It began 13 years ago. We were attending a start of the school year picnic. It was our second year 0f cyber schooling and I finally felt I had enough of a handle on the ins and outs of schooling at home that we were beginning to search out additional enrichment opportunities.
It was that need for socialization and adult company that pushed me to leave my home on a Friday afternoon and drive to a picnic an hour away with a 3, 5, and 7 year old in tow.
Tarina was the first to approach me. She introduced herself and told me that her and another mom were starting a learning cooperative group in New Castle and if I thought I might be interested she could take my name and number. Who knew that the decision to show up at that first co-op meeting would change our lives forever and bring an abundance of blessings to our home-schooling experience.
Tarina has since passed away. I often think of her, reflecting on the great blessing she was in my life, not only in the friendship I enjoyed with her and her family, but in the way she has blessed our life (and so many others) because of her decision to start our little co-op.
This past week marked the end of an era.
Our co-op has gone through its share of transitions. It has called two different churches, “home.” It has evolved from being a group heavy with preschoolers and elementary aged kids to being mostly high school students. It began with all the families being PA Virtual families and using the k12 curriculum to now being a hodgepodge of cyber schools and curriculums.
As the years have passed our numbers have ebbed and flowed as new families joined and founding families moved on, with so many dear friends made along the way.
We watched as students graduated and others moved away, all while trying to hold what was left of our little co-op together. This year, however, the decision was made to disband what has been an integral part of our week for 13 years and a huge part of our schooling experience.
We have simply “out-grown” its original vision and original purpose.
In those early years it was an enormous blessing, as it allowed our kids to be taught by someone other than mom, socialize with friends, participate in traditional school experiences like holiday parties and talent shows, all while accomplishing a HUGE amount of work in those four hours every week.
By teaching science, history, art and music together we were able to leave co-op with 12 lessons done for the week (per child) and an emotionally-filled bucket after getting in some much needed friend and mommy time.
Now our co-op looks much different.
We now only have one grade level that functions in the traditional way developed by our co-op, with all other students working independently in a study hall setting. We no longer come to co-op to get lessons done, but rather to feed our souls as we connect with our “tribe.” Because of this evident shift in our co-op, a decision was made to retire the New Castle Star Co-op and instead meet our families’ evolving needs (which are primarily social rather than academic) in a different way. We will still be getting together with this group we love but it will be less frequent, less structured, and more of an enrichment group rather than an academic co-op.
Wednesday, May 9th was our last co-op ever. I spent the day trying to keep things light and not drown under the emotions of loss and finality I was feeling. The kids handled it better than I. They understood that we weren’t saying good-bye to this group of special people. They know we will still see each other, but for me the knowledge that we won’t be returning to this building that created so many memories for my family left me feeling sad.
We were the last to leave the building after taking some final photos for this year’s yearbook.
I walked from room to room, checking to make sure nothing had been left behind and making sure all the lights had been turned off, and I allowed myself a moment to reminisce and reflect on the memories created in each room…
Memories of Miss Tauni sparking Ozzie’s love of history.
Memories of Tyler and Simon’s first class where more time was spent trying to lure those wild 6-year-olds out from under the table than actually teaching. 🙂
Memories of Rusty working with Miss Julie to learn sign language as a little boy so he could communicate with others during his struggle with Selective Mutism.
I remembered with fondness the class of students I worked with year after year, teaching Rusty, James, and Katie science through hands on experiments.
Then there we memories of Miss Molly’s class as they connected in a special way over Miss Kathy’s science experiments, Miss Corrina’s history lessons, and art with Miss Lana.
As I stood in the doorway of Gracie’s classroom (which has since evolved into the study hall room) I couldn’t help but think of the special people that had taught my oldest daughter and what special friends they became to me. Love you Ginger and Wendy!
I walked into the gym and visions of so many wonderful memories flashed before my eyes…
Memories of trick-or-treating, Christmas parties, Minute-to-Win-It games, our Valentine’s day glow stick party, our walk to raise money for Miss Tarina’s battle with cancer and years of bake sales held to raise money for The Make-A-Wish foundation.
Rusty walked in, smirking at my sentimentality.
I know it is just a place but it is the place where my children grew up and discovered who they are, and for that reason a piece of my heart will always belong to the New Castle Star Co-op.
Thank You for the memories, dear friends…
Its been a beautiful season of life!