Monday, November 05, 2012

How Toastmasters has helped me with our homeschool co-op

When Henry and I first met, he was involved with Toastmasters.  For those of you who are not familiar, Toastmasters International is a public speaking club. After we got married, Henry got busy with other things and dropped out of Toastmasters. A few years ago, Henry joined a toastmasters lunch club at his work.  Occasionally, I would visit the meetings and bring the kids. Mostly I visited as an excuse to eat lunch with Henry.

Last year when Henry changed jobs, he helped reactivate a Toastmasters club at his new job.  Because it was a new club and they needed more members, I joined.

I discovered that Toastmasters has a very structured program of speeches and "roles" involved with public speaking and meeting management.  One of those roles is to be the "Toastmaster."  The Toastmaster prepares the agenda, sends out reminders, and recruits people to fill in open roles, such as timekeeper or grammarian.When I was a guest just visiting Toastmasters meetings, I never paid much attention to the mechanism of running a meeting.  As a member of Toastmasters, I've had my opportunity to act as Toastmaster on a few occasions.

This is the tenth year that I have been part of a homeschool co-op.  We meet once a week and provide a variety of classes and activities.  In years past, we often found ourselves improvising activities or classes because we hadn't really planned it all out in advance.  Since I've been a "Toastmaster" that has changed.

Early in the week, I send out an draft agenda for our Friday co-op meeting.  I borrowed the style from our toastmasters agenda that marks out a time and a person responsible for each agenda item.  I've even included a location so that we have planned out ahead of time which classes is in which room at the church.  I look ahead of time at potential conflicts.  For example, if we are having PE in the gym we can't use the gym for art class, or if we use the gym for art class, we need to plan for PE outside.

Here's last week's co-op agenda:

12:30 - 12:45 pm    Small / Medium / Large Opening Exercises in the sanctuary
                            (Opening Song, Pray, Flag, Rules Reminder )

                            Conducting: Jacob
                            Opening Song: Matiah
                            Opening Prayer: Sophia
                            Flag Cermony: Chase

12:45 - 1 pm        Small / Medium / Large:  Sharing Time Group #5
                           Emily, Deborah, Henry, Madison, Peter

Announce next week’s sharing group:
Sharing Time Group #6: Kayla, Hannah, Samantha, Ian, Lucy

1:00 - 1:30 pm     Small / Medium / Large: Singing Time in the sanctuary - [Jocelyn]

1:30 - 2:30 pm     Smalls:  Lesson in the Nursery [Sarah] 
                          Medium/Large :  Chess Lesson in Multipurpose Room [Henry]
                          Medium/Large:  Picture Puzzle/Sudoko [Janine] in room with the big table                       
2:30 - 3:00 pm   Smalls/Mediums:  PE in the Gym [Cathy]
                        Large: Art Appreciation in the multipurpose room [Tonya] 

3:00 - 3:30 pm    Smalls:  Free play in the nursery [Moms]
                         Medium: Art Appreciation in the multipurpose room [Tonya]
                         Large: PE in the gym [Cathy]

3:30 pm             Clean up

In addition to sending out the email agenda, I print out agendas for the actually meeting.  In the past, we've often not had a hard copy of assignments and had to scramble to look it up on line with someone's iPhone.  Things don't go exactly as planned, but using a more structured agenda has greatly improved our co-op experience. 

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