Resources to Create Your Own Local Learning Groups and Co-Ops:
The areas below have been tried either by us personally or by someone we know in our homeschool community and have been reported to be fruitful for small group co-op and extracurricular activities.
For more formalized and currently established clubs to join in our area (not necessarily home-grown small groups or homeschooler exclusive), please go to our Extracurricular Clubs
For local resources and support information to help form your own group please see:
Many homeschooling families enjoy bird watching and nature clubs as a means to teach biological science. There are numerous local supports to help facilitate your own group. The Audubon Society of Portland provides a Junior Audubon Club
program that assigns an activity per month that can be carried out in a small group setting. Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve
provides numerous local resources for birdwatching as does the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
Also, the Wetlands Conservancy Agency of Tualatin leads regular guided birdwalks at Sweek Pond (sponsored by the Tualatin Heritage Center
A Boy Scout Club makes an excellent supplement to homeschooling, and it is not hard to form your own club. Time and commitment varies with the ages of the students, and skills can be learned in many areas of life. Through diverse high-adventure and outdoor opportunities. Scouting not only provides adventure but also emphasizes values through ideals that reinforce God, country, and personal growth. Older Scouts plan and run the weekly troop meetings and activities with minimal adult guidance. They participate in exciting outdoor programs like camping, backpacking, climbing, canoeing, and river rafting. Shauna Moon has prepared this flyer
that explains the many benefits of Boy Scouts (Acrobat reader required to view flyer). A homeschooler of 15 years who continues to work with youth through Scouting, Mrs. Moon is eager to mentor local homeschooling families into their own journey of Scouting. You may contact Mrs. Moon at Phone: 503.643.4893 Cell: 503.702.9560 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
4H has been around for many years and offers a variety of interest areas to learn about from gardening, animal husbandry, fiber arts, technology, craft and visual arts, leadership skills, and more.
It is easy to form your own club. You may keep your club very small drawing from your own family, or you may pull children in from other families, or even the community at large. Becoming a leader is simple. You only have to fill out the leadership application forms, attend the leadership orientation, and then be interviewed by a 4H staff coordinator at OHSU's Extension office.
The 4H office offers leaders and members project materials (at a low cost) to help teach/learn skills in the interest area. There is also a good network of club leaders who act as a resource for a new club.
One perk to being a 4H group is your children can show their projects at the county fair and be judged by 4H judges. The judging system is very supportive and encouraging as each child strives to make his/her "best, better."
Go to our local 4H
site to get more information on this organization.
Many homeschoolers have formed various 4H groups, so there is a lot of knowledge to draw from just in our own little homeschooling community.
The goal of FIRST is to introduce the field of engineering to school-aged children in hopes of exciting children about the field of engineering. There are age-specific leagues within FIRST (Junior Lego League ages 6-9; the LegoRobotics League (FLL) ages 9-14; First Tech League ages 14-18; and the FIRST Robotics League for institutional high schools).
A FIRST team can be formed within your family, group of friends, homeschool co-op, or neighborhood. Several organizations which have existing teams in our area (and may be able to help you establish a new one of your own) are 4H
and Village Home Education Resource Center
Each league level works a little differently, but generally each year a challenge is posted that your team must solve using teamwork, research, creativity, and the official league kit or materials. Teams meet in competitive tournaments, first locally, and then if successful on to regional, national, and even international events.
The kids MUST do the work themselves, coaches are facilitators who merely guide. Our regional FIRST chapter, ORTOP, provides free training for anyone who desires to coach a team.
Start up team kits and registration do require an outlay of money--generally $500 for the FLL initial kit (which can be reused from year to year), $1400 for the intial First Tech kit, and an additional $150 to $200 for annual registration. Costs can be split between the team members or earned by fund raising events or by gaining corporate sponsors. There have been some re-imbursement scholarships available over the years through ORTOP.
Go to ORTOP
for more information about Lego Robotics, and First Tech leagues in Oregon.
Historical re-enactment can be as simple as a dress-up day with period crafts and food to an extensive re-enactment gathering.
Many families in our homeschool community keep on the much simpler end of things. After studying a certain time period, the kids do the research for the clothing and food and skills of that period and then use what is around the house or what can be simply bought to re-enact it. This could be from setting up a gold miner's dig in the back yard (complete with painted rocks to find and a store to buy supplies) to a medieval feast to a Victorian day complete with hand-made card crafts. This obviously can be done within a single family, but the fun multiplies when other families join in too.
Choose a specific historical setting (a specific time period is better than a larger more diverse span). Each family should study the time period, prepare one dish to share at the potluck, dress in something of the period piece, come with a craft to share, and have a little summary of what they have learned. There are a number of really helpful books to get you started, and many provide for both cooking recipes and historical information: "The Multicultural Cook Book," "Cooking Up US History," "Cooking Up World History," "The American Girls Cookbook," and the series "Exploring America through Simple Recipes
Most or all of these can be found in our local library system. Vision Forum
dedicates itself to American historic books and period information and costumes (although a bit spendy). Historic libraries also often have helpful crafts and food books (Such at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
in Oregon City, and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
in Astoria). Exodus Books
provides a lot of historical resource books both in their new and used section (such as "The American Girls Handy Book," and the "American Boys Handy Book").
