Sometimes the more you work, the less you get.
If you’ve ever felt so exhausted you don’t have any energy left to do the things that would fill you back up, you wouldn’t be alone.
I often wonder how much of the nuclear family’s limited time, energy and resources are gobbled up making everything fit into individual bite-sized meals, grocery runs, laundry, errands, chores, educational events, and special activities leaving nothing left to nourish vital friendships because everybody else is now working harder for the same individual bite-sized slices of life. It’s easy to feel trapped in an endless cycle of diminishing returns. But what if — what if we could make a better investment with our daily sweat, blood, and tears?
For the last month, a family friend and I, with whom we have kids of similar ages, began a “crazy” experiment to address some of these issues. The idea was to see if there would be any mutual benefit in doing our school time together as two families working as one.
We called it co-schooling.
For 4 weeks, we put 6 young school-age kids, 2 teaching adults, and 1 very active toddler together three days a week for 2 and 1/2 hours in the morning. More kids meant more structure with a narrowed focus. We choose skill building with English and math basics.
We opened our time with a story read out loud by an adult to get settled.
We then did dictation, which is reading a few sentences out loud for the child to write out and practice listening and handwriting skills. It also served as an introduction to spelling for the younger kids and as a review for the older ones. We followed this up with a page or two out of Explode the Code. After that, the kids read out loud to each other. The older kids practiced helping those below them, the younger ones were exposed to higher reading levels, and everyone enjoyed more stories. We took a break in the middle for free play and usually ended with a math activity.
The early results are positive.
As a whole, the kids were more engaged and focused, especially the younger ones. It quickly pulled everyone all out of the sibling frustration and rivalry dynamic of our own families. As parents, we were pleasantly surprised by how much we could get through in these short and focused energetic bursts. The best part was how free we felt when we got the simple basics out of the way. Later we didn’t feel like we were cheating somehow if we let play interests shape the rest of our day.
Overall, there were many more benefits that outweighed the rise in chaotic noise from having more kids together in a small space. We’ll probably try this again next year, but perhaps with the goal of finding a larger space to co-school.