E-Day brings the fun classes
Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2014

E-Day brings the fun classes

My family participates in a homeschool co-op once a week. It’s called E-Day, short for Enrichment Day.

It’s designed to give kids a chance to explore interests beyond what they typically study at home the rest of the week.

My elementary-aged children have tried handbells, sewing and cooking. Right now they’re learning geography in Flat Stanley, blocking techniques in karate, and chivalry in All About Knights.

Meanwhile, I’m teaching writing one hour and coaching teenagers through a production of a “Macbeth” scene the next.

We arrive at 8:30 every Friday morning. There’s a short assembly where we say a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance and listen to announcements. Then we’re off to class.

It’s like we’ve taken all the fun stuff about regular school and extracted it. The teachers are excited about what they’re teaching, because they have the freedom to follow their own interests.

So do the kids. They sign up for whichever classes interest them most.

Of course, you won’t catch my older son in sewing class (“That’s for girls!” he insists), but if sewing is cleverly inserted into a survival skills course, he may just learn a whip stitch after all.

Some days at the co-op are easier than others. When my youngest child was a toddler, he would start crying as soon as we pulled into the parking lot at E-Day. It was the only time all week when he was separated from me, and he had quickly learned to associate the parking lot with the tearful goodbye we would say at the nursery door a few minutes later.

Because we’re teaching the same group of kids each semester, we have to come up with new classes all the time. That means every classroom is a laboratory for new ideas, and like most labs, things can get a bit messy.

In the fall Ms. Walshak and I taught a class called “Ancient Rome Construction Crew,” based on the book “City,” by David Macaulay. One day our students made model aqueducts in the hallway using plastic tubing to run water downhill.

The reservoir was a large plastic container, and the students had to use blocks to create a gradual slope to deliver the water to a jug at the bottom end of the tubing.

Did I mention this was a class made up largely of middle-school boys? Let’s just say I should have packed towels. Also, I’m still not sure how the ancient Romans made anything without duct tape.

As in any co-op situation, some of us seem to pull more weight than others. I usually teach at least two classes and help in two more, while other parents function mainly as assistants.

But we’ve been in E-Day long enough to understand that some families do the vital support work that keeps everything running smoothly: setting up chairs and tables, taking lunch orders, cleaning bathrooms. I’ll take extra teaching duty over scrubbing toilets any day.

Besides, I owe the nursery teacher extra pay for reading “Goodnight Moon” to my little one every week until he settled down. Not that we’re getting paid.

Pay notwithstanding, the other good things about our co-op are straight from the little-red-schoolhouse tradition: Kids of all ages working and playing together; small classes; the expectation that children will recite or perform what they’ve learned.

The culmination of each semester is called, appropriately, E-Night. That’s where the whole family (dads and grandparents, too) gathers on the last night of the session to share the songs, projects, facts and skills they’ve worked on.

This spring, my students will present the famous “Macbeth” banquet scene, while my own children will sing in the co-op’s chorus. They will explain principles of aerodynamics and the placement of a roundhouse kick to four dozen smiling parents and two dozen blinking video cameras.

By the end of each semester, I’m relieved to say “E-Day is over.” But in the fall we’ll get a registration letter exclaiming, “E-Day is almost here!” and we’ll all be excited to start back.

Even if it means packing extra Kleenex, a couple of towels and a bunch of duct tape.

Erica Batten is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Erica? Email her at ebattenobserver@gmail.com.

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more