreements should probably include (but need not be limited to):
    • A name for your co-op.
    • A statement of faith which all members (present and future) shall sign.
    • Two codes of conduct for members: one for parents and one for students to sign. These codes should contain clear procedures for what happens if these codes are broken. (See Matthew 18)
    • Outline of the application process for those who may want to join your group at a later date.
    • Officers of your co-op: you need an administrator who serves by leading (but is not the owner of the group), a treasurer, and a secretary/administrative assistant.
    • General guidelines concerning money—how much, and on what general types of things shall money be spent, and possibly plan to open a bank account.
    • Academic goals for the group, and possibly general outlines of how you plan to reach these goals. (For instance, we plan to use Year 2, we plan to do the Rhetoric level, we plan to meet twice a week, and we will discuss History and Literature assignments during those meetings.)
  3. After this initial meeting, if all seems good, proceed to hold your first "down and dirty" parent meeting.
    • Husbands might want to attend this one as well, for their wives will be making firm commitments in­volving time, resources, and your children. If husbands are not present, wives should obtain an agenda for the meeting and get as much pre-approval of what she is likely to volunteer for as possible.
    • At this meeting, the four women in our example group would divide up the 36-week teaching schedule. There are many ways to do this.
      • Each take a 9-week block teaching one subject.
      • Rotate so each mom teaches once a month.
      • One mom always teaches History; another always does Literature, a third does all the correction of Writing Assignments, and a fourth provides all the planning for, and exe­cutes one field trip per month.
    • At this meeting, finalize some details you didn't decide at the first meeting. Members might come with:
      • A bank account secured, or at least the ability to collect any funds needed for the first unit.
      • The statements of faith, conduct, consequences of failure to perform commitments, etc. agreed upon previously all typed up and ready to hand out. Get signatures at this time if necessary on all these documents.
      • Statements of meeting frequency, assignment requirements to be maintained throughout the year, etc.
      • Agree on accountability checkpoints for teachers for things like hands-on project prep­ara­tions, writing assignment corrections, etc.
    • Finalize your calendar for the year.
      • Agree on the weeks you'll meet and those during which you'll take breaks.
      • Agree on four parent meetings (attended by the men and used to plan unit celebrations and make in-flight corrections as needed) and four unit celebrations for the year.
      • Block out any major field trips and set dates aside.
      • If you'll need a larger room for any Unit Celebrations—especially for the first one of the year (for instance, a Medieval Feast in the case of Year 2)—discuss possible sites and assign some­one to research and get back to the group by a specific date.

Maintain Momentum

Once you're up and running, you'll want to do things to keep your group healthy:

  1. Solomon wisely said, "It's the little foxes that spoil the vines." (paraphrase of Song 2:15) Catch small problems early. Don't avoid them and allow them to grow into big problems.
  2. Guard your heart against wanting comfort and ease. Seek, invite, and embrace observations and corrections of your life and the lives of your children as the year unfolds.
  3. Seek to serve the other ladies—but serve by leading. Sometimes leadership means being the one to do the unpleasant work of confronting someone who is not living up to their promises. Don't fear this task! Pray, read Peacemaker materials, and then go to attempt to win your sister! This is part of what God is doing in the homeschooling co-op: His great work of sanctification. You have a golden opportunity to model maturity and Christlikeness in relationships to your children as your year unfolds.
  4. ENJOY the gift of your co-op. Seek to see evidences of God's grace, and seek to point them out to one another as you see them in class or on trips.
  5. Continue to add and codify rules and procedures as you go. If your group grows, the more you have on paper and working well, the easier it will be to know if like-minded people are seeking to join you. If they are not likeminded, why not encourage them to start their own co-op that is fashioned in the image they see in their mind's eye?

Remember Your Goal!

You may be asking yourself as you read through this: Why are we doing this again?

You may be thinking, "Wow, sure sounds intimidating. Lots of work. Lots of interpersonal conflict. Rules?! Yuck."

