< Quick Guides

1. Getting Started with PER
2. Creating a Multi-Family Learning Co-Op

Getting Started with PER

PER is a powerful tool that you can use to organize your home school. It is designed to replace the paper-and-pencil planning you’ve been doing. And because it’s web-based, you never have to worry about losing your records — they are stored safely on our secure server, not your home computer.

Following are some helpful tips for using PER:

1. Create a user account. When you begin using PER, you create a user account at our site and become a member of our home school community. This allows you to gain access to the members-only areas of www.home-school-inc.com.

2. Thinking ahead. Before entering any information into PER, it’s helpful to think about how you will use the system.
- Are you going to turn on the computer daily during school hours?
- Will you allow your student to use the student pages to find out the day’s plan?
- Will you allow your student to message you with questions?
- Will you allow your student to let you know when the work is ready for checking and grading?
- Will you be checking and grading student work daily?
- Or, will you use PER more as a journal to record the work that is already completed and make notes on what you’ve done during the week?

One of the many great features of PER is that it can do as much or as little as you want it to do. Giving some thought to how you currently home school and plan will help you determine how best to use PER.

3. Creat your school plans. Now that you’ve thought about how you home school, it’s time to get started using PER. Here’s what you’ll do next:

Set up your School:
- Enter each student and educator in your school (educators must have passwords, student passwords are optional). Note: Educator passwords don’t have to be long — they can be as short as one letter.
- Name your school.
- Define school terms. (The shorter the term, the better! We recommend terms that cover three months or less.)
- Determine the days your school will be “in session” - daily, three times per week, once a week, etc.

Plan your School Days:
- Decide which courses you’ll teach, the days you’ll teach them, the grading scale, and the students who will take them.
- Enter the class work (ungraded) and assignments (graded) for each course and day.

School Day Schedules:
- Print the day’s (or week’s or month’s) schedule for each student. The daily schedule will show the courses, times and class work for the day.
- Check your student’s work and any assignments you’ve given. Mark them completed and/or give them a grade.

School Reports:
Reports currently available in PER 1.0 include:
- Attendance (hours and days)
- Courses
- Report Card
- Materials lists

No matter how you currently plan and record your home school days, PER can help! 

Need more information about PER?  Listen to our audio overview or watch our “big picture” video.  Specific question?  Check our FAQs.

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Creating a Multi-Family Learning Co-Op
A column by Virginia Vagt, Editor-in-Chief, Home School, Inc.

Why did the pioneers hold quilting bees? And barn-raisings? Because big jobs require many hands, and because it’s more fun to work together.

I believe the same can be true in homeschooling. In homeschooling, we place an extremely high value on family life and children learning at home from parents. Co-ops are not an alternative, but a strengthening of this very way of life.

Here’s Why
Co-ops can offer our children subject-learning in areas where we ourselves are not strong. In co-ops parents teach/lead in subjects they know best and enjoy. What a thrill it is for our children, and for us, to watch and listen to someone who loves history, teach history! Only someone who truly loves Beowulf will be able to teach it. (And he did!) Only someone who truly loves physics will drive down her suburban street in her van, repeatedly, honking her horn so that a group of children can learn about the Doppler Effect! Only a person who loves plays and drama could teach Prometheus Bound to five families, and direct those families to perform an abridged scene from Prometheus Bound at an adult-daycare center! That’s homeschooling for you - and that’s life in a co-op.

When a co-op is a unit study-based co-op, the same dynamic occurs. Parents contribute what they do best. One parent might be the one to organize field trips. When this is a person who loves to organize field trips — it makes a difference. This mom is on the lookout for field trips that fit the unit. She hears about them, reads about them, and finds the trips that are the cheapest and best. Another parent might always plan and implement the craft aspects of the unit study. That mom would plan the paper-making project, the Batik-making project, or plan out how the co-op will create the erupting volcano. Another parent might always be the one to include music and bring songs and a guitar so that the families can learn the music from that time period, or that country.

