Erin Morse wanted more than just an educational experience for her son; she wanted to raise him with a community of people who knew and supported them and shared their values.
She’s been homeschooling Christopher since he was 5, getting the help she needed from others after co-founding the Chautauqua Thrive Cooperative.
Close to 20 families from across Chautauqua County are registered with the co-op for the fall semester, which runs through mid-December. They meet weekly inside the Barker Library in Fredonia.
The group is a tool “to help not only my child develop, but to help me develop and learn more and different ways to help him, and maybe offer to other parents ways to help them,” Morse said.
It also provides an opportunity for the students to socialize with each other, breaking the stigma that kids who learn at home lack social skills they’d otherwise get in a more formal school setting.
Kids in the co-op range in age from 2 to 12 years. Children under the age of 6 spend their day learning and playing in the children’s area while the older children get their lessons.
Ann Johnson of Cassadaga helped Morse create the co-op, teaches there as well, and homeschools two kids of her own, 11 year-old Ethan and 3-year-old Maya.
Ethan has been in and out of two local school districts, and despite his sensory issues, Johnson says he's able to advance much faster at home and in co-op, than he would in a regular classroom.
"We wanted to kind of get control back,” Johnson said. “We don't have anything against the school. The flexibility of homeschool is really what attracted us to it. So when he needs to stop the book work or the instruction and get up and walk around, he has that."
How much does Ethan really like homeschooling? Well we took his mom's advice and asked him. You'll hear his answer and more, in the third and final part of our report, Alternative Learning — A Lesson in Homeschool Education.