The inside of the car feels like a sauna, and I fear that smell means I didn’t get all of the milkshake up out of the rug. I’m trying to load 7 boxes, 18 backpacks, 2 folders with loose papers, a wet paper towel with beans which will germinate next week, a freshly painted watercolor, and I somehow think this is normal even though I only have 3 kids in this co-op.

One dear child is using my tote bag draped over my shoulder to help her stand upright adding no less than 289 lbs of pressure to my existence. One kid is snatching his buddy’s hat and running away, I’m torn between interrupting my friend’s story to demand the return of the hat and remaining unfazed since last week it was that kid taking my boy’s lunchbox.

I glance over to my girl who is paying a bit too much attention to the boy whose mother hasn’t realized he is homebound and not homeschooled and decide that’s it. Time to go.

Once we are all buckled, I drive away so freakishly happy it is all over that I forget how much I complained the last 6 weeks. It’s like I gave birth and forgot the pain, only, there is no baby with a fuzzy head to breathe in.

Maybe you cannot at all relate to this. Maybe you can. Not all of my memories from my early co-op days are bad. It is true that I learned, my kids learned, we laughed, and we made lasting friends. And I know for a fact many people want to be plugged in to an eclectic co-op where needs are met and their autonomy is maintained.

That really is the beauty of this. The answer is not in comparison.

With that being said, it was apparent that, for me, there was an underlying frustration that was constant when we were involved. None of the classes seemed to make things easier at home. They also added to my list and pulled me from our course of study.

I had expectations and a strong pull towards leadership, but it wasn’t my project. Finally, I realized that what I needed was my own project; not mine, like mine alone, but a project which I influenced and had a say in who stood with me in that influence.

I decided to create my own homeschool co-op.

We spent 4 years building CC programs before we realized that wasn’t what we needed either. What were our options? A volunteer-based cooperative? Maybe not, because we loved the structure and commitment we had found with charging tuition.

Ah, charging and compensating. Taxes. Licensing. CPAs. Insurance. ICs or Employees? 1099s or W2s? Can we meet in a church? What all should we be looking into?

I called around to a plethora of professionals and state offices researching business structures. I called a handful of moms who were building classical programs for their local homeschoolers all over the nation. We gathered our core people and crafted our core objectives. (When I say we, I feel like I should explain that I am extremely blessed with part of the brain trust that makes up “we.” I incorporated Appalachian Classical Academy in southern WV with none other than S.D. Smith, author of The Green Ember and co-founder of Story Warren.)

We have worked together for 3 years now to offer families a community immersed in the classical Christian tradition. Over those 3 years, I’ve been somewhat vocal about my previous battle with managing a for profit LLC as a homeschool group leader who hired independent contractors. I’ve also been vocal about how our current structure makes life so much more simple for us. It was a lot of work. It is a lot of work. But it is also doable and gives us so much more than it takes.

Can you say that about your co-op? I hope so! If not, maybe you should keep reading.

A co-op can be an enriching experience and add extra life to your homeschool.

I define ACA as a once-a-week tutoring program for classical homeschoolers. We tutor our children in Latin, logic, literature, science, art, history, and rhetoric. We walk in to our beautiful facility around 9am on Tuesdays and lock up the closet at 3pm.

Tutors have free planning periods where they can sit and sip coffee in the church’s library. They also have a large influence on what they teach and what materials they use.

They are employees of ACA, meaning I had to learn how to run a payroll, file quarterlies, and provide the proper insurance for all involved. I had no guide for this. I found myself unable to cut corners, or to stop short of knowing we were compliant. I’ve become known as painfully thorough, and I don’t know that I see that as an issue in my line of work.

I was finding out I was not the only one who wanted to create a new co-op experience.

After our first year with ACA ended, I realized many people were looking for tips in a FB group I was in. So I shared ideas. I had a baby and my time was limited, but the questions kept coming. As my following grew, I started making videos to store on my Instagram highlights, and then realized I could not answer all the questions arriving in my inbox.

Finally, in January of 2019, overwhelmed with the response, I organized Classical Program Consultant, LLC. I’ve spent the last few months giving clients insight into budgets, wage and labor laws, questions for CPAs, questions for attorneys, questions for insurance agents, and questions for their local and state government offices. All of this work is to ease the overwhelm of homeschooling mothers who want to run ethical, compliant programs, but just aren’t sure what that looks like.

Creating Community is a 4-week course I developed to get this information out to my peers in a manageable way. Although you can attend the live webinars, you can also access the recordings when it works for you.

The Disciplines is a 5-week course with FREE registration for the first webinar. The topic? Latin! I’ve noticed that many home educators want to interact with the traditional disciplines which are essential to a classical education: Latin, logic, rhetoric, English Grammar, and classic literature, but they want someone who has done it to help them discern where to begin and what to use to offer such courses.

Now I find joy in mentoring other parents while they organize their own co-op’s.

I am no scholar, but I also do not lack grit nor a desire to learn. This has allowed me a redemption of my education over the last few years in a way which I had never imagined was possible.

My experience in working with our board, my council, and my tutors over the last several years has given way to the content for these courses. Our objective was this: Pursue Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, but find a way to do so without overwhelm. Do less, and do it well.

As I finish typing this up, it is the morning after our End-of-Year Program. We were done in under 35 minutes and no one person was stretched or frantic. We put on an adapted play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and everyone participated, from the 1st grader up to those finishing 10th grade. It was modest, yet delightful.

I left that program with enough energy to go to the grocery store, come home, unload those groceries, and sit with my family enjoying an hour of mindless television. As we called it a night, I turned out my lamp to the praises of my husband complimenting me on a job well done. I realized that we are living out that objective formed over 3 years ago. 

I am so thankful to now have an outlet helping others do that, too.

Jamie Buckland

Jamie Buckland

Jamie Buckland lives in southern WV with her husband and 4 children. Jamie is Executive Director and Headmistress of Appalachian Classical Academy, a tutoring program for homeschoolers. She also works with homeschool group leaders as the Classical Program Consultant. With a heart for the homeschooling mother, she wants to see them able to enjoy communities without sacrificing their own homeschool. She will graduate her eldest this year, her youngest in 16 years, and a couple in between! You can find Jamie at www.jamiebuckland.net

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