Who are we?
• We are a homeschooling-families, cooperative active-learning community.
• We trust and empower our children to be an active participant in the community, which involves speaking up for their interests, conflict resolution during play with adult guidance using NVC, constant self-inquiry, understanding nurturing friendships, and other traits.
• We are a Co-learning community. We enjoy cooperative learning opportunities, rather than independent one-to-one learning, and generally could not find an established school that aligned with our values and conducive to family life-balance.
• We generally find value in cooperation, mindfulness, and kindness over competition, capitalism, and consumerism.
• We are introspective and focus on the growth mindset.
• Imagine a hybrid of play-date and learning-date. Our time together is spent in exploration and learning about things that excite us in a fun way, followed by unstructured time. We use tools available to us from ALC and Liberated Learners models as we find those to be flexible and in-line with children having agency over their desired path in partnership with adults in their life. Our hybrid education model currently serves the local homeschooling community.
Who are we not?
• We are not a for-profit business.
• We are not rigorous with traditional academia.
• We are not a micro-school or a community modeled after an educational alternative pedagogy of Democratic Schools (like Sudbury), Montessori, Reggio Emilio, Waldorf, or like. Detachment from educational philosophy, allows us to be flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of our children.
Can anyone join?
We are a small community constricted by physical location and desired intimacy. Our ideal group size is 8-14 children. We are looking for:
Diversity in our group,
Well represented in gender and age, and
A solid culture and values fit.
What’s your families' turnover rate?
We’ve been in existence for two semesters in 2019. Over 50% of our families remained with us for both semesters. And, we had families that have not continued due to either their own educational paths diverging or finding dissatisfaction in the group culture. We have not conducted surveys yet to share those results. All the families that have been involved with us are dispersed within the Houston homeschooling community and it would be advisable to reach out to them to conduct your own survey as well. Nothing beats “word of mouth.”
What are your programs?
Tuesdays we cover student interests based on those receiving the highest votes.
Our facilitator(s) then collaborate to transform the highest voted interests into a Project-Based Learning (PBL) module.
This is one form of active learning, which is proven to be a deeper learning mode than the lecture (hands-off) style. Read more about PBL here: https://www.pblworks.org/
Thursdays are formulated after Self-Directed Education (SDE) using Agile Learning Center (ALC) tools and processes and Parent-Interest Topics (PIT).
Members will work with ALC tools (Kanban board) to identify their interests.
During the 3-hour work module, the facilitators will help the members develop their interests, where self-motivation, time management and process of inquiry will be the agency of each young learner supported by adult facilitators.
We anticipate this to be a new experience for some of the kids. Should we find confusion and lack of Self Directed Path skill or mindset, we would work towards spending part of the time coaching how to translate their interest topic on the self-directed path from one step to the next.
If time permits we will also spend partial time with Parent-Interest Topics offered as options to the learners during module work time. Some information on SDE: https://www.self-directed.org/ Some information on ALC: https://agilelearningcenters.org/
Tween Friday Program (still getting defined): This is the first semester of this pilot program and is open to tween (10+, or close enough) members of T/Th group or other invited families.
The intent is for this day to be focused on traditional academic content in an active learning style (not lecture), see https://www.pblworks.org/.
The hope is to visit museums around Houston with guided exploration, including observation, evaluation and critical thinking dialogue.
This may also on occasion pick up Parent-Interest Topics from the Thursday module if they are sitting on the shelf. These would be hosted at a residence in Third Ward, 77004.
Parents would facilitate these modules by researching and sharing historical context (MFAH Homeschooling classes style) of what we are going to see (~45 min.). Then the group would do self-guided tours, and conclude with lunch and play at a park.
Do I have to join all 3 days: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday?
Families are welcome to join any one or more of the days, depending on what you are looking for and space available. The program for each day is quite different in style and may resonate at different levels for your family.
Friday is a new idea that is open for collaboration and independent participation for Tweens in the T/Th families or other interested and invited families.
Can I drop-off my child on Tuesday/ Thursday programs?
You are welcome to drop-off your child(ren) of ages 7+ in guardianship with a trusted adult that is facilitating or helping during the module. Conceptually this is the same as a drop-off for play-dates. You are welcome to stay with your child for the duration of the modules if you like as well.
Who facilitates the Tuesday/ Thursday programs?
Terri, whose children are also part of the group, is the lead facilitator for the Tuesday modules starting Spring 2020. If parents have a desire to facilitate a particular topic the children have chosen, please let us know as the semester unfolds. Parents have the option, but not the obligation to facilitate starting this semester, Spring 2020. Occasionally, we also employ subject matter experts that can connect with passion and inspire our members.
Thursday facilitation, using ALC tools, is lead by Sabrina and supported by Terri.
On both days, other parent helpers support the lead facilitator(s) from 10-1:00 p.m. module work time and then again during play from 1:00-3:00.
What is the facilitation style? Does this resemble traditional classroom teaching?
We defer to Agile Learning Center (ALC) definitions of facilitating as noted in Vol. II.
“The choice not to call ourselves teachers is a deliberate one; while we may sometimes provide direct instruction, facilitation is something you do with a group, not to it. The root of the word facilitator is “facilis,” the Latin word for “easy”; a facilitator is a person who provides unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision that makes it easier for students to self-direct their learning.