If that's your reaction, you might want to think twice about forming a co-op. Co-ops can be incredible blessings, but the above pitfalls are real, and I would be unkind to not warn you of them so you can avoid broken bones and splintered school years.

Again, you should only be contemplating a co-op if you honestly feel led to do this by God and your husband supports you in the endeavor. You really will change the way you school when you join a group. There will be less freedom—you must keep to the agreed upon schedule and topics. There will be more hassle: inter­personal conflicts will develop. But there can also be a richness that your family alone could never hope to achieve for your students. From projects, to discussions, to field trips, to activities, co-ops provide opportunities, accountability, and fellowship. These are the reasons we undertake them. They are good reasons, but because we are still in a fallen world, we need to remember—almost daily—why we are doing this, and Whom we ultimately are attempting to please by joining and creating co-ops.

_____
1We highly recommend as required reading for all co-op members: buy and read Ken Sande's Peacemaking for Families, and read "The Cross and Criticism."

Group Distance Learning Via the Internet

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What is a Tapestry Virtual Co-op?

Tapestry virtual co-ops typically consist of Tapestry families from across the country desiring to provide discussion classes for their dialectic and rhetoric students. Such groups typically meet in virtual classrooms in real time to work through the discussion scripts provided in the curriculum. Many co-ops will also add in review and game days.

There are email-based virtual co-ops that share the products of student assignments (like writing assignments or answers to Student Activity Page questions). These are not limited by time zones but seek peer or teacher reviews as their main means to distance learning. Similarly, there are Forum-based groups who post discussion questions and require students to answer these thoughtfully and thus have discussions, but not in real time. As with local co-ops, the number and types of virtual co-ops seem endless!

First Steps to Forming a Virtual Co-op

Find Like-minded Families

To start a co-op, you need to find at least one other family that shares your academic, spiritual, and social goals for you family. Here's a broad overview of the basic steps. There are many details on these below on this page. This is the summary:

  1. Pray for God to bring others together with you to cooperatively educate your children.
  2. Look for those who are truly like-minded. We would say this is the single most crucial aspect of forming a group. Far better to start small—with two like-minded families—than advertise widely in your general area and end up with mismatched mem­bers and thus a group that is constantly distracted by strife. Like-mindedness should include these important things:
    • Agreement on basic theology: we would not recommend that you begin with a mixed group of Christians and non-Christians.
    • Agreement on academic standards: to what schedule do you plan to adhere? How many assignments/hours of study will you expect of students? Is the goal of the group primarily social, church building, academic, or for getting things done that single families don't do easily alone (like art projects, field trips, and group events)?
  3. Cyberspace grows ever more sophisticated in allowing us to find one another. That said, please adopt reasonable precautions in whom you share personal information with over the Internet! As with local co-ops, you are looking for good fellow-travelers for your family's homeschooling journey. Here are a few avenues we can suggest:
    • Use our Find a Friend web page to find other Tapestry users who are using your year-plan, want to go at your pace, and have kids your kids' ages.
    • Our Forums also offer places to advertise your wishes.
    • There are several yahoogroups (some general; some year-plan specific) on which you can advertise your desire to start or join a virtual group. One major Yahoogroup is called TOG Virtual Co-op Synergy. You can join them and then input your data on their databases. This Yahoo Group is for Tapestry of Grace users that either are participating in, or desiring to participate in, a virtual co-op. This group maintains databases for current virtual co-ops as well as databases for those looking to join virtual co-ops.
    • Possibly you can use Facebook or Twitter to find new TOG friends as well!
  4. This goes with the above: define your purpose, methods, and procedures for the group as fully and carefully as you can before you begin to interact with others.
    • Commit them to writing and update your "rule book" as you interact with others.
    • Do this over some time, not all in one meeting.
    • You may not need such things as a statement of faith, application for new members, course contracts, etc. in the beginning, but you will eventually, so why not start early and perfect these as you go? (We have samples of some of these things under the sample documents tab of this page.)
  5. Once you find one or more families who seem like likely fits, you may want to share phone numbers and discuss your educational philosophy over the phone. (We have found that email, at times, is inadequate in truly expressing what we desire to communicate.)
  6. Some virtual co-op leaders do phone interviews with each possible new member as they are identified.
  7. As your plans for your co-op begin to take shape, have meetings that then shape and define the content of the classes you'll teach, who will teach them, when, and what resources and class preparations will be required of parents and students for these classes.
  8. Try to set up procedures for when things don't go well before you begin classes.
    • You'll want to cover such things as student conduct, teacher commitments, academic expectations, and the consequences of failure to meet group standards.
    • These should all be spelled out in writing before the year begins, and students need to take ownership of them, not just parents.
  9. Pray a lot. Pray together as a group and on your own.
  10. Make sure that everyone has the chance to voice concerns, questions, ideas, and vision. It's easy to think that everyone's on the same page; it's harder to achieve than one might expect. Many co-ops fail (or fracture) because some (usually quieter) people didn't get heard (or weren't clear on co-op goals) in the beginning.