For those very dedicated McCall's, Simplicity and Butterick clothing pattern books carry historical and theatrical costumes (usually the fall pattern books are best). JoAnn Fabric's has most of the patterns in stock (the best selection will be in the fall before Halloween).
The book "Instant Period Costumes" by Barb Rogers, ISBN: 1566080703, gives instructions on how to create period costumes using very creative and time saving shortcuts with modern cast off clothing (our local library system has this book).
Also, below are resources for re-enactment ranging from those for the interested spectator to the true enthusiast.
is a home-based business in Hillsboro that creates authentic reproduction clothing and accessories for various vintage styles from 1770 to the 1930s. They also offer various talks and fashion shows on the history of period fashion. See their website for examples of their work or to arrange a fashion talk or show.
Fort Vancouver Dame School (girls) and Engage School (boys)
is part of the Youth Volunteer Interpretive Training Program for Fort Vancouver. Girls and boys, ages 9 through 18, learn what life is like in the 1840's and various crafts of this time period over a series of Saturdays. For further information contact the Volunteer Coordinator at the Fort. Some general volunteer information is provided at: http://www.nps.gov/fova/supportyourpark/volunteer.htm
The Northwest Civil War Council
(NCWC) "is a non-profit living history organization dedicated to educating the public and our members about the American Civil War. Through membership in the NCWC one has the opportunity to recreate portions of the past in educational drama at reenactments, through which the spectator, as well as the participant, discover and learn more about their history and the people who lived during the year 1863 in Virginia and Pennsylvania." Go to their website for membership information, events calendar, and links for civil war re-enactment clubs and information.
The Oregon Regency Society
. The Oregon Regency Society is a collection of diverse souls who all share a common obsession with the English Regency (1780 to 1830). Their group consists of Jane Austen fanatics, English Country and Regency dancers, historic reenactors, costumers, artisans, craftsfolk, Regency fans, and so much more. Their activities include regency balls, parties, teas, craft and art workshops, readings, Regency movie marathons, and costume sewing classes, For more information, and a calendar of events, please visit their website linked above.
The Philip Foster Farm
in Clackamas County, Oregon, provides opportunities for those interested in Oregon pioneer history re-enactment. Volunteer positions are available for individuals and families in numerous functions from tour guide to pioneer skill demonstrator. For more information see, their volunteer information
or contact them at 503-637-6324 or email@example.com
Set to Music ECD Dance Club
. This English Country Dance Club is taught by Miss Laura Plett. Weekly practices are Thursday nights at the McMinnville Ballroom in McMinnville and Monday nights at the Leedy Grange in Beaverton. Generally, there is a ball every month or so where many participants dress up in Regency period costume or late Georgian. For more information contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tea Thyme & Lavender is a wonderful antique and vintage shop stuffed with delightful curios, heirloom linens, dinnerware, china, Christmas ornaments, vintage books, furniture, garments and more. In the store back are charming alcoves to hold a private tea party, or catch a cup at a front table. The Tea menu is filled with a broad choice of teas and luscious pastries or quiche. You can buy a small tea pot full of your choice of tea and scone for a very reasonable price or go for the full high tea. Service is warm and attentive. A delightful place to come as you are or dress up in vintage style clothing (1930's-50's), linger through the vintage merchandise, and treat yourself, your lady friends, and your daughters to a restful tea break harkening to another era. Book ahead or drop by. (Reservations recommended during the holiday season). The proprietess, Claire, began this as a ministry to women to give them a biblical refuge from their hectic schedules. A must do! 12675 SW First Street (First and Angel), Beaverton, 503-644-6361. Hours 10am to 6pm Tuesday through Saturday. (11/2009)
Washington County 4H Wagon Train Trek. Every year for the past 26 or so years, Washington County 4H has sponsored a wagon train which is open to participants from the general public. On this working vacation, you actually walk/ride the wagon train for about a week, living just like those many pioneers who came to Oregon via wagon train. Cost (from 2008) is $150 for children and $175 for adults. The Wagon Train Trek takes place in the summer (usually July), and there are monthly preparation and informational meetings usually starting in January and going through May. Contact the Washington County 4H Extension office for more information at 503-725-2110.
Also check out other pertinent links under "History" in our "Handy Links
Readers Theater is a production of dramatic reading from a literature excerpt or play script or Readers Theater script. Rather than being memorized and acted out on a stage with props and costumes like most plays, the participants "read" their parts from a notebook using expressive voices and some animated gestures (although more advanced groups have their parts fully memorized so they may look at the audience rather than their notebook and turn the pages as a synchronized group).