Facilitation is the daily practice of being reflective, adaptable, empathetic, and honest. It’s helping children articulate the concepts and feelings they are already grappling with: an explanation of the water cycle because it’s raining, or offering the word “overwhelmed” to a kid who’s having a rough day and struggling against the urge to hit someone. Facilitation is playing with tools of the culture and the question “why?” Facilitation is playing tag in the hallway. Facilitation is developing the ability to tell the difference between and shriek of joy and a shriek of distress from several rooms away; it’s holding space for children to work through tricky tasks or emotional conversations with your support while resisting the urge to jump in and just do it for them. Facilitation is messy. Facilitation is structured externalized reflection and abrupt unstructured revelation.
One of the fundamental beliefs of ALC is by virtue of being human in the presence of other humans, you are always teaching and always learning. The unique role of a facilitator is in holding a physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe space for teaching and learning to emerge from the students’ own curiosity and intentions.”
What if my child is not interested in the group offering on Tuesday?
There are self-guided interest centers available for use. Since offerings are planned in advance, learners are encouraged to bring ideas/ tools for their self-engagement, for example learning a foreign language or typing skills, etc.
How do you handle relationship conflicts?
We hope minor conflicts will be resolved by students or adults using mutual respect and compassionate communication. It is our intent to use our ‘observations to reflect on actions and situations that are emotionally loaded – make the implicit explicit to foster the behaviors we want to see in our community without using adult authority to undermine or suppress the children’s autonomy.’ (ALC Facilitation Guide, Vol. II). Our vocabulary of observation, feelings, needs, and requests are defined by Non-Violent Communication (NVC) model founded by Marshall Rosenberg. (We can also create NVC workshops for the community as well to better understand this model.)
How do you handle disruption during offerings or destruction of property?
We are a choice and responsibility based learning community for 7+. As such, disruption during learning modules or destruction of places or things is not generally experienced. We request intentional and conscientious behavior in our respectful learning environment and community culture. If we are gifted with the presence of a much younger family member (baby), we request choosing locations on the property that are more conducive to their vocalization and movement needs rather than the mindfulness circle or learning module space.
What is my role as a parent helper?
During Module Work-time (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.) we work in small groups often and different kids need help with the project at hand. So, the volunteer’s focus is a dance of awareness, attentiveness, and support to the degree that appears to be needed. We are there to scaffold their desire and thus need to resist our habitual adult of doing it for them. Supporting kids during module work is a wonderful way of connecting with kids and establishing trusting relationships where they can come to you for help either at the module or unstructured play-time.
During Unstructured Play-time (1 p.m. – 3 p.m.) we eat as they are eating and then position ourselves in relative proximity to groups of kids playing. We give attention to the actions, tones, words, and dynamics of what is happening during play. We try to be approachable in our physical proximity to the children rather than our habitual preference to commune with other facilitators at this time. Facilitators should be spread out near pockets of where play is happening. Most of our life skills conversations come out of this rich soil of feelings and needs emerging and diverging during this pivotal time. These conversations are truly priceless in helping them navigate relationships and their world in a nurturing and peaceful way.
What is our Mutual Selection Process for joining the T/Th Programs?
We begin by relying on personal established friendships of the interested families, with existing or previous HGEC (or HAEA) families.
Completion of an application is requested for interested families.
HGEC organizer and primary caregiver parent, of the interested family, would meet over tea/ coffee and get to know each other and come to better understand the cultural fit between the family and HGEC.
If together we are interested in continuing our connection, then we would jointly look for the next step to gain more connection.
Let us schedule a small play-date with some of the current families (kids and parents) and your family to experience community fit and harmony for all of us.
Following this day, we (parents only) again sit together and hear each other’s experiences and explore possible road-blocks and concerns. This conversation concludes with a mutual understanding of the desire to join, and an invitation to join.
Based on the process above, if you have extended a desire to join us, and we have extended an invitation, then we request you to please confirm your desire to join us with completing our Values & Culture Agreement. The Values & Culture Agreement would be signed by HGEC representative, the Parents and child(ren), and would be submitted with the Financial Contribution Agreement. This is the amount you are able to contribute so we may have a consistent facilitator.
* Since we are a small community in a personal space we are restricted in how many invitations to join we can offer at one time. We generally have turnover each semester and plan to reach out to the families we are unable to offer space this semester before looking to new families.
Does joining HGEC cost me anything?
Our first concern is having a beneficial culture fit between families in our learning circle. Beyond that, we have a need for a consistent facilitator to ensure the T/Th programs run smoothly and aligned with our culture. So that we may appropriately compensate our lead facilitator we request a monthly contribution for participating in the T/Th programs. Please contact us for details so we may talk through the financial implications to your family. The Tween Friday program is offered at no additional cost to the T/Th member families. Rotational parent involvement is needed for all programs.
Material costs, are separate from the facilitator fee and collected as they are encumbered depending on the module. Much of these costs are mitigated by each family bringing in materials for modules requested by the facilitator(s) during the preparation of the module.
The Teen Friday program is independent of the T/Th/Tween Friday program. This is currently a no-cost program where parents rotate facilitation.
Do I still have to volunteer if I pay? Why?
The payment is only to hire the module facilitator (in-house or external). We count on parents volunteering to help as a way of keeping the costs down. However, we can provide a price point should you want to outsource this volunteering/ helping aspect of the educational model as well. One advantage of volunteering parent is that the children establish relationships with the community of parents, which benefits their trust and reliance of other adults, and their ability to communicate their needs to a non-parent adult.
How much do I need to volunteer?
This depends on the number of families that join. Currently this comes to 25% of the semester time. So, this looks like a ratio of 1 week volunteering to every 4 weeks of presence. You’re welcome to volunteer more.
I still have questions. I don’t fully get it.
Please contact us.