How to Avoid Common Start-up Problems

  1. Bathe this new endeavor in prayer.
  2. Move slowly in choosing whom to include in your co-op. We can't repeat often enough that we strongly suggest you find only like­minded individuals to share your teaching journey.
    • Be cautious about yoking yourself unequally with un­believers, and even with those Christians who believe very differently about theology, daily conduct, or academic goals.
    • Less is more! Personally, I'd choose one like-minded family that I could share my home­schooling years with than a 30-family co-op filled with difficult relationships and strife.
  3. Get your husband's expressed support for joining others in teaching endeavors, and involve him as much as possible in the initial planning meetings. Ask him for prayer support, too!
  4. Get your own heart/expectations straight.
  5. Seek to serve, rather than be served.
    • Recognize that you will have conflicts, and prepare for them by recognizing that cravings cause conflict (James 4:1-2). Conflicts will come, and you need to be prepared to deal with them biblically.
    • Expect and prepare1 to welcome the coming observations concerning your heart attitudes, your parenting choices, your kids' behavior, and your academic pursuits that others will bring. Properly welcomed, these can be tremendous means of grace in your life for sanctification!

Detailed Steps to Forming a Virtual Co-op

NOTE: Linked below are two recordings of (slightly aged) webinars that we did on forming virtual co-ops. They have a lot of value still, though some of the specific information is dated.

