On a typical day, parents and children arrive around 9am, and the first half an hour is a mixture of free play, maths games, music, and one-on-one reading sessions. At 9:30am we have the morning meeting where the children and adults share any pressing topics and talk about the day ahead (and sometimes sing or read stories). After meeting, we have Focus Time, the purpose of which is to engage the children in activities that develop skills in writing, reading, thinking, maths, science or humanities. After Focus Time, the children are usually free to continue with adult-led activities or make their own. Often this means that there is a variety of things happening all at once: elaborate role play, games (often with a focus on either maths or physical exercise), animal watching and journalling, cubby building, bushwalking, drawing, painting, playing music, reading, cooking, putting on costumes and making up plays, and so on.
At midday, we encourage the children to have lunch, but they are also free to eat whenever they feel the need for it. The afternoon meeting starts at 12:30pm, followed by another Focus time, and another mixture of adult supported activities and free play. Finally, before school ends at 3pm, the kids and adults complete the daily chores around the school, such as feeding the chickens, cleaning up play and study areas, vacuuming, and so on. Usually no one is in a hurry to go home and often the last families leave around 4pm.
*Below is a more detailed description from back when the big sisters and brothers of many of our current students were still at Co-op:
From 9am onward, the children and adults begin to arrive. The parents gather in the kitchen for tea, coffee and conversation. Dion and Harry sit before the fire and chat. Artek and Lachlan head for the ‘Jolly Green Giant’, the play equipment in the front of the main building. Melian, Tess and Shanayde are sitting on the couch in the main room, sharing stories. Reva and Stephy visit the chooks. Keely and Sally play outside together on the swings. The blocks come out and a large structure is built under the table. Others arrive over the next half hour or so and begin playing in the bush.
Today, the adults staying at Co-op are Liz, Kerry and Maitreyi. Breeze is also coming in for a short while. There are 19 children at Co-op today. (Three or more adults are rostered ‘on’ for each morning and afternoon session at Co-op.)
When Breeze arrives, she leads the children in practising songs for ‘Limpopo’, a combined schools’ performance of South African songs to be held at Dallas Brooks Hall in July. Everyone joins in.
Following this, Harry chairs the morning meeting. (The children take turns to chair morning and afternoon meetings.) Harry invites the children to share their news and ideas. Tess has lost another tooth. Shanayde tells us that the chickens aren’t getting along too well, so we discuss strategies for managing them.
Adults then offer the activity they have planned for the session. Children are free to join in offered activities, or not, depending on their preference.
Maitreyi, (the Coordinator), reads the book that she has written and illustrated about Jandamarra, the 19th century Kimberley activist. The children know of his existence already; Co-op hosted a community school from the Kimberley region during 2006. Some of the older children have also spent time in Jandamarra country.
After that, Maitreyi has a creative writing session at the table by the window. The six children participating try to ‘imagine’ our history.
Liz offers her Wednesday music session. She is teaching guitar, ukulele, violin, cello, recorder and keyboard to the children in turn, (in small groups and one-on-one). They learn tunes that they often choose themselves. Also, they learn songs which they are then able to perform together in public.
Kerry does interviews with the children to get their comments for the Co-op website update, and checks in on children doing other activities throughout the session.
-Sholto, Charlie and Arjun are putting together a three-dimensional puzzle which will create a pirate ship. They manage to get the deck together, following the instructions, with a little help from Kerry. They move on to a game with blocks and counters, making up their own story.
-Keely is finger-knitting on the couch.
-Artek, Benjamin and Matt are in the ‘Little Room’, working on their computer animation film and developing music, (from software), to use as background music.
-Jack, Cian and Harry are playing with the footballs in the front yard. Kerry joins them for a while and teaches Reva how to hand-ball.
-A group of the girls are making a cubby in the bush.
Lunch is in there somewhere as we eat whenever we feel hungry.
After lunch, we have Afternoon Meeting. In the spirit of Reconciliation Week, Maitreyi lights the fire in ‘The Grotto’ outside, and we sit around it for meeting. Sally chairs the meeting.
When it’s her turn, Kerry shows some examples of indigenous, (locally native) plants and their traditional uses by the Aboriginal people. She then makes native mint tea around the campfire with some of the children. When finished, Reva comes with her to collect indigenous plant seed from the Co-op grounds in order to grow some plants for our re-vegetation projects.
Maitreyi and some children have found a large fallen branch and dragged it to The Grotto. It has sculptural qualities, they think. They proceed to peel off bark and scrape the wood in preparation for painting. They try their hand at traditional colours and patterns as used by the Wurundjeri people of our area.
Liz plays ‘Coccodrillo, Coccodrillo’, (‘Crocodile, Crocodile’ in Italian), with some of the children on the basketball court.
-Sally and Reva are on the swings.
-Sholto, Charlie and Arjun are busy in their cubby.
-Cian, Harry, Lachlan, Artek and Jack are playing a chasey game which they have invented.
At the end of the Co-op day, we have Clean-up Meeting. Everyone is allocated an area to help clean-up prior to going home. Parents begin to arrive for pick-up and the kitchen is busy again.
The ‘official’ end of the school day is at 3pm. Several children don’t want to go home yet. Sally is pleading with her Mum, Jo, to stay for just a bit longer. Some of the children are playing on the basketball court and she wants to join them. Others ask to go to someone else’s home for a play.
In the meantime, the adults who are ‘on’ for the afternoon clean up and vacuum to prepare the space for the following day.
By 4pm, the Co-op is empty.