By LISA WILLIAMS
In an effort to sharpen their writing skills, Catholic homeschool students meet weekly at Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage.
The writing class is structured as a co-op with students divided by age and skill level into small groups led by parent instructors. The inspiration for the group came from Sue Lochner who initiated a homeschool writing co-op in 2012 at St. Andrew Church in Eagle River.
In 2015 the co-op moved to Holy Family where about seven families participate in three levels of instruction with 3-5 students per class and a mothers group for younger siblings. The co-op meets each Friday, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. with a small break for snack and playtime. The meeting ends at noon so families can attend Mass.
There is no cost to attend the writing classes, but parent instruction is key to the success of the sessions.
Once students split up according to writing ability, a parent facilitator helps them begin an assignment.
“The teachers are actually the parents, who help their students complete the assignments at home, then grade the work themselves,” explained Michele Deering who currently helps organize the co-op.
For families with younger children who are not ready for writing classes, a parent will lead “these young ones in directed play, story time and/or a game or craft related to the current liturgical season or feast day,” Deering said.
The writing workshops also give students an opportunity to share their work as the first Fridays are “Presentation days” in which older students read some of their work while younger children recite poems or songs they have memorized.
In addition to structured essays required by the course, the co-op also gives students the chance to share creative writing and practice public speaking and peer editing.
“We have learned that even shy children become excited to share their work when they see their friends doing so,” Deering said. “They gain wonderful public speaking experience this way, and become more motivated to do their assignments creatively and well.”
The co-op is open to anyone. There is no a requirement that students or families be Catholic but the group does begin with a Catholic prayer and closes with the Angelus at noon. Catholicism also permeates the writing class in that the co-op emphasizes that the parents are the first teacher of the child.
“Ultimately it is the parents’ responsibility to see that their kids are doing their work and learning what they need,” Deering relayed. “I do believe that for many of the families involved, the time their children spend with other Catholic homeschoolers is as important as the writing class itself.”