Monday, April 21, 2008

Homeschool Coop Update

Our homeschool coop has had a good year. In the fall we did a six week Lego League, then a winter program of ancient Egypt, and currently we're in the middle of six weeks of this and that -- whatever people were willing to offer. We have 18-24 kids, from eleven families. We're finding that if we have two groups, each with a leader and a helper, it takes about 40% of the moms to run each homeschool day. The activities I've mentioned have been for the older kids, seven and up. For the younger kids (3-6) we've had a coop kindergarten going. In the afternoons we've had a music teacher come in and teach two music classes -- one for the older kids and one for the younger. In the current session, we also have an art teacher teaching art to the older kids when the youngers are in music, and vice versa. We meet in people's homes. This year we've had two hosts.

I led one group during Lego League, and during the current session I've led two sessions for the older kids. Despite the fact that I have two children in the younger group, I haven't led that group yet! A few weeks ago I co-led a session on Leonardo Da Vinci. We did a little history and geography, read Leonardo's Horse, did anatomy measurements to corroborate the ratios he found, did a perspective art project, and did a picture study of the Last Supper, including having the thirteen kids line up as if they were in the painting!

Then last week, in two hours flat, I ran a restaurant with the older kids. There are so many things we could have focused on with this -- it's so complex! I tried to keep it simple -- this was my approach:

I asked that every student be sent with at least a dollar. This included the younger group, who were slated to be our customers. I brought in a bag of groceries: bread, butter, peanut butter, and jam, and asked the if they wanted to buy these groceries for the restaurant for $5. Five kids put their dollar in, and we wrote down that we owed them for the loan. I told the kids that they would each earn a dollar working at the restaurant today. Then we worked on the menu, and set up the table and kitchen space we would be using. The kids writing the menu had to come up with prices, and I recommended that $1 be the highest price, so that our customers would be able to buy something. They decided that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be a dollar, and various versions of toast would be less. (We could have talked much more about setting prices, but our first customers were due about 45 minutes after they bought their first groceries.) Once the menu was established, I acted as their first customer. Our original idea (that is, my husband's, since he came up with the restaurant plan), was to distribute that first dollar to the whole staff to make the point that we had to sell a lot more to pay each of them their dollar, and also pay our other costs. But I was vetoed by the kids, who thought it would be easier to divvy everything up at the end.

We assigned each customer a server, who was responsible for taking their order, getting their food, and giving them their bill. The customer either paid at the register, or the server brought the money. We didn't focus on making change, although that would definitely make sense.

At the end we counted up our money and talked about profit, and what other expenses a real restaurant would have.

I hope the kids got a sense of how complex it all is! We certainly could have done more with it, but I didn't want to get bogged down. I can see doing this a few times a year and letting the kids take a bigger part in the design each time.

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