In early June of 2015, a family was hovering between school enrollment and continuing to home educate. A burned out, defeated mom told her husband, "If we're going to continue to homeschool, we have to join a co-op. We need that in our lives if we're going to make this work. Trouble is, I don't know if there's a co-op in our area to join."
Thus began discussion on the local homeschooler Facebook group. It quickly became clear there were over 100 families interested in starting a new co-op for the Southeastern CT area, and out of all that interest, Thames Valley Homeschool Cooperative was born.
Over the Summer of 2015, a small team of women poured many hours into solidifying our vision, drafting bylaws and an operating structure, researching organization requirements, planning classes, and searching for a location in which to meet. We ran our first classes in Norwich in the Winter of 2016.
Toward the end of 2016, we decided to morph our current co-op into a 4-H group. This turned out to be a wonderful solution to some of our roadblocks in growing the co-op, and it opens up many new homeschooling resources and opportunities for our members. As of January 2017, we are now Thames Valley 4-H.
We grew out of a need in our community for a co-op that serves all ages of homeschoolers, that is easy to find online, and open to new members. We have run classes in a variety of locations in Norwich, CT, and currently, we rent space from St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church, in order to accommodate our growing group. So far, we have been able to serve around 20-30 families at any given time with children ranging from pre-school to middle-school ages.
Thames Valley 4-H club is open to children ages 7-19 (though currently the oldest kids in our group are 13). Little Learners 4-H Explorers is our companion group for children ages 5 & 6, and is run seamlessly alongside our Thames Valley 4-H club. The age 4-&-under siblings of our members are also a welcome part of our community, and we try to include them as much as we are able.
Our club is run by a kid president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and historian. We have a monthly club meeting where business is discussed and voted on. 2-4 adult co-leaders support the youth leaders and take care of the boring grown-up stuff necessary to keep the group running.
We traditionally hold an 8-week long session of classes in the Fall, Winter, and Spring. We hold classes on Fridays, in or near Norwich, CT. You can check out class descriptions from Past Sessions to get a feel for what a session might look like with our group. Classes are chosen based on what our kids are interested in, and - perhaps more importantly - what teacher volunteers are able and willing to teach.
In order to join, families need to fill out our membership request form. Due to space limitations at our current meeting location, most requests end up on our waiting list until space becomes available. As soon as we have room, families on our waiting list will receive instructions on how to formally register their family with the 4-H organization, and they will also be granted membership to the private side of this website (which means access to class registration, our event calendar, our announcement forum, etc.).
The parents or guardians of all our club members are asked to volunteer in our club in some way. So registration includes parents/guardians filling out a 4-H volunteer application, completing a background check, taking an online training course for 4-H volunteers (about 1hr long), and taking the CT Mandated Reporter online training course. Then once a year in October all members who intend to continue in our club have to take a few moments to re-register with 4-H online to keep their membership active.
There is currently no membership fee per say, but we do ask each family to contribute $8/year to cover the cost of this website. Class fees cover the cost of materials and typically range from FREE - $35 per child, per class and cover the full 8 weeks of the class.
The mission of 4-H is to assist all youth ages 5-18 in acquiring knowledge, developing leadership and life skills while forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive and contributing members of their families and communities.
Thames Valley 4-H is a welcoming, respectful environment that supports the social, emotional, physical, and mental growth of homeschool students of all ages. We offer a supportive community that allows homeschooling families to connect with each other, pursue common interests, share ideas, and develop life skills.
All our programs are voluntary, rather than compulsory. We seek to build skills through authentic hands-on learning, and provide meaningful feedback without assigning grades. We work in partnership with homechool families to compliment academics, but our programs are not a substitute for them.
Youth are involved as valued resources in decisions affecting them. Youth have a meaningful voice in leadership positions and various committees in our club. We seek to make our decision making processes resepctful, fair, and open.
To learn more, please check out our FAQ section.