View Full Version : How important is learning alongside peers?

04-20-2012, 11:25 PM
I just read thatonemom's recent post in Introductions and Welcomes about wanting to start homeschooling and looking for connections. Like her, I live in a rural, conservative area and am having trouble finding a group that would be sympathetic to our worldview.

This morning I drove about 60 miles to visit a Catholic co-op which one woman had described to me as "more balanced" and "less evangelical" than some others she's been part of. Hey, I'm all for that. I would be one of about 5 non-Catholic, (but incidentally Christian), members.

I have very mixed feelings about my experience. I enjoyed my conversations and found people very helpful. I was impressed with the structure and quality of the co-op. I love that my younger two children could come along and I wouldn't need to find childcare. On the other hand, I hate the thought of the weekly drive which translates into expenses for fuel and, probably most often, a noon meal in addition to the price of co-op dues, and I'm pretty sure that I'd quickly tire of the theology (the coordinator told me that, as far as Catholic groups go, most members here would be on the more conservative end of the spectrum). Sigh.

Though we live in a rural area (our town is about 1,300) socialization is not a huge concern for me. We're social people, we have choir/events at church, summer camps, annual youth soccer and drama programs in town, and I teach piano lessons so there's a regular influx of parents, students and younger siblings that my boys get to play with each week. But isn't there something to be said for learning alongside peers? I've heard past teachers say that so much of learning in the classroom comes from hearing the ideas and questions of other students and that's what appeals to me about a co-op vs. a group that just does social outings and field trips.

Was the lack of peer learning a concern for any of you when you decided to homeschool and how have you dealt with it?

04-21-2012, 09:10 AM
We don't do any teaching co-ops right now, and it hasn't really registered as an issue for me. Like you we are plenty social in other ways just not in a sit down a learn with someone else way. I'm sure opportunities may arise for a co-op that we can get to that is more of a learning experience than play or there will be a group trip somewhere or a group class at a museum, but it's not like I'll avoid those I'm just not actively seeking that right now and I think that's perfectly fine.
So I think if you feel you and your kids are getting plenty of social time I don't feel like you have to go out of your way to organize some peer learning time.

04-21-2012, 09:15 AM
I don't think so. I think there's a value in having friends and quality social time. I don't think there's a value in sitting in class to learn, even if there is "group work."

I do think there can be a value in learning teamwork - that's a skill that everyone has to have in some form eventually in life. However, I don't think sitting in a class usually teaches it. I think in terms of activities that scouts, 4-H, Lego robotics clubs, Odyssey of the Mind, Destination Imagination and even some church groups teach it much better. And I think some kids learn it by just having friends or by playing sports or the like.

04-21-2012, 01:51 PM
I think kids learn simply from having different people to talk to or play with. They don't have to be in a "learning environment" or doing school work. I homeschooled another boy for a couple of years, and his presence definitely added to our whole experience. He had different ideas, different experiences, so when we discussed a topic, he would come out with stuff (my mom says...my dad says....my grampa did this with me....) that was new to us, leading to more conversations (and arguments). He would bring over different books or talk about different music. There was just more going on because there was one more person to interact with. I found it very interesting to observe.

I wouldn't call it crucial. To me, it just highlighted how much humans can learn from each other, whether it's grandparents, friends, or "classmates."

04-21-2012, 08:08 PM
I don't think there is value in learning "alongside" anyone until perhaps they reach higher level material and might work on projects, homework or study for exams together. The first time I experienced this kind of cooperative learning effort was in college in engineering classes. I do not think it is necessary for K-12 academics.

04-21-2012, 08:21 PM
In my experience this isn't as much of a concern until maybe high school. We don't live in an area in which there are any academic co-ops and we don't have a community college, so I am considering using online 'live' classes but so far I haven't seen any that meet my standards.
Oddly enough, kids do seem to discuss plenty of non-academic things among themselves from different viewpoints quite naturally, so I'm not too concerned.

08-07-2013, 02:52 PM
No doubt. Most homeschoolers like to deny this fact (I did too for the last couple of years). The dynamics of group learning can spark curiosity, new interest and consideration of a multitude of opinions and viewpoints that you cannot emulate in individualized learning. IMO, some kids are capable of in-depth learning on their own and find working in groups taxing but many find inspiration through their interactions with others.

Stella M
08-07-2013, 05:57 PM
I think it's useful as a part of learning. My girls mostly were exposed to group learning with their peers as part of extra curriculars - dance, book club etc.

With ds I started a small co-op ( six families ). We meet once a fortnight and each term we focus on a different learning area. This term the kids have been learning about freshwater environments and testing.

I don't think you have to do large or expensive co-ops, or be in groups every day of the week to adequately expose kids to learning with their peers.