SS #107 – Building a Community (with Melissa Cummings!)

We all want more community, but are we willing to put in the work that real community takes? Melissa Cummings is willing and today she explains how much work it really is and why she finds it to be a blessing worth the effort.

Listen to the podcast:


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Creating a Homeschool Community Coop

  • [2:33-16:36] Scholé Everyday segment
  • [18:03] Melissa’s local coop backstory
  • [29:06] The value of small communities
  • [31:04] Running a coop as a low-energy, high-pain mom
  • [33:22] Melissa’s coop’s average day
  • [38:34] How coop and family homeschool balances
  • [46:10] How has coop affected the kids’ learning?
  • [48:43] The work coop requires
  • [54:22] How do you know the coop is worth it?

Today’s Hosts and Source

Brandy Vencel
started a small book group that became a big book group and a homeschool coop in California.

Mystie Winckler
has homeschooled twice a week with two other likeminded families for years.

Our Guest: Melissa Cummings

Melissa Cummings, with her husband Steven since 2007, is a second generation Christian homeschooling mother of five: 4 sons & a daughter (and nine other children ahead in glory). She holds a BA from Whitworth University, which she attended after a life of home education in a Christian family. Educating her five redheaded children at home in rural northeastern Washington is now her full time work including banter & beauty, culture & cooking, music & mayhem, reading & recreation, trivium & teatime, worship & wonder. And did we mention books? Lots and lots of books. She directs a Classical Christian homeschool co op in her rural community, and has recently loved speaking at some regional events. Never a dull moment! She loves to encourage and connect with others through writing, by prayer, and in the annual ministry of planning, coordinating, & pulling off the Paideia Northwest conference for mamas raising kids for Christ. You can also find her at .

Scholé Everyday: What We’re Reading

Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children
She Is Mine: A War Orphan’s Incredible Journey of Survival
The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot
The Jungle
Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair

This novel is not recommended as scholé reading, but Mystie read it for a local book group which has been a wonderful group.

The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk

Kirk on Burke, what could be better? Mystie is also reading this to catch up with what her local group read before she moved to town.

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II, Darlene Deibler Rose

She Is Mine, Stephanie Fast

Both these books is speaking a similar message to Melissa of being grateful and God-glorifying in unimaginably difficult circumstances.

Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children, Angela Hanscom

Brandy is prereading this title is for us as we put together a study for the fall about making personal, familial, wise decisions surrounding screen time. Keep your eyes open for TechTonic inside Sistership!

The Search for Community

Melissa’s own homeschool upbringing and then living rurally made her realize how important a broader community is, even though they have a tight-knit, happy, multi-generational family.

Likeminded people to share experiences and a teaching load and friendships tied to interests are worthwhile.

Melissa’s mini community under her own roof was great, but she sensed a need for more, for broader community.

But first she learned that just because a community is a community doesn’t make it the right community for the family.

Starting a Community from Scratch

In the classical co-op they joined for two years, they finally felt like they belonged and it was a beautiful thing to belong.

It’s ok to say “We want to homeschool high school.” because you do want to homeschool high school.

Melissa Cummings, episode 107

The co-op where they finally experienced real community fell apart, and then other people, closer to Melissa, came up to Melissa, asking her to start a co-op.

Thirteen families showed up to her informational meeting for a tiny, rural community with a few posts, then ten committed to moving forward with a weekly coop homeschool group.

Size makes a difference, but small can be beautiful

Starting with two families, even continuing with two families, counts as a community. Two people deciding to read together or school together, is a beginning and possibility of real community.

Just because something is small doesn’t mean it doesn’t count.

More people in a community doesn’t necessarily mean a community is healthier.

You don’t need to be an energizer bunny to run a community

Melissa suffers from low energy and pain, so she reserves the day after co-op as a low key recovery day and she makes it manageable for her and her family.

The important thing to note is that she’s prioritized following God’s call to start this group, regardless of whether or not she felt up to it.

Melissa’s homeschool coop agenda

The group, with kids from ages 1-17, and all moms, does a morning “collective” which is basically a morning time.

Then they break into classes in different subjects, with similar aged kids together, but not completely age-segregated.

They balance the academics with friendship and worship.

They wrap up their day with social dancing, which everyone has come to love.

Mentioned in the Episode

SS #126 – Hosting a Desert Retreat

We want local connections and face-to-face discussion to be easy for you to do. If you want to plan a local “teacher’s inservice day” for your own homeschool community at a local church, library, home, conference room, other retreat venue, or virtually – we’ll help you make it a day to remember. Your local retreat…
Read More SS #126 – Hosting a Desert Retreat

Want to talk about the ideas presented here? The conversation is happening inside Sistership.

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