  1. Begin planning your virtual co-op in earnest once you have found at least one or more like-minded families who agree minimally on the following:
    • Their theology is basically the same as yours, and they are committed to biblical standards for relationships.
    • They are committed to conflict resolution when it occurs.
    • They want to do the same Tapestry year-plan for the same number of weeks, and can agree which weeks on a calendar those school weeks will be.
    • They are parents you respect: they are not perfect, but generally, you sense that they parent wisely and their children are good peers for your children to encounter regularly.
  2. Decide how you will communicate and set this up right away. Will you use Yahoogroups, Gmail Groups, or another service? Many virtual co-ops use Yahoogroups and have both a parent account and student account. Set the parent account up right away as this will be your primary means of planning your co-op.
    • The parent account is used for communication between parents, posting teaching assignments, schedules, etc.
    • The student account is used for communication between students, teachers and students, posting assignments, etc.
  3. As a group, it would be wise to come up with agreements that will be committed to writing. These agreements should probably include (but need not be limited to):
    • A name for your co-op.
    • A statement of faith which all members (present and future) will sign.
    • Two codes of conduct for members: one for parents and one for students to sign. These codes should contain clear procedures for what happens if these codes are broken. (See Matthew 18)
    • Outline of the application process for those who may want to join your group at a later date.
    • Decide on the leader of the group and a co-leader if desired.
    • If you will be using Lampstand Learning Center (or a different paid service) to host your co-op virtual classroom decide on how the payments will be handled.
    • Academic goals for the group, and possibly general outlines of how you plan to reach these goals. (For instance, we plan to use Year 2, we plan to do the Rhetoric level, we plan to meet twice a week, and we will discuss History and Literature assignments during those meetings.)
  4. Decide on a platform for your virtual classroom.
    • The Lampstand Learning Center (LLC) uses Blackboard Collaborate software to power our classrooms. We rent space out to co-ops at reasonable prices. If you go to the proper section of the LLC website, you can see in-depth descriptions and/or an actual online LLC class that uses the same technology.
    • There are other platforms available to use for your virtual classroom, but many co-ops have found that Blackboard software can’t be beat for reliability and ease of use.
    • Some groups that do not seek to engage in discussions simply use Yahoogroups or similar email groups to share written assignments.
    • When admitting families to your co-op, take time zones into consideration. Some co-ops are able to work with families in all different time zones, others have restricted schedules and do not have that flexibility. In most cases, those groups that seek to exchange only written assignments via email can have the most flexibility. The time zone differences are most keenly felt in groups seeking to hold live discussions via the Internet.
  5. Decide on class sizes.
    • Due to the desire to have meaty, online discussions and optimum student participation, most virtual co-ops that feature discussions limit the size of each class. Optimal class sizes for this feature usually range between 3 – 10 students.
    • Writing classes can be larger, but remember not to overload a teacher who will need to read and provide feedback on all student assignments.
    • If you go with a forum format, where students discuss via posts to questions posed, then the class size is virtually limitless (no pun intended).
  6. Plan your calendar with specificity as you get underway. When you are working with families from all over the country, keep in mind that local school holidays occur at different times, so you will need to decide on a calendar that best fits the most people. As you’re writing up the calendar, here are a few things to decide:
    • Will you try to fit in all 36 weeks to the year, or shorten the schedule?
    • Will you combine any week-plans during the year?
    • Will you add in home weeks, when co-op assignments are suspended, but families continue their Tapestry studies at home?
    • How much time will you take off during Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break and/or Holy Week?
    • When (and in what format) will you hold any unit teacher meetings, or unit celebrations, if any?
  7. Decide on days and times of classes.
    • Will you hold classes on the same day or different days?
    • Remember when planning classes that it is optimum for each student and teacher to have his/own computer for class.
    • Be conscious of different time zones and how the times of your classes will affect outside activities in different areas.
  8. Decide on teaching responsibilities among participants, or by a paid instructor. There are many different ways to do this, and each co-op does it a bit differently. Below are just a few options:
    • Each mom takes a 9-week block teaching one subject.
    • Rotate so each mom teaches once a month. (This does not provide optimal continuity for students, but it is one possible model.)
    • Divide by subjects. Thus, one mom always teaches History all year long; another always does Literature, a third does all the correction of Writing Assignments, etc.
    • Establish teaching teams–two moms join to teach a class for the year and take turns teaching according to their own schema.
  9. Decide on details about assignments.
    • Where will they be posted?
    • Will only parents view assignments, or will students retrieve them for themselves?
    • When will they be posted relative to the advent of classes?
    • How will they be formatted? What content will they have?

      NOTE: Beware of violating Tapestry copyrights by always making sure that all of your members own their copy of Tapestry or have a valid class license. Never post Tapestry content where it is publically available or in a format that it can be otherwise pirated.

    • Will completed assignments be emailed to teachers or due in class discussion times?
    • Will students do presentations? Online co-op classes that are held in real time are a perfect medium for students to learn to create and present PowerPoint presentations. (Even if your group is powered via email, your students can create blogs and PowerPoint presentations that can be shared via the Internet.)

    Maintain Momentum

    Once you're up and running, you'll want to do things to keep your group healthy:

