LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Merisha Gore, left, helps Camila Reed, 3, and Caden Christie, 4, on an art project, while mother Danielle Saxon, right, holds her daughter Kara Christie, 2. The children are home schooled and attend programs coordinated by the Natchez Home School Cooperative on Friday mornings at Cornerstone Church in Vidalia. Gore is the organizer of the cooperative, which meets once a week for lessons and activities.

Home’s where the group is: Cooperative seeks to link home schoolers

Published 1:18pm Thursday, September 13, 2012

NATCHEZ — Who says home schoolers have to keep to themselves?

Merisha Gore started looking for some kind of home-school support group when she first arrived in the area in 2006, before she even had children.

Gore had been home schooled all the way through her high school graduation, and the idea of home schooling her own children felt natural to her. She began to look for local networks into which she could get plugged in when the time came.

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Ianna Gore, 2, removes Goldfish crackers after spraying them with paint during an art project Friday morning.

“Ever since we came to Natchez I have always kind of had my feelers out for what is going on in the home school community, and I could never find anything going on. I could never find any other home-schoolers, and I could never find anything for home schoolers,” she said.

While having a connection to a network of other like-minded parents isn’t necessary for home schooling, it is important, Gore said.

That’s why, even though she wasn’t originally planning on starting something herself, Gore decided she had to start the forward motion to get a new home-school cooperative in operation.

“I have always thought it was helpful to have opportunities to interact with other people in different settings, and one of those settings was in a cooperative,” she said.

While participating in the cooperative is one way to combat common criticisms of home schoolers — that they are under-socialized or lack social skills — it has a broader purpose.

“One advantage of being in a co-op is that, as a home schooler, your children’s education kind of tends to be one-dimensional at times, focused on the things that you are good at, so it gives you an opportunity to focus on other people’s strengths,” Gore said.

“It is helpful not only for the kids, but for the parents to be able to see, ‘I am not the only person in the universe who is doing this.’”

The area once had a home-school support group, Gore said, but it quietly faded away in recent years.

“My kids aren’t school age yet, but I wanted to go ahead and start and get things going,” Gore said. “A lot of people have told me, ‘If only we had things like that, we would home school.’”

The way a home-school cooperative works is simple. The group gathers once a week, and each parent volunteers in some way; some may simply run crowd control, but others will teach classes for which their life experience may have qualified them. In the group Gore is helping form, a nurse will be teaching science. Other offerings will include music, Spanish, English and a pre-school class, with plans to expand the course offerings as the group grows.

Gore said she will have parents who are joining submit three suggestions for classes they are willing to teach.

Tentatively named the Natchez Home School Cooperative, the group actually meets at Cornerstone Church in Vidalia, where Danny Reed is pastor. Reed’s own children are a part of the co-op.

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Isaac Reed, 6, braces himself for the paint as Merisha Gore sprays his hand during a cave painting art project Friday morning as part of the home-school co-operative. The group of students meet once a week on Fridays, and the lesson is followed by a potluck lunch.

Gore teaches the Reed children piano lessons, and when discussing the idea of the cooperative and a need for a location with Reed’s wife, Calley, the church — which has classroom space — was suggested as a possible meeting place.

Though the church location is a bit of a coincidence, Gore said the plan for the group is to be Christian in emphasis but “pointedly non-denominational.”

“We are eventually going to have a statement of faith, and have members sign something saying that they are not going to teach anything contrary to those points,” Gore said.

“Whatever your personal beliefs are do not exclude you as long as you don’t contradict these beliefs when you’re teaching — these are the parameters.”

Right now the cooperative is informal, with members bringing their own supplies, but as it grows a more formal membership and fee structure will be formed to accommodate what is needed, Gore said.

Those interested in learning more about the cooperative should contact Gore at 601-810-8901 or by e-mail at everinjoyfulsong@gmail.com.

The Natchez Home School Cooperative meets from 10 a.m. to noon on Fridays and has lunch afterward.