Homeschool Parents Work Together to Create Classes
Homeschooled children from around Maryland started gathering together this September at the Unitarian Church in Annapolis once a week for classes and activities.
When Leah Humphries' 9-year-old son Joesph Humphries started coming home from school crying, she knew something had to change.
"He was more focused on getting things wrong than getting things right, and it was stressing him out big time," Humphries said. "The choice we were given was change the child with medication or change the environment."
Humphries chose to homeschool Joseph. She's less than a month into homeschooling, but she's already sure she made the right decision.
"I tell people it’s like Alice in Wonderland looking through the looking glass," Humphries said. "He can learn at his own pace. The one thing about homeschool is: learning something until you master it."
Even though Joesph's school work is improving, Humphries still wants him to make local friends and have local play dates. She searched for a homeschool cooperative near Annapolis.
A homeschool co-op is a group of parents who gather their children together on a regular basis for sports, field trips, art classes and other activities. The parents, who usually pay a fee to send their children, are also required to rotate between teaching responsibilities, chaperoning field trips and cleanup duties.
Humphries soon found the newly formed Mid-Maryland Homeschool Cooperative (MMHC), which operates out of Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis. Classes are held once a week on Mondays.
"It’s almost like providing your children with classmates," said MMHC founder Tiffany Hipszer. " A co-op provides them not only with classmates, but with other positive adult role models like you would see in a school with teachers."
Hipszer used to be part a of a secular homeschool cooperative in Columbia until it closed last year. When she started looking for a co-op closer to home, she couldn't find any that weren't based around a specific religion.
There are 28 homeschool support groups in Maryland with one other operating in Anne Arundel County. Arundel Homeschoolers, based out of Pasadena, is a faith-based cooperative, according to the Home Educators Resource Directory.
"I wanted to have a co-op group that was for everyone," Hipszer said. "I have members coming as far away as an hour south because there was nothing in the area that was secular."
Registration is closed for the fall with 35 kids signed up, ranging in age from 18 months to 11 years old. Hipzser plans to have open meetings this fall for parents who are interested in spring registration, and she's already starting to think about developing classes for teenagers.
For Humphries and her son, the Annapolis-based cooperative provides them with the best of both worlds. He can learn at his own pace and still enjoy a classroom environment.
She said it took a lot of research and a little courage to pull Joesph out of a conventional school setting.
"I didn’t want to be one of those "weird families," and I don’t want to be perceived that way," Humphries said. "I haven’t found anybody yet who was an extremest. I've been kind comforted in the fact that all the people who I’ve surrounded myself with so far are normal parents trying to do what's best for their kids."