About five years ago we were involved in five different homeschool coops. Each one was with a different group of friends and held a different focus. We loved them all.
We had our science co-op. Our art co-op. Our church homeschool fellowship co-op. The music co-op. And I guess we would have to include our sub group of swim team. We are still involved with the science co-op, and lightly in contact with the church homeschool group.
This past year with the focus on Minimalizing our homeschooling life, we’ve slowly let go of the groups and held onto one. Being part of the co-ops takes responsibility for hosting events as well as arranging our schedule around the events. At first we thought we would miss the groups as we stepped away from the activities.
What I have noticed, we are more deeply connected with the people in the groups, making meaningful social dates, rather than large group gatherings. The large group gatherings were really great when we started homeschooling and we needed to see that we were not alone, meet other families that were homeschooling the same way we homeschool, and make friends that were not always rushing out of the house when the big yellow bus drove down the street at 7:30 each morning.
Each group seemed to meet twice a month, which meant that two or three times each week, we were facing another co-op gathering, and we either sacrificed homeschooling to go, or felt guilty to decline. In the effort to stay “balanced” I was rushing around with the attempt to be really organized, so that we could do all the groups. (See Becoming Minimalist’s essay, Unbusy.)
As we began decluttering our “Stuff” this year, I started staring at the busy calendar and realizing we needed to declutter our schedule too. Easy for me, I knew which groups I was ready to step away from, but I also knew these were not the same groups the kids wanted to abandon. I wanted to abandon the ones that were just chat time with no focus. Maybe in the beginning we were gathering with a focus (getting a chamber group together for our string students), but over the years, the kids were playing for higher level groups and no longer needing an opportunity to play together. Now we just met to chat, and maybe the kids played for each other.
Asking Emily and Andrew, by letting go of the co-ops, they did not want to let go of the special friendships from each. We made a list of the important friendships and started establishing a more active role in getting together with these friends outside of the groups.
And then I took the huge step of planning not to go to one group’s activities. Just a baby step. By not being there, I missed out on getting to sign up to organize the end of the year concert, and no one asked me to help out. I panicked for a moment, did I really want to leave this group? As it turned out, not having to be at the kid concert, we were available to say yes to some free tickets to the local symphony concert. Our teens were ready to move on, we needed to simplify so we could say yes to these older activities.
The rest of the year has been little steps forward for letting go of these great groups, but realizing that we made incredible friendships that won’t die when stop attending the co-op. Our lives are calmer and our activities are richer.