    1. Solomon wisely said, "It's the little foxes that spoil the vines." (paraphrase of Song 2:15) Catch small problems early. Don't avoid them and allow them to grow into big problems.
    2. Guard your heart against wanting comfort and ease. Seek, invite, and embrace observations and corrections of your life and the lives of your children as the year unfolds. With distance communications, recognize that we lose the ability to use tones and gesture, so misunderstandings more easily occur sometimes. Seek to be patient with others, and make your communications as full and careful as you know how.
    3. Seek to serve the other ladies—but serve by leading. Sometimes leadership means being the one to do the unpleasant work of confronting someone who is not living up to their promises. Don't fear this task! Pray, read Peacemaker materials, and then go to attempt to win your sister! This is part of what God is doing in the homeschooling co-op: His great work of sanctification. You have a golden opportunity to model maturity and Christlikeness in relationships to your children as your year unfolds.
    4. ENJOY the gift of your co-op. Seek to see evidences of God's grace, and seek to point them out to one another as you see them in class or on trips.
    5. Continue to add and codify rules and procedures as you go. If your group grows, the more you have on paper and working well, the easier it will be to know if like-minded people are seeking to join you. If they are not likeminded, why not encourage them to start their own co-op that is fashioned in the image they see in their mind's eye?

    Remember Your Goal!

    You may be asking yourself as you read through this: Why are we doing this again?

    You may be thinking, "Wow, sure sounds intimidating. Lots of work. Lots of interpersonal conflict. Rules?! Yuck."

    If that's your reaction, you might want to think twice about forming a co-op. Co-ops can be incredible blessings, but the above pitfalls are real, and I would be unkind to not warn you of them so you can avoid broken bones and splintered school years.

    Again, you should only be contemplating a co-op if you honestly feel led to do this by God and your husband supports you in the endeavor. You really will change the way you school when you join a group. There will be less freedom—you must keep to the agreed upon schedule and topics. There will be more hassle: inter­personal conflicts will develop. But there can also be a richness that your family alone could never hope to achieve for your students. Co-ops provide opportunities, accountability, and fellowship for both you and for your student that your isolated family might not be able to enjoy any other way. These are the reasons we undertake them. They are good reasons, but because we are still in a fallen world, we need to remember—almost daily—why we are doing this, and Whom we ultimately are attempting to please by joining and creating co-ops.

    One Final Note:

    If you are interested in distance learning with Tapestry of Grace but a virtual co-op isn’t right for you, check out the Lampstand learning Center (LLC), where we offer history, literature, and writing classes for dialectic and rhetoric students.

Documents and Descriptions You Can Use

Below you will see documents that we have gathered together in one spot from co-ops around the country, and descriptions of functioning co-ops and how they're set up. Please take note:

  • None of the documents is "official." Rather, they are the means that various groups have adopted for organizing and regulating themselves.
  • We present them for your use in two formats: PDF and Microsoft Word. The latter format is intended for you to be able to manipulate and change them for your own use. Where copyrights are indicated, please do not alter and redistribute without the author's permission. (Some documents are only offered in PDF versions for copyright reasons.)

Documents

Guidelines for the Coming Year

This document has evolved over years of teaching with co-op families in Maryland. Marcia found it a helpful way to remind parents of the foci of her co-ops, and present ways for parents to prep their students for the coming year. Please do not alter this document without expressed permission, unless it's to add your specific co-op names or upcoming actual dates.

Co-op Mission Statement and Charter

This document was developed by a local co-op where all the members were part of the local church as well. This is a broad, overarching, governing document, not a step-by-step description of the way that the co-op would operate. It is a framework for the flow of decisions, the types of members, and the general responsibilities of co-op participants.

Sample Course Contract

This document is also located on the Loom for Tapestry purchasers. It gives the co-op teacher, parents, and students an opportunity to spell out in detail the goals, obligations, processes, and grading scheme for a specific course of study. Obviously, this document can be modified to cover a broad range of courses.

Sample Master Schedule

This document shows a complex schedule for a comprehensive co-op that involves all learning levels. First names of ladies in this actual co-op were left in to better show rotations of the schedule.

Letter of Commitment

This letter is used by one co-op to summarize and formalize the commitment that members are making when they join the co-op for the year. Such documents can be very helpful in making sure that everyone understands expectations for the year ahead. Feel free to use and to modify this document as you see fit.

Rules and Regulations

This group chose to spell out in detail the acceptable (and unacceptable) uses of the church building where their co-op rented space. The document also summarizes some of the expectations on students and teachers for preparedness and social interactions. Permission is given to use or modify this document as you will.