Co-op Structure and Dividends
The best co-ops are not drop-off centers, but families teaming up to learn together. Often co-ops are scheduled to meet one day a week, one morning a week, one afternoon a week — or every other week. Some rotate. But most end up meeting at one of the family homes, most of the time. It just turns out that one family has the hardest time traveling, while the others have a harder time welcoming a gang of people into their home every week. At the end of the year, the visiting families contribute some money to the host family for all the used items: ketchup, mustard, paper plates and napkins, bent scissors, occasional broken crockery, and other expenses that the host family incurred that year. Who does what? The two co-ops we’ve been in had the same ground rules: everyone contributes something, no one does everything.

If we have a disagreement we talk things out. Did it work? Here’s the evidence: eleven years ago, my husband was transferred and we had to move away from Pennsylvania. In PA, we had been in a co-op for three wonderful years. Even though we now live 800 miles away, throughout the eleven years we’ve had four visits from those families, and we’ve visited them numerous times. We stay in touch by phone and email, and some of our children still send each other birthday cards and presents. These “childrren” are now in their 20’s!! This speaks to a big value of having a co-op: friendship building.

We Get to See How Homeschooling Works
One of the reasons that people who don’t homeschool are often skeptical is because they don’t see it. When they see a family homeschooling, their minds can change about its effectiveness. If the only homeschool we “see” is our own, we can become stressed that ours is not ‘more perfect.’ When we meet together in homes, week-in and week-out, we gain an opportunity to see how other homeschooling families organize and live their lives. We gain ideas from each other, and we also see, first-hand, each family’s strengths and struggles. It’s risky to be revealing — to show others the inside of our homes and who we really are — that we lose things, that we don’t always know what we’re doing, and that we get down. But then we see each other as real people. We can support each other, accept each other, and gain the perspective that it’s OK that we ourselves are not perfect, that our homeschools are not perfect, and that our children are not perfect.

Positive Peer Pressure
Ironically, in a co-op our children can benefit from positive peer pressure. If each family is coming to co-op this week to do skits and presentations (one family on Thomas Edison and his inventions, another family on the development of the internal combustion engine and the automobile, and another on Alexander Graham Bell, the telephone and other sound inventions) children can be positively motivated to do a good job. The more time they are in a co-op, the more they will want to add life, humor, and quality to what they offer the other families.

Parents Get to Learn
In a co-op, parents as well as their children gain a learning boost. I remember the joy of the first unit study in our first co-op, when we listened to my friend Karen and her children teach us the difference between the Pilgrims and the Puritans. I liked that someone else, actually a group of people, was teaching me! It’s similar to eating a meal that someone else cooked - positively delicious and joyful.

Personal Co-op History
We were introduced to the idea of a co-op in one state. After we relocated I spent several years trying to interest new families in the idea of a co-op. But I found no takers in my immediate area. Eventually, an existing co-op, a little bit farther away, invited us to join them. We were in their co-op for the next five years - all the way through high school. That particular co-op will start its 12th year next fall! Not only that, but before they started their co-op, these families did not know each other. The families met at a local support group meeting and started to ask each other if they would like to team up. Their friendship grew over the years.

Our pattern was to meet each summer to plan out the coming year. The planning took two or three meetings. We started with a white board and wrote up everyone’s ideas for what classes and projects we could offer in the coming year. We whittled it down, and different families ended up participating in differing levels, during different years. In this co-op we also divided the children into two groups: younger and older for some of the classes - typically for science. For other classes, typically art, we had one large class. Each year flew by!! Having the plans in place made it all easier. And sometimes we cancelled a class or a unit or a project, because, just as we often do at home, we planned too much!

Can you plan a co-op?
I don’t know. But I know you can try. Yours will be different than the co-ops described in this column. It will come from the needs and the strengths of your family and the families you invite to join you. Please give it a try! Then share your story in ‘Sharing Our Stories’ here in our ‘Community.’

To find more articles like this, visit the “Be Encouraged” columns section of our site.

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