Costuming and staging are limited which makes this form of theater easily attainable for most groups. Parts contain both characters and narrators, and sometimes sound effects. Complexity of scripts, and doubling of characters per actor, allows for a variable number of participants--although the larger scripts only stretch to about a dozen participants for any real participation.
One great website to look for readers theater scripts and how-to information is Aaron Shepard's site
. Teaching Heart
is also another site which offers free scripts, generally for the younger age set. Scripts for Schools
is a really large RT site with helpful information, for-pay scripts (including Bible and historical setting scripts including numerous inventors and explorers), a few free scripts, and some interesting links--one of which is an online stream of an actual readers theater production, the "Three Wishes" (scroll down the home page to find it), which is helpful for those who have never seen this style of theater.
Be aware many pre-written RT scripts are secular of the folktale variety, some with a smattering of social issues thrown in, but there are many which are quite wholesome and even educational.
Some RT groups have adapted Adventures in Odyssey stories for RT (being careful to follow Focus on the Family's production rules); a number of the AIO scripts are available for sale as "Radio Scripts" in 3 volumes, at Whit's End
For those with a little RT experience and some ambition, an excerpt from almost any well-written, children's story can be condensed and adapted for RT-- choose those that have numerous characters for speakers with active dialogue and colorful descriptive paragraphs for the narrator's parts.
Readers Theater groups have provided a lot of fun for a number of families in our homeschool community.
Many homeschoolers enjoy forming a speech or debate club to help their children learn the skills of public speaking and argumentation in a friendly environment.
A great resource to help start a speech club is Communicator's For Christ's speech curriculum "Beginning Public Speaking." It walks you through setting up a speech club and provides a meeting by meeting, concept by concept, approach. The follow up book "As I Was Saying" discusses competitive speech formats. Exodus Books
carries the Beginning Public Speaking curriculum as well as many other public speaking/debate resources.
There are also books on forming debate clubs such as Christy Shipe's "Introduction to Policy Debate" (purchased through Exodus Books
) and "It Takes A Parent" or "Coaching Policy Debate" by Terry Stollar of the Eugene Anti-Thesis Debate Club (contact them at email@example.com
For an informational article about using debate work for a unit theme for other subject areas (such as American Government, Economics and Worldview), please see our CHOC Board's webpage on Teaching with Homeschool Debate
produces curriculum for both team policy and lincoln douglas style debate (an edition for generic leagues and an NCFCA edition).as well as for the competitive platform speeches and apologetics.
Other general speech and persuasion books may be found at the local curriculum store Exodus Books
Christian Communicators Northwest
(CCNW) exists for Christian homeschooling families in Oregon and Washington who are looking for a team policy debate program that endorses and practices a highly structured debate protocol and control of the organization to remain at the local level in a manner that is highly responsive to the needs and interests of the participating families. CCNW sponsors introductory workshops, helpful mentorship to new clubs, as well as an established tournament season for your club's participation. Contact the CCNW League director Ray Engel at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rainmakers Apologetics provides information and support to local families who desire to participate in the formal discipline of Apologetics (structured speeches given impromptu from pre-prepared material regarding theological questions) either within their own family or through forming a club. Competitive events are provided through the NCFCA league. For information about Apologetics, forming your own club or current clubs near you, please go to the Rainmakers Apologetics website. (CHOC Board note: Several of the Rainmakers Apologetics coaches have also done NCFCA style Speech clubs. Contact Bruce and Shelli Owen at email@example.com or Gay and Shelley Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org for NCFCA Apologetics and Speech Club information too.)
Also, 4H has a competitive presentation event at the county fair open to all enrolled as a 4H member. 4H also provides workshops for parents (and older 4H members) on how to teach/do presentations . Children can also advance to the State fair in speech presentation. The 4H presentation is modeled after the Expository with Visual Aids speech style. Many in our homeschool group have participated in the 4H presentations as well as done the Communicators for Christ curriculum.
Story Writing Circles:
A very easy club to form is a story writing circle. In it, one child begins a story then gives it to the next member who must add to the story.
Rules are laid out regarding how much must be written, how much each person can change the story, what type of content is allowed, and how long each child has before they must pass along the story.
It is a great way to encourage a reluctant writer to write. A number of older children have started these on their own.
Technology can speed the circle along by passing the story through email. It only requires access to an email account and everyone else's email address.
A modern outlet to the story writing circle is the Blog page. Blog pages are like internet journels and story circles.
The blog can be about whatever the students choose such as nature observations, creative writing displays, book reviews. Most blogs revolve around a certain theme.
Googling "free blog spots" will turn up a large quantity of choices to host your blog for free.
Some fine examples of student started blogs are:
a worldview blog spot started by Greg Harris' homeschooled teen boys Brett and Alex, which has sparked a whole new Christian teen movement to encourage teens to rebel against the low expectations and standards our current culture hold for teens but rather to make their teen years count for God's Kingdom and upholding Christ's standards of morality and behavior.
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