Teacher's Schedule

This comprehensive co-op created this document so that all of the moms who were teaching would know where to locate one another within the large church facility that the group rented. Your group may or may not need such a document.

Co-op Descriptions

Virtual Co-op: D/R Levels

Comprehensive Co-op: All Levels

Small is Beautiful

Options Abound for Families in Co-ops!

Tapestry is Ideal for Co-ops!

There's lots of support for co-op leaders!

Get Everyone on the Same Page

Help Your Members Be Aware!

Must I Co-op with Tapestry?

How do Co-op Copyrights and Licenses Work?

Tapestry Groups: Look and Feel

Click here to print this page

Tapestry is Ideal for Co-ops!

Many families use this curriculum on their own, tailoring it to their needs and levels. However, the Bible often speaks of the benefits of mutual encouragement, and our need for it. We all get discouraged from time to time; we all get tired. What we have found is that no matter how infrequent or low-level our associations are with other families, those associations benefit us by providing accountability and encouragement.

Key features that make Tapestry specifically ideal for use in co-op groups, whether in person or online, include the following:

  • Students can read a variety of books each week in order to prepare for a discussion. Especially at younger learning levels, a variety of resources adds depth to a discussion of historical events and famous people.
  • Each week-plan offers specific activities designed for a group setting that reinforce the weekly topics. See page 7 of each Redesigned week-plan for these.
  • Each week-plan offers discussion outlines for history and church history for both dialectic and rhetoric level students. These work equally well for both individual families and groups.
  • For rhetoric students, there is also an in-depth class plan offered weekly for literature studies that, again, is ideal for both single families and larger classes.
  • Each Unit Introduction gives teachers great ideas for unit celebrations that keep learning fun and provide both closure and memories for any co-op group!
  • Within the existing writing program, you'll find projects that lend themselves well to larger groups. Examples: display boards, play writing, formal debate competitions, multi-media presentations, and story writing are just a few. Really, all writing projects are improved by being read aloud to peers for review, but these projects especially find their fullest expression in group settings.

There's lots of support for co-op leaders!

Did you know that there is a special reserved section of our forum just for co-op leaders? If you are a leader of a co-op, we are glad to set up your account so that you can access this in order to glean information from others. Just send an email to customer service and include the number of families in your co-op and who the leaders are; she will help you get started.

Even if you have no desire to start a co-op or participate in one, please be sure that you add your contact information to our Find-A-Friend map! We created this especially for families who desire to find others doing Tapestry in their local area, but don’t just go there to see who else is near you. You might be just the one that someone else is looking for to provide start-up advice or a bead on local resources. Please serve others and add yourself, so that they can find you!

When you use Tapestry in co-op settings, you can run into significant differences between editions or versions because of these out-of-print book replacements. Because co-op leaders often get surprised by the differences between Tapestry printings of the same year-plan as they enter the planning stage with other moms, we’ve summarized for you the major differences in our handy Major Variances Chart. We really hope that this will help you to know about differences in content before you plan out the next school year as a co-op! And, though this chart (and the content in the Book Updates Charts) should help with your group using a variety of editions, please be advised that the easiest way for co-op members to reconcile their year-plans is for all members to own/upgrade to the Digital Edition. It’s not expensive for an upgrade if you own a Print Only version. You can read more about upgrading below, and then call our customer service department at 1-800-705-7487 for more details if you wish.

Get Everyone on the Same Page

The easiest way to make sure that everyone in your co-op is on the same page is for everyone to have the same version of your year-plan. We know that you may form or join groups with folks who already own either print-only plans or earlier editions of DE that are not identical in content to yours. The Major Variances Chart will show you how seriously divergent your members' year-plans are. The fix for tinkering is to determine the ruling version (coming to an established co-op book list for the year) and then asking members to use either archived pages or update pages from the Book Updates Chart to bring their content in line with the established norm. (While this may seem a bit cumbersome, we would like to remind you that no other homeschooling whole-book company provides as much support for reconciling dated versions of their product as we do!)

