CALEDONIA, Mich. — Sitting down with Caledonia mother and librarian Audrey Barker, she laughs while saying, “I feel like I should make it clear, I don’t know what I’m doing!”
Let’s be real, when it comes to the 2020 school year, none of us do.
“You definitely can’t swim unless you jump in the deep end sometimes,” notes Barker.
So that’s what this supermom is doing: Jumping into the deep end by starting the Facebook group “Caledonia Virtual School Co-Op."
In less than a month, this page has hundreds of parents as members. Parents are posting tips, and offering their personal skills to educate kids at home.
“Caledonia schools is offering the online learning, so we're using that almost as our skeleton,” says Barker.
“And the real meat of the thing will be the parents supplementing it. So, they'll get their grades through the school, in a sense, but we're going to make sure that they also get an education beyond just the grades.”
Barker tells me the co-op’s style is project-based learning.
For example, a parent who works in human resources could give tips on writing a resume, or a parent who is an engineer could talk to kids about cars.
“I personally bought some science curriculums from Teachers-Pay-Teachers," noted Barker. "I plan on taking those curriculums and making science kits that my son's friends and my daughter's friends can come pick up off our porch. They’ll bring those science kits home, and then on ZOOM will virtually do the science experiments together.”
As fall approaches, Barker says, she plans to break the co-op group into “pods.” The pods will be small groups of families that are quarantining in the same way.
The ultimate goal is for the pods to meet together throughout the school year.
“So as long as it's safe, we're hoping eventually that we can do park picnics, or even field trips or something. But for now, it's just going to be sharing resources.”
This virtual co-op will not replace our incredible teachers.
Barker laughs at the thought. “I don't want to think that we're even close to as good as the teachers. It's gonna take the whole community to be even a percentage of what the teachers are.”
The parents are just adding to their kids’ educations.
They’re pitching together to, as Barker says, show their kids how you can make something really great out of a really bad situation.
“We're just making it up as we go,” confesses Barker. “I mean, we have no precedents with this. We have nothing to build off of. So, what an amazing thing that we get to dream, and dream it up and make it happen! Like, how cool is that?”
Barker says if you are a parent who does not live in Caledonia but you’re interested in joining a co-op, first check with your district to see if a similar group already exists. If a similar group does not exist, feel free to reach out to Audrey Barker through her Facebook group, Caledonia Virtual School Co-Op.
Barker says she’s happy to provide ideas and insight to others.