Red Cedar Learning Cooperative is a member-governed group of eclectic homeschool families pursuing learning together through workshops, projects, and free play for preschool through high school.
We honor learning as a life long process that arises naturally from observing and responding to our families, the broader community, and the natural world. Becoming community members with a mature confidence in multiple realms of knowledge is best achieved by:
- nurturing the natural love of learning
- honoring the particular gifts and talents of individuals
- respecting the diversity of developmental differences among learners
- active engagement in one’s own learning process, with the help of mentors who are skillful, knowledgeable and passionate
- interaction with a community of diverse ages
Red Cedar Learning Co-op was founded in 2005, but its history goes back to the summer of 1991. That was the year when five mothers got together and decided that they wanted to get their children together two mornings each week to play and learn. They were convinced that parents working together could provide their children with all the opportunities that they would have in a formal preschool and more. They understood that their 3 & 4 year old children needed friends and group experiences, but that they needed their parents most of all. Several summer meetings later, the group had grown to ten children, their parents and one grandma who became the first Kids Co-op and hired Janet Futrell as coordinator. They met at St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Richmond.
Kids Co-op developed a life of its own that continued on after the first families had graduated to school or homeschool. With a maximum of 12-14 children in each group, an atmosphere that included parents, siblings and other caregivers, and one or two paid coordinators, the Co-op met on 2-4 mornings. During the first 14 years, the parents scrounged, built and bought a wide range of toys and tools, built a playground at St. Thomas, and created a series of tightly knit friendships amongst parents and children that lasted through the growing up years.
Every year, some graduating parents wished aloud that the co-op could continue into the school age years. Janet invited them to homeschool and, with her, to create a learning co-op that would support their homeschooling. Over the years, increasing numbers of Kids Co-op parents and other Madison County parents began to homeschool. They looked for ways to include regular group experiences, exchanges of expertise, and ongoing friendships as part of their homeschooling. Over the years, they formed cooperative learning organizations. These included the groups that later became BRANCH (Berea Richmond Area Network of Christian Homeschoolers), the Berea Learning Cooperative, and The Learning Co-op (TLC) in Richmond.
Each co-op developed in unique ways. The Berea Learning Cooperative and TLC both grew out of a series of meetings for homeschoolers who leaned towards learner directed experiences as their approach to learning and who valued interactions with a broad range of homeschoolers. Initially, they chose to create two groups that were based in the two main towns of Madison County. After a couple of years of experience with the possibilities of such groups, a large space in the newly purchased Berea Friends Meeting House became available, and they agreed to experiment with a joint learning cooperative for families with children of all ages. The greater number of families enabled them to rent space and to hire Janet as half time coordinator of both the preschool and school aged groups. The Red Cedar Learning Cooperative (RCLC) opened its doors in September 2005 with a membership of about 25 families.
In the winter and spring of 2008, after three years of an ever changing, organic development process and in light of Janet’s retirement as co-op coordinator, the parents in both the preschool and the homeschool groups made organizational changes in order to support the work of the cooperative for the long run. These included hiring a paid administrative assistant and a new learning coordinator for Kids Co-op, the group for 3-5 year olds. In addition, the cooperative decided to make use of learning consultants who are hired for particular tasks. The consultants offer workshops for parents on supporting learner-directed explorations at home and in groups at the cooperative, individual family consultations, and support for young people who need an expert to assist them in an area of interest. Parents also established a framework for leadership that includes a Council for the whole co-op, as well as age based planning groups. The “extended family’ feeling of the early years continues in our new environment and current organization.