As we said above, however, the easiest way by far to get everyone in your group on the same page is to have everyone in your group update to DE, and then refresh to the currently offered DE at any time in the month or two before you start planning over the summer, and then not refresh their DE copies again before the following May, or whenever your co-op classes end. Updating currently owned printed Redesigned Tapestry copies is arguably cheaper (and certainly less time consuming) than reprinting pages book by book. Below, please find linked the four forms that correspond to the four year-plans that you'll need to access. Below, also, is a thumb-nail sketch of the process of upgrading from printed to DE copies:

  1. Print out one of the forms below.
  2. In upgrading at our low fee, you will be signing an agreement to not sell your printed units, because you’re turning your Tapestry into a Digital Edition PLUS print copy, and neither portion is resalable in this format. Legally speaking, the copyright owners receive one royalty payment for both copies, and this both necessitates making them non-resaleable and allows us to offer you the very reasonable price of upgrading to so useful a format.
  3. To upgrade, you'll be sending in your Loom CD, because the Loom will be included in your DE, and because this guarantees that 1) you own a valid copy of Redesigned Tapestry of Grace and 2) you can no longer resell your printed copy, since it cannot be fully utilized without the Loom content.
  4. Be sure to tell your members that they can upgrade their CD supplements (MapAids, Evaluations, Government, Lapbooks, Pop Quiz cards, Writing Aids) to the DE version as well by sending in those CDs with the order form. There is no charge for the conversion, other than the small shipping fee to send in the discs. Please remind your members that they don’t need to send in their Writing Aids books or any of their Pop Quiz CDs or cards in order to upgrade.
  5. We try to process these orders the same business day that we receive them in the mail because we know that you are without your materials during the interval when you send them in. Of course, we are busiest from late May to late August. If you plan to upgrade, doing so in early May is probably the optimal time. After you send in your disc(s) and order form, please feel free to contact us if you feel that a reasonable time has elapsed and you've not heard from us, because accidents do happen!

Classic Upgrade Form
DE Upgrade Form
Supplement Replacement Form
Indirect Party Upgrade Form

Help Your Members Be Aware!

We support the sales of used copies of Tapestry but, because there are different versions of Tapestry of Grace, we want to alert you as a co-op leader to some commonly experienced pitfalls that have in the past led to disappointment and hard feelings.

  • Lampstand Press sells three different versions of each Tapestry unit: 1) A print-only version that has a physical Loom disc accompanying it, 2) the DE version, which is wholly made up of electrons but from which pages may be printed by the user for her family’s personal use only, and 3) the Print + DE version, which has both paper and digital components and is also printable from the disc. Only the first of these versions should ever be offered for sale used.
  • DE Tapestry of Grace cannot be sold and transferred to another computer. You should not be offered a used digital version of Tapestry for any reason.
  • Pages printed from a DE (or DE + Print) version of Tapestry are also not resaleable. To distinguish these from Print Only copies, we have placed a watermark (small copyright notice that goes vertically in the inner margin of each page) that will show up whenever pages are printed from this version. You’ll want to make sure that the printed pages you are purchasing are not watermarked with the notice: “not for resale.”
  • If someone owning a Print Only copy of Tapestry decides to upgrade to a companion digital version (DE), we have made it easy and inexpensive. As explained above, to take advantage of our generosity, upgraders must surrender their physical Loom disc, which is then converted for them to a non-transferable, digital Loom. The paper copy becomes non-saleable, but of course it does not bear the telltale watermark notice. Thus, you can distinguish legal or illegal sales of printed copies lacking a watermark by the presence or absence of a physical Loom disc. All resalable year-plans come with a Loom CD, which you’ll want to make sure is included, as it is not for sale separately.
  • If someone offering Tapestry for resale claims to have lost their Loom disc, do not buy that copy. It cannot be replaced and is essential for using Tapestry of Grace.

Must I Co-op with Tapestry?

We've heard this question many times: "I've heard that Tapestry is best done in co-op groups. Is this true? Do I need a co-op setting to be successful with Tapestry?

Answer: "No! Tapestry was initially developed for single family households and it serves them well!"

However, as with many curricula, there are clear benefits to doing Tapestry in groups, and Tapestry has been a winner in group settings. This being the case, as we continue to update and improve Tapestry plans, we include features for group use. You will thus notice group-oriented components in charts, activities, and some discussion questions that we offer, but, of course, you are free to disregard or modify them. We know that there's always a learning curve with any new curriculum, no matter how clearly a program is laid out. To help individual families who may not have near neighbors who want to join them in a co-op, we've worked to develop a strong online support community and virtual co-ops (where class discussions are held online). Our Find a Friend map is a great way to locate other families in your area interested in either creating a co-op or just holding your hand while you get started. We encourage you to list your contact information there, as well as look for others who are already registered.

How do Co-op Copyrights and Licenses Work?

More and more families are using Tapestry of Grace in a group settings, with excellent results because combining at-home, parent-directed study with group discussion works. Because local groups have been so successful, many co-op leaders have received requests for a way to include students whose families don't use Tapestry to attend their classes. Such co-op leaders need a way to make Tapestry materials available to such students if they admit them, but are rightly concerned about copyright infringement, knowing that the authors of Tapestry of Grace should receive due consideration for their hard work in the form of remuneration.

In an effort to serve these students and simplify matters for co-op leaders, we have implemented a licensing arrangement for co-ops. Click here to read the details, or call us at 1-800-705-7487 for more information.

Tapestry Groups: Look and Feel

Here are other common questions that people have for us: "How often do most Tapestry co-ops meet? Can you give me an idea of their structure?"

Our reply is that Tapestry groups are as individual and varied as the families that make them up! Our best rule of thumb on this question is that the younger your members, the less often you should meet. Below, just to give you some examples and vision, are "normal" meeting patterns that we have heard about:

Grammar: once or twice a month

  • Once a month: you might have them do crafts at home and then bring them to a "show and tell" session where they say what they learned about history in doing the craft.
  • Once a month: you can do a group field trip, or a unit celebration.
  • Twice a month:
    • First meeting: do a craft related to the general historical topic or go on a field trip.
    • Second meeting: discuss a piece of literature all have read, or discuss the history topics, and/or read aloud a piece of their own writing assignments they've brought to share.

Dialectic: once a week (either Wednesdays or Fridays)

  • If Wednesday: discuss the history topic and go over ways to accomplish the writing assignment.
  • If Fridays: take 2 hours to discuss first History then Lit. Hand in writing assignments for grading. OR:
  • Discuss History/Lit and then read writing assignments aloud.

Some Dialectic groups can meet twice a week and follow the Rhetoric pattern below.

Rhetoric: once a week (following suggestions for Dialectic level above) or twice a week

  • Wednesday afternoons: discuss History for two hours. Give mini-reports, discuss, hold debates, etc.
  • Friday afternoons: discuss Literature for an hour and then read writing assignments aloud.
  • Alternately, on Friday afternoons: discuss Writing/Literature for an hour and then do a group project/craft/activity for an hour.

There really is no "one right way." There is, however, a rhythm to Tapestry week-plans that you should take into account when planning your meetings. The core of the Tapestry approach, especially for dialectic and rhetoric students, is Read-Think-Write. Thus:

  • The later in the week that you meet, the more students can get done.
  • With younger students, less is more! A simple craft, activity, or field trip will keep learning fun, but take into account the time that it might disrupt babies' naps or other home activities. For more on this consideration, please consider buying and listening to Marcia Somerville's audio presentation "Tips for Teaching a Houseful."
  • With dialectic students, the discussion is less taxing than rhetorics, so holding both history and literature discussions on one day--ideally, Friday afternoon--is easily accomplished.
  • With rhetoric students, we suggest breaking up the discussions for history and literature into at least morning and afternoon with a lunch break in between.
  • For all students, note that the history must be read (and is better discussed—which is the "think" element of our approach) before they do their writing on history topics.